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Huntsville, Alabama, USA
Place of Death
New York City, New York, USA
Cause of Death
Pneumonia & Influenza
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Profile Bio Text
Tallulah Bankhead was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on January 31, 1902. Her father was a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party who served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from June 4, 1936, to Sept. 16, 1940. Tallulah had been interested in acting and at the age of 15 started her stage career in the local theater troupes of Huntsville and the surrounding areas. At 16 she won a beauty contest and, bolstered by this achievement, moved to New York City to live with her aunt and to try her hand at Broadway. She was offered a role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920/I), but didn`t take it after she refused John Barrymore`s invitation for a visit to the casting couch. Unfortunately, for the young Miss Bankhead, she didn`t make any headway on the stages of New York, so she pulled up stakes and moved to London, in 1923, to try her luck there.
For the next several years she was the most popular actress of London`s famed West End, the British equivalent of Broadway. After starring in several well-received plays, she gained the attention of Paramount Pictures executives and returned to the US to try her hand at the film world. Her first two films, Woman`s Law (1927) and His House in Order (1928), didn`t exactly set the world on fire, so she returned to do more stage work. She tried film work again with Tarnished Lady (1931), where she played Nancy Courtney, a woman who marries for money but ultimately gets bored with her husband and leaves him, only to come back to him when he is broke. The critics gave it a mixed reception. Tallulah`s personality didn`t shine on film as Paramount executives had hoped. She tried again with My Sin (1931) as a woman with a secret past about to marry into money. Later that year she made The Cheat (1931), playing Elsa Carlyle, a woman who sold herself to a wealthy Oriental merchant who brands her like she was his own property and is subsequently murdered. The next year she shot Thunder Below (1932), Faithless (1932), Make Me a Star (1932) (she had a cameo role along with several other Paramount stars) and Devil and the Deep (1932). The latter film was a star-studded affair that made money at the box-office due to the cast (Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton and newcomer Cary Grant). The films she was making just didn`t do her talent any justice, so it was back to Broadway--she didn`t make another film for 11 years. She toured nationally, performing in all but three states.
She was also a big hit at social affairs, where she often shocked the staid members of that society with her "untraditional" behavior. She chain-smoked and enjoyed more than her share of Kentucky bourbon, and made it a "habit" to take her clothes off and chat in the nude. A friend and fellow actress remarked on one occasion, "Tallulah dear, why are you always taking your clothes off? You have such lovely frocks." She was also famous--or infamous--for throwing wild parties that would last for days. She returned to films in 1943 with a cameo in Stage Door Canteen (1943), but it was Lifeboat (1944) for director Alfred Hitchcock that put her back into the limelight. The limelight didn`t shine for long, however. After shooting A Royal Scandal (1945) she didn`t appear on film again until she landed a role in Fanatic (1965). Her film and small-screen work consisted of a few TV spots and the voice of the Sea Witch in the animated film The Daydreamer (1966), so she went back to the stage, which had always been first and foremost in her heart. To Tallulah there was nothing like a live audience to perform for, because they, always, showed a lot of gratitude. On 12 December 1968, Tallulah died of pneumonia in her beloved New York City. While she made most of her fame on the stages of the world, the film industry and its history became richer because of her talent and her very colorful personality. Today her phrase, "Hello, Dahling" is known throughout the entertainment world.
Full Name at Birth
Tallulah Brockman Bankhead
William Brockman Bankhead
Adelaide Eugenia Bankhead
Ada Eugenia Bankhead
Truman Capote, Marlene Dietrich, J. Edgar Hoover, Otto Preminger, Tennessee Williams, Ethel Merman, Libby Holman, Jeanne Eagels, Noel Coward, Nat King Cole, Katharine Hepburn, George Cukor, Virginia Lee, Eva Le Gallienne, Blyth Daly, Edna Ferber
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Claim to Fame
Tallulah Brockman Bankhead (January 31, 1902 – December 12, 1968) was an American actress of the stage and screen, and a reputed libertine. Bankhead was known for her husky voice, outrageous personality, and devastating wit. Originating some of the twentieth century theater's preeminent roles in comedy and melodrama, she gained acclaim as an actress on both sides of the Atlantic. Bankhead became an icon of the tempestuous, flamboyant actress, and her unique voice and mannerisms are often subject to imitation and parody.
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