Tallulah Brockman Bankhead, 1902 - 1968

portrait of Tallulah Bankhead
Portrait by Carl Van Vechten (25 January 1934)

Born: 31 January 1902, Huntsville, Alabama
Died: 12 December 1968, New York City

Bankhead's mother died from blood poisoning related to childbirth after three weeks and Tallulah and her older sister were raised by their paternal grandparents and an aunt. The family was heavily political, both her grandfather and an uncle had been senators and her father would later be Speaker of the US House, which meant that an effort was made to bring the girls up as proper Southern ladies. Tallulah resisted. The family sent her to a series of boarding schools, including a convent, without taming her. Tallulah sent a photo to a magazine beauty contest, won, and convinced her family to let her move to New York City where she landed a part in a play on Broadway. She was a peripheral member of the Algonquin Round Table and developed a reputation as a dedicated party girl, drinking heavily and regularly using cocaine and marijuana. In 1923 she made her debut on stage at London where she performed in twelve plays over the next eight years. She bought a Bentley and enjoyed driving but had no sense of direction, routinely calling a taxi and paying to have the cab drive to her destination so she could follow. She returned to the US in 1931 under contract to Paramount for $50,000 per film but none of them was a great success. With the advent of the Production Code, Hollywood was becoming more conservative so Bankhead returned to the stage. She appeared frequently on radio, and then television, including a drunken performance as herself on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1957. Her last appearance was on the Tonight Show, chatting up John Lennon and Paul McCartney on baseball and television. She caught the flu, which was complicated by emphysema resulting from heavy smoking and led to the pneumonia which ended her life.

Biography from Wikipedia and Alabama Women's Hall of Fame

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