10 August 2009

Hello Dahhhhling

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In high school I had to write a paper about a famous Alabamian for our "Alabama History" class. Most people chose Jesse Owens or Helen Keller or (for some strange reason) Nell Carter. I chose Tallulah Bankhead. At the time I really didn't know much about her, but the name was so unusual I knew she couldn't be boring. And boy, was I right about that.

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Marlene Dietrich called her "the most immoral woman who ever lived." She was known for smoking a hundred cigarettes a day (despite a life-long battle with chronic bronchitis), drinking bourbon and whiskey like water (her last words were bourbon...codeine), having affairs with men and women (the likes of Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo) and taking off her clothes at the drop of a hat. In an age when starlets' reputations were crafted by studios I think she must have been a bit too much for Hollywood to handle as she had much more success on London and New York stages than she did in the movies. a

There are things that came from her mouth that I'm too embarrassed to even print here! Here's a little taste of some of the tamer things she was known to have said:

  • It's the good girls who keep the diaries; the bad girls never have time.”
  • “Nobody can be exactly me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”
  • “My father warned me about men and booze but he never said anything about women and cocaine.”
  • “Cocaine habit-forming? Of course not. I ought to know. I've been using it for years.”
  • “I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education.”
  • “The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again I'd make all the same mistakes - only sooner.”

OK, fine. Here are a couple that I probably shouldn't repeat:

  • "I was raped in our driveway when I was eleven. You know darling, it was a terrible experience because we had all that gravel."
  • "Don't think this has taught me a lesson!" Upon having an emergency hysterectomy for severe gonorrhea (she claims she received from Gary Cooper).
  • "How do you get laid in this dreadful place?" Referring to her short stay in Hollywood.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. They get worse! She was quite a handful. Just Google her and Chico Marx to see what I mean.

Here's a little bit of Tallulah on Edward R. Murrow's TV show "Person to Person" circa 1953. What in the world does she have in her lap?!

Read more...

"Dah-ling" by Robert Gottlieb in The New Yorker, 2005

Tallulah by Brendan Gill (out of print), 1972

Tallulah Bankhead: A Scandalous Life by David Bret, 1997

Tallulah: My Autobiography (Southern Icons Series) by Tallulah Bankhead, 1952

Tallulah!: The Life and Times of a Leading Lady by Joel Lobenthal, 2004

26 comments:

LincolnTaft said...

lord I love her.

she makes me feel so tame.

BookishPenguin said...

Can you recommend a good biography of her? She sounds like a woman I'd love to read a lot more about.

AlicePleasance said...

A pretty interesting gal indeed...!

hello birdy said...

"I didn't realise it was illegal to keep a lion in hotels.."

Wow what a woman!

The Barely Tattoo'd Artist said...

Man...Tallulah can show today's scandalous girls a thing or two (ie Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, etc...)...

When I first learned about her, I was so inspired by her confidence and wished I was a bit more like her in the sense that she took no one's shit...

Sarah said...

She seems to be a very interesting person! You made me want to learn a little bit more about her

LandGirlontheHomeFront said...

oh WOW....fascinating! Thanks for this post. I've got some wild late summer reading ahead of me (any recommended biographies?)

xoxo

Anonymous said...

She seems like the type of a girl my mother always told me was the wrong type to hang with! But, she also seems like the type that if she were your friend she would be there through thick or thin! The kind of a friend everyone needs in their life! I can see I have a lot of research to do to find out more about her.

Penny said...

She was one bad a$$ visionary!

calivintage said...

oh thank you so much for this post! now i've got some good afternoon reading ahead of me!

this is my type of woman! haha!

Ms. B said...

Wow she was a handful! Very beautiful and I love characters who are unique in their own way! She does sound like a great person to read about!

xo

Jennifer
http://milliedeel.blogspot.com/

Q's Daydream said...

Wow, she was quite the lady! Love it :o)

Kathryn said...

Awesome post! I had never heard of her. Might try and track down some of those books!

Antonio Barros said...

Wow! She is INSANE! Rebel teenagers today are not half as crazy as her! lol

josephine said...

How do I not know of her? She sounds positively priceless. What an amazing person.

CMA said...

i love these vintage shots
gorgeous, great inspiration here

-cma
check out my blog @
cosmicaroline.blogspot.com

Isabel said...

Haha, I had some serious laughs over the cocaine quote!

caramelizedvintage said...

She sounds hilarious and outrageous. And amazing. What confidence!

Eyeliah SS said...

Oh wow - wild woman or waht. Hadn't heard of her before... she is so very beautiful too.

Lemondrop Marie said...

Loved this post! Laughed and learned! That poor animal probably died of cancer from second hand smoke. I love that she just owns up to - I can't be bothered to know your name so you are now just darling. Hilarious.

Matt said...

haha, she's one heavy lady

Pani La Mome said...

I am admiring her.She was very photogenic. Regards:)

Andi B. Goode said...

Good golly! She's the kind of woman I admire even more when you put her in the context of when she lived, etc. I'm sure if I knew someone like her, now, they'd be far too much for me! Haha.
-Andi x

A Thought Is The Blossom said...

great great great post! :)
I googled her to see what you meant and boy, you weren't kidding...she had quite the mouth on her. There's something admiral about how she spoke and acted with no shame, I guess it's because you knew that she had nothing to hide, always 100% Talluah.

My favorite quote was the one about her dad warning her about booze and boys but never mentioning women and cocaine. hilarious!!!

Mandi said...

I've always wanted to name my daughter (someday a long time from now!) Tallulah, but I just haven't been able to get over the fact that people might think I've named her after Tullulah Bankhead. Although, probably most people in my life don't even know who she is. ;)

Violet Folklore said...

This post is wonderful! I mentioned it in my latest blog post... with a link to you of course. Thanks for your wonderful blog- I always enjoy it!!! (-; Sasha