Born: January 31, 1902, Huntsville, Alabama
Died: December 12, 1968 (aged 66), New York City, New York
Brockman Bankhead was an American actress, talk-show host and bon
What do you know about Tallulah Bankhead? Learn about her
with this quick quiz.
Fact or Myth?
1. Bankhead came from a powerful Democratic political family in the
South in general and Alabama in particular. Her father was the Speaker
of the United States House of Representatives from 1936-1940 (in the
74th, 75th, and 76th Congresses).
2. At 15, Bankhead won a movie-magazine beauty contest and convinced
her family to let her move to New York. She quickly won bit parts, first
appearing in a non-speaking role in The Squab Farm. During these
early New York years, she became a peripheral member of the Algonquin
Round Table and known as a hard-partying girl-about-town. During this
time she began to use cocaine and marijuana, going as far as saying
"Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know- I've been using it for
3. In 1923, she made her debut on the London stage, where she was to
appear in over a dozen plays in the next eight years, most famously, The
Dancers. Her fame as an actress was ensured in 1924 when she played
the waitress Amy in Sidney Howard's They Knew What They Wanted.
The show won the 1925 Pulitzer Prize. She was famous not only as an
actress but also for her many affairs, infectious personality and
witticisms like "There is less to this than meets the eye" and
"I'm as pure as the driven slush."
4. Bankhead's first film was Tarnished Lady (1931), directed
by George Cukor, and Cukor and Bankhead became enemies. Bankhead behaved
herself on the set and filming went smoothly, but she found film-making
to be very exciting and didn't have the patience for it. She loved
5. Bankhead was married to actor John Emery on August 31, 1927 in
Jasper, Alabama and divorced on June 13, 1961 in Reno, Nevada.
6. In 1933, Bankhead nearly died following a five-hour emergency
hysterectomy for an advanced case of gonorrhea, which she claimed she
contracted either from George Raft or Gary Cooper. Only 70 pounds when
she left the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor, "This has
taught me a lesson!"
7. In 1944, Alfred Hitchcock cast her as the cynical journalist,
Constance Porter, in Lifeboat. The performance is widely
acknowledged as her best on film, and won her the New York Film Critics
Circle Award. Almost childlike in her immodesty, a beaming Tallulah
accepted her New York trophy and exclaimed, "Dahlings, I was
8. Although she had become a heavy drinker and consumer of sleeping
pills (she was a life-long insomniac), Bankhead continued to perform in
the 1950s and 1960s on Broadway, in the occasional film, as a
highly-popular radio show host, and in the new medium of television. Her
appearance as herself on The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show in 1957
is a cult favorite, as is her role as the "Black Widow" on the
1960s campy television show Batman, which turned out to be her
final screen appearance.
9. Bankhead died in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double
pneumonia arising from influenza, complicated by emphysema, at the age
of 66 on December 12, 1968.
10. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Alabama.