Tallulah

“I pay as I go. My heart is slave to my head. Men are as pleasant and exciting to me as the lavish gowns I adore. I drink the sparkling cup of love because I know my heart will never betray me. I am TALLULAH the MODERN.” — Publicity poster for “Tarnished Lady”

“For ten days, Tallulah rose in time to be at the Desilu Studios at six in the morning. She made jokes there about the tight black pants suit that she was required to wear for the part (‘There goes one ball,’ she sad to Batman, as she was being fitted into it) and yelled a good deal.” — from Miss Tallulah Bankhead by Lee Israel

Portrait by Eugene Richee.

Truman Capote and Tallulah Bankhead attended the dinner party where Dottie (Dorothy Parker) met the actor Montgomery Clift, who was widely rumored to be homosexual. Capote recalled the scene: “‘He’s so beautiful,’ murmured Miss Parker. ‘Sensitive. So finely made. The most beautiful young man I’ve ever seen. What a pity he’s a cocksucker.’ Then, sweetly, wide-eyed with little girl naivete, she said, ‘Oh. Oh dear. Have I said something wrong? I mean, he is a cocksucker, isn’t he, Tallulah?'”

Bankhead: “Well, d-d-darling, I r-r-really wouldn’t know. He’s never sucked my cock.”

–From Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker by Stuart Y. Silverstein

In “The Dancers,” 1923.

Photo dated September 18, 1951, The Ritz.


“We stopped at a roadside cafe for Cokes. Inside, we sat at one of the few tables and ordered. Then, an old man, who was sitting across the room, came slowly over to us, peered at Tallulah, and asked, ‘Are you Edna St. Vincent Millay?’ Startled, Tallulah said, ‘No, but I am someone terribly famous. Here, I’ll write my name on this slip of paper, and, after we’ve gone, open it, and you’ll see. Meanwhile, my friend here, Colin Keith-Johnston, will recite for you. Colin, this gentlemen is thirsting for poetry – recite for him!’ And Colin did recite ‘At a Month’s End’ by Sindburne, beautifully and in a most matter-of-fact way, as though the setting and the audience were not that unusual. We finished our Cokes, Colin finished the Swinburne, we paid the check and left. As we boarded the bus and looked back, the screen door of the little cafe opened, and the old man, waving the slip of paper Tallulah had given him, called, ‘Good-bye! Good-bye! Ella Wheeler Wilcox!'”

— Quoted at Tallulah Bankhead: A Passionate Life, from Tallulah: A Memory by Eugenia Rawls

“Her real jewels were saved for extraordinary events. Such an occasion was Truman Capote’s black-and-white ball in 1966, to which the author invited 540 of his closest friends, Tallulah among them.

“The little that continued to happen in Tallulah’s life took on tremendous import. She prepared for the masked ball for weeks. Since her wardrobe was scant and she was dead set against spending a great deal of money on a gown she could wear only once, Tallulah decided to finagle. Her machination made Regina Giddens look like an amateur. Finally, she was taken to the ball by a couturier, who made her a dress in return for the opportunity to attend the Capote party.

“Dripping mink, diamonds, her face half-covered with a fringed, feline white mask, and looking very beautiful, Tallulah had a wonderful time…”  — from Miss Tallulah Bankhead by Lee Israel

More Tallulah Anecdotes At:

Call me Tallulah, Darling!

Tallulah Bankhead: A Passionate Life

The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes

13 Comments

  1. My favorite Bankhead anecdote: Joan Crawford attended a party painted head to toe in gold paint a la Goldfinger. Tallulah, arriving some time afterward, arrived with two streaks of gold paint to either side of her mouth.

    I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t even care, because it OUGHT to be true.

  2. MJ, I’ve only read one, Miss Tallulah Bankhead by Lee Israel. It’s interesting enough, but it’s very negative in reviews of her work (when Israel could not have seen many of these performances she panned). It doesn’t mention dates and sometimes mentions important things in her life as an afterthought chapters after it would have been relevant. AND it’s a product of its time, meaning there is sexism, homophobia, and racism that says more about the author than about the subject.

    Sounds like I hated it, but honestly, it was less offensive than most other bios I’ve read. This tells you why I don’t read many bios.

  3. You can hear Tallulah-isms from the sweet dame herself on her radio show from the 1950s, “The Big Show.” Many episodes to listen to over at the Internet Archive. She sounds EXACTLY as I’d expected.

  4. Edith Head’s dress for Bette was specifically made to look like something Tallulah would wear. I would bet cash money Tallulah had a dress made for her to look like the one in “All About Eve”, though, especially since the brooch in that 1951 picture is the same as the one Bette wears.

    The Lee Israel book I read said that the Bette-Tallulah feud was almost completely fabricated by Tallulah, and apparently Joel Lobenthal says the same in his book.

  5. You can hear Tallulah-isms from the sweet dame herself on her radio show from the 1950s, “The Big Show.” Many episodes to listen to over at the Internet Archive. She sounds EXACTLY as I’d expected.

    And she’s wonderful!

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