It was fifty years ago today- Tallulah Bankhead actress of stage and screen died at the age of sixty-six at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan of double pneumonia with complications due to cigarette smoking, malnutrition and possibly a strain of the flu which was endemic at the time. Her last words were a garbled request “codeine..bourbon”
I admit to not knowing much about her- I could identify her but didn’t know many details. She seems to have led an interesting life to say the least. Her father William Bankhead was a member of the US House of Representatives from Alabama and served as Speaker of the House from 1936-40.
Tullulah Bankhead was known mostly for her stage work but did appear in one hit movie- Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. At her death she had appeared in nearly 300 stage, television, film and radio roles.
She had an interesting and somewhat tragic personal life- struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism. She was referred to as uninhibited sexually having relationships with both sexes- including affairs with such notables as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Hattie McDaniel, Beatrice Lillie, Alla Nazimova and writers Mercedes de Acosta and Eva Le Gallienne and singer Billie Holiday. She was married to actor John Emory from 1937-1941. She described herself as ambisextrous.
She was also known for her wit-saying about herself “I am as pure as the driven slush.” and “there is less to this than meets the eye.” She was a big New York Giants baseball fan and I love this quote- “There have been only two geniuses in the world, Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare. But, darling, I think you’d better put Shakespeare first.