What a name she had: Tallulah Bankhead.
What a voice she had. Even among the many dramatic and flamboyant personalities who used to populate Hollywood and the theater in the 30s and 40s, Bankhead was more unpredictable than most as well as more licentious.
Here’s an example of that latter quality of hers. This anecdote is about something that occurred during the making of Bankhead’s very first film, the aptly-titled “Tarnished Lady,” made in 1931:
Bankhead behaved herself on the set and filming went smoothly, but she found film-making to be very boring and did not have the patience for it. She did not like Hollywood, either; when she met producer Irving Thalberg, she asked him, “How do you get laid in this dreadful place?” Thalberg retorted, “I’m sure you’ll have no problem. Ask anyone.”
Thalberg, by the way, was an extraordinarily remarkable man who basically made Hollywood what it was in its golden age, and did it all at a very young age (with compromised health) while charming the birds off the trees.
I only saw Bankhead in one film, and that was when I was a child: “Lifeboat.” But she made a deep impression on me in it (as did the fact that William Bendix, whom I knew from the TV comedy “Life of Riley,” played a serious role). I had found some great clips from the movie to put in this post, but in the last couple of days they seem to have disappeared, as these things are apt to do. Instead, here’s a documentary about the film, with a brief bit about Tallulah that I’ve highlighted. Note that John Steinbeck had the main writing credit: