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Tallulah Bankhead

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Biography

(1903-1968)

Bankhead was born in Huntsville, Alabama.

In 1918 she made her stage debut at the Bijou Theatre in New York. In 1923, she made her debut on the London stage at Wyndham’s Theatre. In London 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 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. ” She had the reputation of being sexually available to anyone she found attractive, famous or not.

In 1933, Bankhead nearly died following a five-hour emergency hysterectomy due to venereal disease. Only 70 pounds (32 kg) when she left the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor, “Don’t think this has taught me a lesson!”

In 1944, Alfred Hitchcock cast her as the cynical journalist, Constance Porter, in her most successful film, both critically and commercially, Lifeboat. Her performance was acknowledged as her best on film, and won her the New York Film Critics Circle Award.

Bankhead circulated widely in the celebrity crowd of her day, and was a party favorite for outlandish stunts such as underwearless cartwheels in a skirt or entering a soirée stark naked.

Tallulah Bankhead died in St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia, complicated by emphysema and malnutrition, at 7:45 A.M. on December 12, 1968, aged 66.[26] She was buried in Saint Paul’s Churchyard, Chestertown, Maryland.[2] Her last coherent words reportedly were “Codeine… bourbon.”

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