March 31, 2021 | Scott Mazza

Glam Facts About Tallulah Bankhead, Hollywood's Most Scandalous Actress

In the pantheon of scandalous starlets, few, if any, compare to Tallulah Bankhead. Whereas other actors and actresses may have tried to hide their controversial exploits from the public, Bankhead was unabashedly open about her life—in fact, maybe too open! Because of Bankhead’s brutal honesty, we know all there is to know about her, from her steamy affairs with co-stars to her absolutely legendary comebacks. Tallulah Bankhead was absolutely indomitable—and these facts are proof.

1. She Didn’t Fit In

Considering how candid and controversial Tallulah Bankhead was, it’s pretty funny that she was born into a straight-laced political family. The Bankheads were very active in the Democratic party in the South, particularly in Alabama, where she was born. Of course, as much as they try and fight it, politicians are no strangers to scandal—and her family was as vulnerable to it as any other.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

2. Her Parents Had A Great Love Story

Did she get it from her mama? Her mother Ada Bankhead showed some of the same impulsive temperament that Tallulah later became famous for. See, Ada met William Bankhead while she was on a trip to Huntsville. She was there to buy a wedding dress. Yup, Ada was engaged to another man. However, when she met William Bankhead, she fell head over heels and dropped her fiancé like a hot potato.

They tied the knot soon after, and had daughters Eugenia and Tallulah in quick succession. Sadly, their heated love story came to an abrupt end…

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons

3. It All Fell Apart

Tallulah Bankhead had been born on her parents’ second anniversary, but what should have been a time of great joy soon spiraled into a devastating tragedy. Ada Bankhead contracted sepsis, and three weeks after Tallulah’s birth, she passed away. Mothers certainly know best when it comes to their children, and even though Tallulah was just a newborn, Ada Bankhead could tell her daughter had a fighting spirit.

On her deathbed, she told her sister-in-law: "Take care of Eugenia, Tallulah will always be able to take care of herself." Sadly, it wasn’t just her daughters she should have been worried about it.

Over and under dramatic patientsPexels

4. He Couldn’t Take It

Tallulah’s father William Bankhead was a vibrant, good-natured man with a booming voice. He would deploy it to get his point across when fulfilling his duties in Congress, and later, as Speaker of the House. But the loss of his wife absolutely broke his heart. Not only did he suffer from depression afterward, but he also turned to drink.

During this terrible period, he sent his two infant daughters to the care of his sister-in-law—but despite his absence, he still had an outsized influence on his daughter.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikipedia


5. She Didn’t Discriminate

Tallulah Bankhead broke many stereotypes, but there’s one that she definitely lived up to. She was a daddy’s girl through and through. Later in life, she searched desperately for a man who could live up to her father’s example, only to come up short. Of course, men weren’t the only ones that she chased—Bankhead had a thing for the ladies too.

In fact, her father was the source of one of Bankhead’s most scandalous and telling quotes about her love life: “My father warned me about men and booze…but he never mentioned a word about women.”

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons

6. She Was Out Of Control

Having a somewhat-absentee father also led young Tallulah to posture desperately for attention not just from him, but from whoever else was around. Bankhead was such a performer and so full of energy that it was hard for her caregivers to keep up with her. These displays could quickly devolve into terrifying outbursts.

Her tantrums would get so overblown and violent that her grandmother would have to throw a bucket of ice water on her to get her to calm down. Still, very little could bring her down.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikipedia

7. Nothing Worked

As you can imagine, Tallulah was a bit of a handful. This landed her and her sister Eugenia in a convent school, and as their father ascended the political ranks in Alabama and then Washington, they moved from one religious school to another. Did it do anything to tame them? Absolutely not. But it didn’t really matter. Before she’d even graduated, Tallulah had one foot out the door.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsFlickr

8. She Knew What She Wanted

Tallulah Bankhead was chomping at the bit to get out of convent school and out into the real world. At the age of 15, she sent a photo of herself to a Picture Play magazine contest looking for models. There was just one problem—she’d been so excited to enter that she forgot to include her personal information with the photo.

When Bankhead won, the mag ran her photo with the caption “Who Is She?” However, if she thought it was her big break, she was sadly mistaken.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons

9. She Ended Up In An Unexpected Place

With the contest win under her belt, a 15-year-old Bankhead left school permanently and set out for New York City. She was ready to dive in headfirst, but being chaperoned by her Aunt Louise tested her patience. Luckily, Louise moved them into the Algonquin Hotel—not expecting it would change Tallulah’s life.

All of a sudden, Bankhead was in close proximity to the social circle known as the Algonquin Round Table—and she wormed her way in nearly immediately.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images


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10. Her Rebellious Side Kicked In

Bankhead charmed the intellectuals, writers, and Broadway folk who made up the Round Table and soon became a member herself. While she did heed her father’s warnings about booze, she still got into the other substances that were floating around—and that wasn’t all she did. While Bankhead never identified as bi, she did sleep with both men and women, and she quickly fell in with a subset of queer women within the group.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons


11. She Did Things Her Way

While at the hotel, Bankhead developed a crush on actor John Barrymore. When he finally made a move, her reaction left him stunned. Barrymore had invited her to his dressing room and offered her a part in an adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before locking the door behind her, but Bankhead flat-out rejected him. Always one to do things on her own terms, she was locking lips with another girl soon after.

John Barrymore factsWikimedia Commons

12. She Was In Limbo

While Bankhead had a social life that matched any mega-star’s, she didn’t quite have the career thing down. She struggled to find her footing. Bankhead eventually realized she was a better match for the stage than the screen. But sadly, most of her plays were flops. For five long years, she toiled—until one day, she couldn’t take it anymore.

Bankhead made a characteristically impulsive decision to go to London…but she had more than one reason to cross the pond.

Dating an idiotPexels

13. She Fell In Love

For all her partying, Tallulah Bankhead was still quite innocent when it came to more carnal pursuits. However, she’d set her sights a man named Lord Napier Alington. They’d been friends in NYC, but when he returned to his native England, Bankhead missed him. On top of that, a theater producer over there had dangled a part in front of her, only to retract the offer.

When she told the producer she was coming over anyway, he told her not to. He should’ve known that Bankhead wasn’t exactly the best at following orders.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsFlickr

14. She Was A Hit

That producer who’d retracted the offer to Bankhead? Well, she went straight to the theater where the rehearsal was—and the reaction was astonishing. They gave her the part and paid the other actress her full salary just to sit out the whole thing. Not only that, but she was an overnight success. Immediately, scores of fans began to line up to see her performances, in a mania that critics called “Tallulahballoo.”

It didn’t take long for word of the blonde, husky-voiced new sensation of the London theater scene to travel Lord Napier Alington’s ears.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

15. He Was Toxic

Lord Napier Alington came to call on Tallulah Bankhead, and as soon she saw him, all pretense of playing it cool fell away. She jumped into his arms, and they began to see each other every day, even squeezing in dinners between the acts of the play she was in. It seemed like a dream come true—but it was actually a nightmare.

Napier could be selfish and cruel, and he’d occasionally disappear for months at a time without even contacting Bankhead. In 1924, he disappeared yet again—this time for good.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

16. It Was Her First Heartbreak

Bankhead was heartbroken—and things were about to get worse. After the success of her first play, she’d appeared mostly in middling, if not completely disastrous, productions. She wanted a bona fide hit, and she had her eye on a part in Somerset Maugham’s Rain. It was already in production stateside, so Bankhead traveled all the way there to watch it.

Then, she met Maugham and tried to charm him. He told her that she could start rehearsals, but that he had to give approval before the part was officially hers. Satisfied, she returned to London. Was it all too good to be true? Hmm…

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons


17. He Shattered Her Dreams

Bankhead began rehearsing for the role of her dreams. She did her best to ignore the fact that Maugham’s offer had been conditional. But then, two days later, a producer called Bankhead and broke the news. Maugham had given the part in Rain to someone else. Her reaction was chilling.

She left the theater in tears, and was so visibly upset that another actress tried to follow her home. When she got there, she penned a short note and took a bunch of pills, hoping to end her own life. Well, fate had other things in store for Tallulah Bankhead.

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18. It Didn’t Work

The next morning, despite the handful of pills she’d taken, Bankhead woke up right as rain to the sound of the telephone ringing. It was playwright Noel Coward, and he desperately needed a leading lady for his next production. Bankhead, in her heartbroken state, begrudgingly took the part. Critics thought the play was vulgar, but their reviews only served to attract audiences, including none other than Winston Churchill. Bankhead had another hit on her hands.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

19. She Moved On

During the Roaring 20s, Bankhead conquered London theater and society. She was at every party, was friends with every person of note, and fielded more than a few offers of marriage. One such man left her his fleet of vehicles after he passed on at the age of 26. But no one compared to Lord Napier. She had to break out of her rut—and right at that moment, Paramount Pictures came calling.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsPicryl

20. They Wondered Why She’d Leave

When word traveled that Tallulah Bankhead was leaving London, the city she’d called home for nearly a decade turned its back on her. People spread outrageous rumors that she’d been run out of England. The reasons why ranged from scandalous (unpaid bills all over the city) to utterly preposterous (dalliances with Eton schoolboys).

Bankhead was brazen, but the fear of hurting her father’s political career always kept her from going over some unseen edge. Luckily, the rumors didn’t follow her home—but she’d find a whole new set of them back in the US.

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21. She Never Held Back

They didn’t have a phrase for it then, but we have one for it now: no filter. And Tallulah Bankhead had no filter. When she met up-and-coming starlet Joan Crawford and Crawford’s new husband on a train, Bankhead’s reaction was legendary. She said to Crawford: “Darling, you’re divine. I’ve had an affair with your husband. You’ll be next.”

A dumbfounded Crawford managed to squeak out “I’m so sorry, Miss Bankhead, but I love men.” As Crawford later explained, Bankhead left everyone in Hollywood equal parts enthralled and terrified. She was already a powerhouse before the age of 30.

Joan Crawford factsWikimedia Commons

22. She Hated It There

Tallulah Bankhead was unlike any other young starlet in Hollywood. See, while the others were thirsty for fame, Bankhead didn’t feel like she needed it. She’d loved appearing on stage in London, and found making films boring by comparison. There was, however, one very important difference. Filmmaking paid so much better than the theater, so Bankhead stuck to it.

She came up with a plan—just a few years in film could leave her comfortable enough to return to the stage.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons


23. She Was The Life Of The Party

Sadly, Bankhead took a while to adjust to the screen. She wound up in a number of flops, even when the co-stars were fellow A-listers. Unsurprisingly, one area where she found no trouble was in her social life, and she once again became queen bee of the local scene. She threw wild parties, and she’d often let her pets get in on the fun, filling her dogs' cups with champagne

She continued to terrorize Joan Crawford by putting her kinkajou monkey on Joan’s shoulders as soon as she arrived and leaving it there.

Madame de Pompadour FactsFlickr

24. She Experienced A Miracle

After two years at Paramount, Bankhead had a chance to return to the stage and took a part on Broadway. It should’ve been a cakewalk, but on opening night, she panicked. Whenever she was nervous, she’d look at a picture of the mother she’d never known. That night, she went to grab it, but it wasn’t there. She requested that her secretary bring her another one, but the woman had already left.

But then, something extraordinary happened. In her dressing room, she found an envelope addressed to her. Inside was a note explaining that the sender had known her mother, and had found a picture they thought she might like. Bankhead was thoroughly superstitious and considered the whole thing a bona fide miracle.

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25. She Went Too Far

As her popularity grew, magazines demanded more interviews. One such interview in particular was utterly disastrous. In 1932, she ranted to Motion Picture about how she hadn’t had a lover in six months, repeatedly yelling: “I want a man!” Bankhead always walked a fine line between expressing her true self and protecting her father from the consequences of that.

This time, she knew she’d gone too far and she tearfully called him to apologize—vowing never to speak to a reporter again. It was probably for the best, considering what happened next.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

26. She Nearly Lost Her Life

After her successful run on Broadway, Bankhead lined up her next production, but then she began to feel ill. At first, the tabloids speculated she was pregnant. Her health grew worse and worse until finally, they rushed her to the hospital. The prognosis was dire. An STI had ravaged her body and she needed a full hysterectomy.

The procedure took five hours. The sickness had so damaged her body that she only weighed 70lbs. when she left the hospital. Her reaction was characteristically audacious. As she departed, she was quick to tell her doctor, "Don't think this has taught me a lesson!"

Frida Kahlo FactsWallpaper Flare

27. She Could Dish It Out And Take It

That wasn’t Bankhead’s only witticism. In fact, there are countless records of her scathing remarks, but she was also an absolute artist when it came to self-deprecation. For example, while she never used the term bi, she did identify as “ambisextrous.” Perhaps the best bon mot of all came when she called herself “as pure as the driven slush.”

The contents of that quote and the fact that she came up with it in the first place really tells you all you need to know about who Tallulah Bankhead was.

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28. She Wanted It Bad

It was this spirit that got Bankhead the attention of producer David O. Selznick—and he had the role of a lifetime to cast. He was looking for someone to play Scarlett O’Hara in his adaptation of Gone With the Wind. While Bankhead wasn’t exactly enamored with filmmaking, it was a role that no actress in her right mind would pass up. It all made sense—not only did she have Scarlett’s moxie, she was also a Southern belle.

But it wasn’t meant to be. While the producers did think she was great, they knew that having 36-year-old Tallulah play 16-year-old Scarlett would be too much of a stretch. She was devastated—and not just because she wanted the part.

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29. She Couldn’t Keep It Up

Tallulah Bankhead was hiding a devastating secret. A string of Broadway flops and a hefty hospital bill for that emergency hysterectomy had left her nearly broke. She was in dire straits and had hoped for a big payday for Gone With the Wind. Despite her stardom, acting wasn’t bringing in that much money, and being an honored party guest didn’t pay the bills—but maybe something else could...

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

30. She Fell Again

At the time, Bankhead was nursing a crush on an actor named John Emery. He was her co-star in a production of Antony and Cleopatra. As a friend helpfully reminded her, Bankhead had once vowed to try anything once, and she had yet to tick marriage off the list. After a whirlwind romance, Bankhead surprised everyone when she and Emery tied the knot at her father’s home. However, the honeymoon didn’t last long.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons

31. They Jumped Right In

They both used the tabloid attention over the marriage to their advantage and allowed cameras and writers to follow them around on their purported honeymoon. And then, of course, there was Bankhead’s drinking. She’d long ago stopped heeding her father’s advice on the subject and surprised Emery when she woke him up one morning with a Planter’s Punch in hand—which she told him had wonderful health benefits.

I don’t think you get that much vitamin C from a fruit garnish, Tallulah.

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32. They Had Ups And Downs

Bankhead’s reputation as a ball-buster didn’t just end the moment she tied the knot. It just meant that the bonds of matrimony bound her latest victim to her. But, according to their friends, the good-natured Emery could stand up to Tallulah when he needed to. This was important since she clearly would’ve steamrolled over anyone else. Things weren’t exactly perfect in their marriage, and they were definitely broke—but it didn’t really matter, as there were bigger battles on the horizon.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikimedia Commons

33. She Tried To Help

As many in Tallulah’s Hollywood circle began to panic over what was happening in Europe—especially those who had relatives over there—she sprung into action. Bankhead got famed director Otto Preminger a meeting with her father, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She hoped that her dad could help save Preminger’s family, who were in Austria.

Mr. Bankhead pulled some strings, and Preminger was able to save his father and brother from the grips of the Third Reich. However, Bankhead had problems of her own.

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34. They Were In Trouble

Tallulah and Emery had gone from scraping by to flat broke in a matter of months, and creditors were knocking at their door. Finally, she saw the light when producers cast her in a play called The Little Foxes. It was a runaway hit. However, she clashed with the playwright over their political views, and their ensuing feud lasted nearly 25 years. And they weren't the only one Bankhead held a grudge against…

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

35. She Showed Her Caring Side

The events of WWII deeply affected Bankhead. It was to the point where reports of the brutality and casualties drove her to do something completely out of character. She vowed not to drink until, in her words, “the British are back in Dunkirk”—but her temperance would soon be tested. In 1940, her uncle phoned her. He told her that her father was sick and requested that she come see him.

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36. She Made The Wrong Choice

Bankhead had a show that night, and she weighed her options. She ultimately decided that “the show must go on” and booked the express train right after her performance. Sadly, it was the wrong choice. When Bankhead stepped off the train in Baltimore, she was greeted with devastating news. Her beloved father had passed, and she hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye—but her nightmare didn’t end there.

Soon after, she received news that her old love, Lord Napier Alington, had also passed after falling ill while serving in Cairo. Somehow, life wasn’t done throwing punches yet.

Mae West FactsShutterstock

37. He Had To Get Out

John Emery had found Tallulah Bankhead tough, loud, and hard to keep up with—but still, he loved being with her. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to save their rocky marriage, and in 1941, they separated. Everyone expected Bankhead to jump back into her old ways, but instead, it was Emery who dealt her a heartbreaking act of betrayal.

Bankhead had always delighted in riling up fellow starlets, but there was one who’d rubbed her the wrong way from the very first time they met. Her name was Tamara Geva—and after leaving Bankhead, Emery took up with her.

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38. The Betrayal Broke Her

Bankhead had agreed to a divorce—but when she realized that it was because Emery was leaving her for Geva, she was absolutely furious. She ambushed Emery and insisted that she’d only divorce him if he promised not to remarry for a year. Left with little other recourse, he agreed. At this point, Bankhead still rarely spoke to reporters, but she did tell one, "You can definitely quote me as saying there will be no plans for a remarriage."

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39. She Was All Alone

Tallulah was without her father, her one great love, and her now ex-husband. She was down in the dumps, but she lifted herself out in the way that only she could. Bankhead jumped into a new play, clashed with her co-stars and producers, and got back to her old, hard-partying ways—minus the drinks, of course, as WWII was still raging.

She bought a house in Bedford, NY, where she’d bring a parade of unsuspecting young actors to be her lover-du-jour. But for once, Tallulah was about to get a surprise herself…

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

40. She Made A Comeback

Bankhead had been out of the movie game for more than a decade when Alfred Hitchcock approached her to appear in his film Lifeboat. He needed a cast of strong personalities who could carry a movie with just one set and scene—the lifeboat itself. And who fit the bill better for a strong personality than Tallulah? Well, everyone involved was in for a ride as wild as the plot itself…

Tallulah Bankhead FactsWikipedia

41. She Bared It All

When filming began on Lifeboat, Tallulah Bankhead gave her co-stars a shocking surprise. Bankhead famously did not like wearing underwear. Every morning she would have to climb a ladder to get to the set, and she delighted in climbing ahead of her crew members, revealing her lack of underwear. When a female reporter visiting the set complained, the studio head went to talk to Hitchcock. He found the whole ordeal entertaining and refused to interfere.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

42. She Was Terrifying

Bankhead seriously hated the Axis powers in WWII and never hesitated to express her views—unfortunately for her Lifeboat co-star Walter Slezak, who had Austrian background. Despite his vocal criticism of the German government, she made him her personal punching bag. When Italy surrendered, Slezak said that he hoped that meant the war would come to an end.

That still wasn’t good enough for Bankhead, who responded with, “I hope they spill every drop of German blood there is. I hate them all! And I HATE YOU!" How are you supposed to respond to that?

Tallulah Bankhead FactsLifeboat (1944), 20th Century Fox

43. She Came Out Swinging

Surprising everyone who knew her, Bankhead kept her vow not to drink until “the British are back in Dunkirk.” But once WWII was over, she got right back to her two bottles of bourbon a day habit—and it landed her in deep trouble. While doing a touring production, she threw an afterparty one night in Marblehead, MA. Law enforcement was called to break it up, and they were in for a shock.

Bankhead opened the door completely undressed, and the officer tried to arrest her. So, she punched him in the face. She didn’t do any time for it, but the story nearly did her in…

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

44. He Was Scared Of Her

When Hollywood producers prepared to cast The Glass Menagerie for the screen, it was clear to many that Tallulah Bankhead should play the role of faded Southern belle Amanda Wingfield. She did a screen test for the director, who called it the greatest performance he’d ever seen. But then, studio head Jack Warner dealt Bankhead a heartbreaking blow.

He refused to cast her because of the stories about her drinking. Bankhead promised not to drink while they were filming, but that wasn’t good enough for him.

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45. She Had Her Limits

The Glass Menagerie wasn’t the only Tennessee Williams production that Bankhead was considered for. When Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire, he saw her in the role of Blanche, but she wasn’t interested. The character uses a racial slur, which Bankhead vehemently refused to repeat. Bankhead was actually an ardent supporter of the Civil Rights movement throughout her life, and as a result, was actually the first white woman to appear on the cover of Ebony magazine.

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46. She Fought For Her Friends

There’s a saying, “Put your money where your mouth is,”—but as we know, Bankhead’s mouth held a lot more sway than money did. When Bankhead saw her friends being mistreated, she stood up for them. When law enforcement brought up Billie Holiday on possession charges, she jumped into action. She knew that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was one of her biggest fans, so she contacted him and used her clout to ask for leniency during Holiday’s trial.

Of course, there were also those rumors that Bankhead and Holiday were lovers…

Martin Luther King Jr. FactsWikipedia

47. She Had A Big Body Count

When it comes to Tallulah Bankhead, it’s easier to list who she wasn’t rumored to have slept with. Bankhead herself claimed that she’d had 5,000 lovers before she married John Emery. Aside from all the men, there were alleged affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Hattie McDaniel, and her one-time secretary Patsy Kelly. Even though Kelly spilled the beans about her affair with Bankhead, she was a much better secretary than her replacement…

Greta Garbo factsGetty Images

48. They Dragged Her To Court

Around 1950, Bankhead discovered that her secretary, Evyleen Cronin, had been stealing money from her to the tune of about $10,000 per month. She fired the woman, but when the story came out, the local District Attorney insisted that Bankhead press charges. Bankhead reluctantly agreed—and it was a fatal mistake.

During the trial, Cronin’s lawyers made vicious allegations about the things Bankhead had made their client do as part of her job. These allegations included procuring illicit substances and paying for intimacy.

Lawyers Screwed factsPublic Domain Pictures

49. She Told All

Bankhead couldn’t help herself from reacting theatrically in court to these allegations, and she was excused from the proceedings. Although Cronin’s stories were found to be untrue, the damage was done. But the attention had something of a bright side—it provided a demand for her story. Bankhead signed a deal to publish her memoirs, which would be ghost-written, of course. It was a massive hit and only added to her mythos.

Peggy Lipton FactsShutterstock

50. Things Began To Fall Apart

Sadly, there was a devastating side effect to Bankhead's brutally honest tell-all. While her friends were used to the scandalous behavior and loud mouth, those who didn’t know her well were shocked. Her personal life began to overshadow her talent as an actress and it damaged her reputation greatly. On top of that, her steady diet of bourbon and cigarettes was taking its toll on her body, and she grew frailer and frailer.

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51. They Were Her Constant Companions

Around this time, Bankhead surrounded herself with a group of young gay men who took on the roles of cook, chauffer, escort, script reader, and would even hold her hand when she went to sleep. The young men became known as caddies. Ted Hook, the owner of the Backstage restaurant in New York City, was one of Bankhead’s beloved caddies and stayed with her for five years.

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52. She Was Losing Her Grip

While Bankhead’s career was buoyed by the occasional Broadway hit and a Las Vegas residency, things were deteriorating rapidly behind the scenes. When she appeared on I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball found her impossible to work with and complained of her drinking. After Williams offered to change her lines, Bankhead agreed to appear in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, but even Williams thought she was the worst Blanche he’d ever seen.

For every piece of critical acclaim or Tony award, there was a show that only made through five or ten performances before producers pulled the plug. It was the beginning of the end.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsBatman, 20th Century Fox

53. Things Were Going Downhill

Various injuries and ongoing illnesses led to a dependence on painkillers in her later years, but Bankhead still managed a number of remarkable appearances. In the early 60s, a number of campy horror films came out casting Old Hollywood titans in villain roles, like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Bankhead had her turn in Fanatic, a film she thought was a “piece of [redacted],” but which was a critical hit.

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54. She Was Incredibly Weak

Making Fanatic nearly cost Bankhead her life. Bankhead fell deeply ill on set, and it got so bad that producers contemplated replacing her—but she wasn’t having it. She promised them that she’d finish the film, and if she didn’t, she’d give up her entire salary. When she had to re-record dialogue, she was so late and so under the influence that it took her four hours to record one line.

She made it, but just barely—and it ended up being her final film.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsFlickr

55. She Was Larger Than Life

Bankhead was so unique and had such an outsized personality, it’s no wonder that she left the mark on pop culture that she did. Aside from her trademark of calling everyone “dahling”—which she did because she was so prone to forgetting names—she also became the basis for a famous cartoon character. Bankhead was the main inspiration for Cruella de Vil.

Like her fictional counterpart, she was flamboyant, larger than life, and famous for her dangling cigarettes and fashionable clothes.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsFlickr

56. She Always Had A Comeback

Not only was Tallulah Bankhead scandalous, she was also utterly unapologetic—and it nearly got her kicked out of Hollywood. Bankhead was so controversial that she actually made it to #1 on a list of 150 performers deemed “unsuitable” for the public. The reason given was her “Verbal Moral Turpitude.” When she found out about this so-called honor, her reply to the man in charge of the list, Will H. Hays, was absolutely legendary. She shot back by calling Hays a “little prick.”

Tallulah Bankhead FactsPxHere

57. She Couldn’t Fight Anymore

In the mid-60s, doctors diagnosed Tallulah Bankhead with emphysema. At this point, she was dependent on painkillers and weighed less than 100 lbs. She’d suffered terrifying bouts of pneumonia throughout her life, but when she fell ill with it again in 1968, her body was simply too frail to fight any longer. Bankhead passed on in a New York hospital on December 12, 1968, at the age of 66.

However, her legacy and some of the more outrageous stories about her have endured long after her passing…

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58. Her Tolerance Was Incredible

Tallulah Bankhead took the concept of being a heavy drinker and smoker to the next level. She would smoke around 100 cigarettes daily and polish off two bottles of bourbon. It’s unsurprising, then, that her last coherent words were: “Codeine—bourbon!”

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

59. She Had A Party Trick

Nobody lived for the moment like Tallulah Bankhead did. She was the life of the party at every function she hosted or attended. From the time she was in her 20s, she had one strange habit in which she indulged at nearly every soiree. Tallulah would strip down completely and cavort around undressed. Addressing this “party trick,” many of her friends claimed she was ahead of her time.

Tallulah Bankhead FactsGetty Images

60. She Had A Posthumous Scandal

In 2000, declassified government documents put Tallulah Bankhead’s name back in the headlines again for an outrageously scandalous reason. Bankhead left London at the height of her fame there in the early 1930s, and as mentioned earlier, rumors had proliferated that she’d been forced to flee. These declassified documents from MI5 pertained to an investigation into Bankhead’s associations with a number of male pupils at Eton, the prestigious English boarding school.

There were allegations that she’d had an encounter with a group of Eton boys at her hotel, but ultimately, MI5 was unable to confirm if the rumors were true. Only Tallulah Bankhead could cause such a scandal 30+ years after her death!

King Farouk Of Egypt factsWikimedia Commons

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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