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Creator / Tallulah Bankhead

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"Acting is the laziest of the professions. A ballet dancer must limber up two or three hours a day, working or idle. The great musicians practice three or four hours a day, willy-nilly. Opera singers must go easy on cigarettes, learn half a dozen languages. The demands on an actress consist in learning the role, interpreting to the best of her ability the intent of the author as outlined by the director. When not on stage? She sits around chewing her nails, waiting for the telephone to ring."
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Tallulah Brockman Bankhead (January 31, 1902 – December 12, 1968) was an American actress.

While she made many appearances in films and on television during her career, Bankhead is mostly credited as a stage actress, one of the greatest of the 20th century. Her characters tended to be Ms. Fanservice deadpan snarkers, and her persona has been imitated and parodied as much as Mae West's. Most notably, Bankhead's family were prominent in American politics and Tallulah herself was often vocal about politics as well,note  being supportive of the Civil Rights Movement. Although she acted a lot during The Pre-Code Era and The Golden Age of Hollywood, her most successful screen role was in Lifeboat. She also memorably appeared as herself in an episode of the The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

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Bankhead married once and had no children but debates on her sexuality have existed from since her death. She was said to have had a reputation of The Casanova, but there have been many arguments that she also went with women as well. They didn't stop rumours when Bankhead reportedly said that she was "ambi-sextrous". Much of her maneating reputation made her a public enemy with The Hays Code, which apparently had a list of actors that needed to either be censored or banned from acting, and Bankhead was at the top of it.

Known for her smoking, Bankhead died in hospital from respiratory issues, as well as malnutrition, the flu, and "double pneumonia". Her final words (from what could be made out by staff) was said to be a request for codeine, followed by a bourbon whiskey.

Blanche DuBois was said to have been inspired by her. She's portrayed in Z: The Beginning of Everything (about Zelda Fitzgerald) by Christina Bennett Lind.

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Tropes:

  • Awesome, Dear Boy:invoked She joked in an interview that she accepted her second role, in Devil and the Deep, because she had the hots for Gary Cooper.
  • I Am Not Leonard Nimoy:invoked Tallulah Bankhead was known as an acid-tongued Hard-Drinking Party Girl, glamorous and quite sexually forward for the time. As her stage performances aren't immortalized, her persona has endured more than her work. Her best known film role, Lifeboat, fully emphasises this.
  • Money, Dear Boy:invoked When she first went to Hollywood, she wasn't too keen on making films, as she preferred the stage. However, the opportunity to earn $50,000 per film was quite enticing.
  • Poor Man's Substitute:invoked Bette Davis told a story of how Tallulah approached her once in a bar and declared "Miss Davis, you played all the parts that I have played. Only I played them so much better." For what it's worth, Bette responded "I couldn't agree more" and continued to talk about Tallulah with great respect for the rest of her life.
  • What Could Have Been:invoked
    • She was supposed to play the lead in the original stage run of Jezebel, but she was hospitalized for severe gonorrhea and had to have a hysterectomy. While the production had hoped to wait for her to recover, they ultimately had to cast Miriam Hopkins to replace her.
    • Although she had left Hollywood by the mid 1930s, she was keen to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. She took three months to prepare for her screen test (as she was now 36, and playing Scarlett in the first half would be tricky). While her screen test was strong, she was deemed too old to convincingly play the teenage Scarlett too. They offered her the role of Belle Watling, but she turned it down.
    • Hollywood also tried to lure her back with the offer to play Mildred in Of Human Bondage. She was unconfident about her cockney accent, and worried about upsetting her English friends, so she turned the part down. It became the true breakout role for Bette Davis.
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