Decades ago, Mae West was known for her pithy, raunchy quotes ("I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."). Few could equal her bawdy wit… but Tallulah Bankhead, her less-well-known contemporary, was one of them. Anyone who's ever tossed off the quote "I'm as pure as the driven slush" can thank Bankhead for the turn of phrase. And that's just one of many…
"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."
"It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time."
"Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it."
Born 110 years ago today, Bankhead was more than just a quick wit. She was an award-winning actress, a talk show host, and a liberal-leaning rule-breaker who wasn't too shy to talk – often in detail – about her love life (with both women and men). Indeed, the quotes above are the tame version of Tallulah Bankhead. There are many more quotes and anecdotes from her career too risqué to be shared on The Obit Report.
What we can do is show you examples of her fantastic work, like this scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat. Bankhead won a New York Film Critics Circle Award for her performance, and when she accepted the accolade, delightedly exclaimed, "Dahlings, I was wonderful!"
For a taste of her humor and great repartee, we can offer a clip from her short-lived but highly memorable radio show, The Big Show.
And a riff on her famous, unmistakable voice, in an appearance on What's My Line?
More than 43 years after her death, Tallulah Bankhead may not have quite the name recognition that Mae West still enjoys. But her work is still funny, bawdy, and worth exploring further.
Written by Linnea Crowther