Tallulah Bankhead

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The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.

Tallulah Brockman Bankhead (January 31, 1902December 12, 1968) was an American actress of the stage and screen, and a reputed libertine. She is regarded as one of the great stage actresses of the 20th century, and also had successes in film and radio.

My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine.


I'm as pure as the driven slush.
Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.
  • Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don't have the time.
    • As quoted in The Pleasures of Diaries: Four Centuries of Private Writing (1989) by Ronald Blythe, p. 3
  • The cynic says "blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed." I say "blessed is he who expecteth everything, for he can't always be disappointed".

Tallulah: My Autobiography (1952)[edit]

Tallulah: My Autobiography. University Press of Mississippi; illustrated edition edition (July 7, 2004)
  • I have three phobias which, could I mute them, would make my life as slick as a sonnet, but as dull as ditch water — I hate to go to bed, I hate to get up, and I hate to be alone.
  • No man worth his salt, no man of spirit and spine, no man for whom I could have any respect, could rejoice in the identification of Tallulah's husband. It's tough enough to be bogged down in a legend. It would be even tougher to marry one.
  • I'm as pure as the driven slush.
  • It's one of the tragic ironies of the theatre that only one man in it can count on steady work - the night watchman.
  • The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
  • Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.
  • Here's a rule I recommend. Never practice two vices at once. (on drinking impacting her gambling abilities)
  • If you really want to help the American theater, don't be an actress, dahling. Be an audience.
  • Let's not quibble! I'm the foe of moderation, the champion of excess. If I may lift a line from a die-hard whose identity is lost in the shuffle, "I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right."
  • Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know — I've been using it for years.
  • There's less in this than meets the eye.[2]

Tallulah, Darling: A Biography of Tallulah Bankhead (1980)[edit]

Brian, Denis. Tallulah, Darling: A Biography of Tallulah Bankhead. New York: Macmillan Publishing (1980)
  • Codeine...bourbon...
    • Tallulah Bankhead's last coherent words
    • p. 1
  • I've tried several varieties of sex, all of which I hate. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic; the others give me a stiff neck and/or lockjaw.
  • I'll come and make love to you at five o'clock. If I'm late, start without me.

Quotes about Tallulah[edit]

  • Tallulah has never hesitated to speak what she feels to be the truth, no matter about the possible hurt to herself, because when you speak the truth it is you, the speaker, who is most likely to be hurt. Tallulah is the strongest of all the hurt people I've ever known in my life. And of hurt people I've known a remarkable number, Including some I have hurt myself, and one of them is Tallulah.
  • I heard someone calling out "Five minutes, Miss Bankhead." There was a response to the call, and this response was delivered in a voice that, having once heard, I would never stop hearing inside my head as I wrote lines for ladies that somehow resulted from the fantastic crossbreeding of a moth and a tiger. Here was the voice for which I had written the part of Myra Torrance in Battle of Angels, and written it for that voice without ever having heard it except in films. I went backstage after the play that night and she received me in her dressing room with that graciousness that has nothing to do with her Southern origin and genteel breeding but with her instinctive kindness to a person in whom she senses a vulnerability that is kin to her own. I suppose I simply mean that she saw or sensed immediately that I was meeting, for the first time in my life, a great star, and that I was more than just properly awed. I was virtually dumb-struck."
    • Tennessee Williams, in "T. Williams View of T. Bankhead", in New Selected Essays: Where I Live (2009), edited by John S. Bak, p. 135
  • Tallulah never bored anyone, and I consider that humanitarianism of a very high order indeed.
  • She was magnificent. There ain't nobody like her. In her heyday nobody had a bigger ball. She had that magnificent beauty that is ugly in a funny way. Judith Anderson and Laurette Taylor had it too. I've seen Tallulah look absolutely dreadful, then take a shot of ammonia and Coca-Cola and turn into a beauty.
  • But everybody loves Tallulah! Who'd have the heart not to!
  • On The Little Foxes I begged the producer, Samuel Goldwyn, to let Tallulah Bankhead play Regina because Tallulah was magnificent on the stage. He wouldn't let her.
  • A great admirer of hers, I wanted in no way to be influenced by her work. It was Willie's intention that I give a different interpretation of the part. I insisted that Tallulah had played it the only way it could be played. Miss Hellman's Regina was written with such definition that it could only be played one way. I had to do that part exactly the way Tallulah did it, because that's the way Lillian Hellman wrote it. But I was always sad that Tallulah couldn't record Regina from the theatre, because she was marvelous.
    • Bette Davis, on playing the role of Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes, which Tallulah had originated on Broadway, much to Tallulah's chagrin.
  • A day away from Tallulah is like a month in the country.
  • Tallulah Bankhead is a wicked archangel with her flowing ash-blonde hair and carven features. Her profile is perfectly Grecian, flow of line from forehead to nose like the head on a medallion. ... Medusa, very exotic, with a glorious skull, high pumice-stone cheek bones, and a broad brow, and was equally interesting sculpturally when ... plump as she now is cadaverously thin... hers is the most easily recognizable face I know and the most luscious... Miss Bankhead's cheeks are like huge acid-pink peonies, her eyelashes are built out with hot liquid paint to look like burnt matches, and her sullen, discontented, rather evil rosebud of a mouth is painted the brightest scarlet and is as shiny as Tiptree's strawberry jam.

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