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 greatest 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.

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.[1]

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.


  • I've been called many things, but never an intellectual.
  • If I were well behaved, I'd die of boredom.
  • (On seeing a former lover for the first time in years) I thought I told you to wait in the car.
  • I Was there in the South of France When Zelda Fitzgerald, poor darling, went off her head. She had gone into a flower shop and suddenly for her all the flowers had faces. Of course, some flowers, such as pansies, do have faces.
  • Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don't have time.
  • All my life I've been terrible at remembering people's names. I once introduced a friend of mine as Martini. Her name was actually Olive (on why she famously calls people "dahling".
  • The only reason I took [that part] was to fuck that divine Gary Cooper! (On why she left the London stage for Hollywood)
  • The less I behave like Whistler's mother the night before, the more I look like her the morning after. (In a retort to Dorothy Parker, who had quipped "Has Whistler's Mother left yet?" as a drunk Tallulah was escorted from the party the previous night)
  • I was raped in a driveway when I was eleven. … It was a terrible experience because we had all that gravel.
    • As quoted in The Girls : Sappho Goes to Hollywood (2001) by Diana McLellan, p. 134

Quotes about Bankhead[edit]

  • The only other actresses whose drawing power is as equally magnetic are Helen Hayes, Katharine Cornell, Lynn Fontanne... and Gertrude Lawrence. But of them all, Tallulah is the only vivid prima dona in the gusty tradition of eccentricity and crazy temperament. Compared with sedate Helen Hayes, sober Miss Cornell, quietly sophisticated Gertrude Lawrence and safely married Ms. Lunt, Tallulah is dangerous, daring, unpredictable, dynamic, whimsical, unconventional and quite utterly mad. — Ted Shane
  • 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... I was more than just properly awed, I was virtually dumb-struck - Tennessee Williams
  • Tallulah is the strongest of all the hurt people I've ever known in my life - Tennessee Williams

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