Tallulah Bankhead (Tallulah Bankhead)

Tallulah Bankhead

Actress. Tallulalh Bankhead was born into a very notable family in Huntsville, Alabama.  Her grandfather was US Senator John Hollis Bankhead, and her father, William Brockman Bankhead, served as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Her uncle was US Senator John Hollis Bankhead II and her aunt Marie Bankhead Owen became Director of the Alabama State Achieves, the first  women to head a department of Alabama state government.  Upon the early death of her mother, she  was raised by her grandmother in Jasper, Alabama.  Tallulah’s break came after winning a beauty contest sponsored by “Picture Play” magazine and part of the prize was a bit part in a motion picture entitled “The Wishful Girl.”  She achieved stardom working in virtually every medium – stage, screen, radio and television.  Tullulah Bankhead was one of the rare silent film stars that successfully made the transition to talkies, then radio and television.  She was a fixture on Broadway.  Her most notable “The Little Foxes” won her the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and repeated with a second award for “The Skin of Our Teeth.  Tallulah  made only 18 movies and her career was spotty and included several box office disasters,  ‘Woman’s Law, His House in Order, My Sin and her best movie Hitchcock’s movie Lifeboat.’ The final and 18th picture was’Fanatic.’  Radio in its hey -day saw Tullulah making many guest appearances on the Fred Allen Show and Duffy’s Tavern.   She became the MC of NBC’s Radio’s The Big Show a ninety minute parade of stars with the likes of Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Judy Holiday, Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Clifton Webb.  With radio fading, Tallulah made a flurry of appearances on television variety shows and comedy specials.  She appeared on the first episode of The Big Party, a CBS 90-minute live variety show.  Her last television guest-shots were on the Andy Williams Show, The Merv Griffin Show followed by the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and two episodes of Batman.  They mainly wanted her for her raspy voice which was induced by a five pack a day habit.  She portrayed the villainous Black Widow. This was a tough role for her to complete. The aging actress had developed chronic emphysema necessitating dragging an oxygen tank around where ever she went. Tallulah returned to her New York Apartment where she contracted the Asian flu.  She didn’t respond to antibiotics and was placed in the hospital developing pneumonia and falling into a coma.  Placed in intensive care she died at age 65. She was buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard in Chesterton, Maryland without fanfare.  A talented Actress, she diminished her legacy by outrageous and uninhibited behavior and acidic wit and the ruinous use of every type of drugs available.  All these antics were a detriment to her considerable talents leading to dismissal from parts and passed over for others which were Academy Awards winners.  She was the delight of the tabloid movie magazines and they had a field day with Tallulah.  She charged her housekeeper with embezzlement which resulted in a national media circus.  During the trial the housekeeper told of her employers cocaine, marijuana, booze, scotch and champagne consumption and that she had to learn to roll miss Bankhead’s joints just so.  To which Tallulah replied, “God, good help is so hard to find”. She smoked over one hundred cigarettes per day, drank gin and bourbon as water and carried a suitcase-full of drugs to help her function.  Although she could be very cruel and vindictive when crossed, there are many accounts of her kindness.  Her generosity to those in need were well known.  She had a great love for animals and children (She was foster parent to many underprivileged youngsters).  Tallulah claimed to be broke most of her life.  Secretly,  she was a shrewd businesswoman and when she died, her estate was valued at $2 million dollars. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)  Family links:  Parents:  William Brockman Bankhead (1874 – 1940)  Adelaide Eugenia Sledge Bankhead (1880 – 1902)  Spouse:  John Emery (1905 – 1964)  Sibling:  Evelyn Eugenia Bankhead (1901 – 1979)*  Tallulah Bankhead (1902 – 1968) *Calculated relationshipCause of death: Double pneumonia complicated by emphysema


  • January, 31, 1902
  • USA


  • December, 12, 1968
  • USA

Cause of Death

  • Double pneumonia complicated by emphysema


  • Saint Pauls Kent Churchyard
  • Maryland
  • USA

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