Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m sharing scans of an oft-quoted interview Tallulah Bankhead gave to Gladys Hall for the September 1932 edition of Motion Picture Magazine. Though known more for her work on stage (and her quips off stage), the legendary deep-voiced actress made six films from 1931 to 1932, all of which have been featured on this blog… At the time of Hall’s publication, Bankhead was shooting her final movie of the era, Faithless (1932), the best of her output (it’s a Pre-Code Essential) and the only one produced by M-G-M. Her five earlier sound pictures had been with Paramount — the first three were shot on Long Island, the second two in Hollywood — and while the machine did its best to hype the Alabama-by-way-of-London starlet as the next celluloid sensation, the scripts Paramount gave to her were… well, they left a lot to be desired.
By the summer of 1932, “Talloo” was fed up with them and they were fed up with her. In production on her fifth Paramount film — Devil And The Deep (1932), incidentally the most interesting project they threw to her — she saw the writing on the wall. Following a costly critical failure (Thunder Below) that Paramount had hoped would reinvent her still-new image, the studio would only renew her contract at a pay cut. Accordingly to Variety, the frustrated actress “balked.” And she voiced her displeasure in a now-notorious magazine interview called, “Has Hollywood Cold-Shouldered Tallulah?,” during which she further alienated the industry’s conservative elite by once again unleashing the shock-’em-all persona they had tried to contain, as she blamed her problems not on Hollywood, but on the fact that she hadn’t had “an affaire” for six months. “I WANT A MAN!” she bellowed. See for yourself.
Myths suggest that this article contributed to the demise of her screen career. But Paramount was already done — they’d spent too much on Bankhead. And although she had more success with her one picture at M-G-M, where she was given the glamorous star treatment her former studio simply couldn’t afford, the actress was growing, uh, restless (as this article indicates). In fact, she claimed to have turned down a contract from Mayer himself, after refusing to replace Jean Harlow in Red Dust. So, by November, it was official: Tallulah Bankhead would be returning to the New York stage. Where the first thing she probably did was have an affaire.
Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned next Tuesday for more Raymond!
Tallulah certainly was a character. I have read a lot of stories about her legendary parties. Also interesting that Bette Davis played a lot of her roles on film
Hi, Brent! Thanks for reading and commenting.
She also found one of her stages roles taken by Joan Crawford, who took Bankhead’s part in the first play the Alabamian actress did after her escape from Hollywood, FORSAKING ALL OTHERS. (A fun romantic comedy that’s almost stifled by the Production Code under which it was made.)