Sunday, 13 November 2011

Tallulah Bankhead and Dorothy Parker

Tallulah Bankhead was one of the most wonderful characters who ever lived. I'm re-reading her biography, "Tallulah: My Biography" and Tallulah, Darling: A Biography of Tallulah Bankhead by Denis Brian and laughing in public places at some of her witticisms.
I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education.

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.

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

I'll come and make love to you at five o'clock. If I'm late start without me.

They used to photograph Shirley Temple through gauze. They should photograph me through linoleum.

(On seeing a former lover for the first time in years) I thought I told you to wait in the car.

The less I behave like Whistler's mother the night before, the more I look like her the morning after.

Her last words were "Codeine...bourbon..." Atta girl.

And Dorothy Parker, another heroine of mine. In my desperation to read every word she wrote, I seem to have a huge collection of books about and by her. Looking at them in a line on the shelf makes me look rather obsessive. I recommend The Complete Poems, The Collected Dorothy Parker (both by Penguin) and The Uncollected Dorothy Parker. Here are just a few choice quotes.
Well, Aimee Semple McPherson has written a book. And were you to call it a little peach, you would not be so much as scratching its surface. It is the story of her life, and it is called In the Service of the King, which title is perhaps a bit dangerously suggestive of a romantic novel. It may be that this autobiography is set down in sincerity, frankness and simple effort. It may be, too, that the Statue of Liberty is situated in Lake Ontario.

That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.

The House Beautiful is, for me, the play lousy.

I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.

I'm never going to accomplish anything; that's perfectly clear to me. I'm never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more.

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

Katharine Hepburn delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.

(On answering the door) What fresh hell is this?


Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.

The reason I'm writing about both of these fantastic women is because they were both members of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of writers, wits, critics, actors and actresses who would meet up for lunch in The Algonquin Hotel in New York in the 20s. Tallulah also read some of Dorothy Parker's writings on the radio. Tallulah's theatricality was parodied in a Groucho Marx radio play (in which Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Tallulah herself took part) which I've also included as someone kindly uploaded it to youtube.

And finally, the Groucho Marx parody -


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