Femmes Fatales Apr 20 2018
BANKHEAD SHOT
She's going to pay back everything she owes—plus interest.


In the pre-Code film The Cheat, Tallulah Bankhead plays a compulsive gambler who, due to her extensive debts, is branded on her chest by the sadistic man to whom she owes a bundle. You can see the mark near her left shoulder. Interestingly, it's kanji—i.e. Chinese logographic characters used as part of the Japanese alphabet—and it says “I possess.” Well, her cruel creditor doesn't possess her gun, and we have a feeling he'll be sorry he doesn't. The photo is from 1931.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 11 2018
ALL IN THE SAME BOAT
Bankhead and Co. try to deal with an ocean of differences.


The best thing about Lifeboat is Tallulah Bankhead. Simple as that. Top billed, tasked with bringing a complex character to life, and working in a film with huge expectations because it was written by literary laureate John Steinbeck and helmed by internationally renowned director Alfred Hitchcock, she delivers the goods. If you haven't seen it, it's an adventure and character study about a group of cruise ship passengers who survive a German u-boat attack and find themselves adrift on the Atlantic Ocean. There's a tinge of war propaganda to it, a touch of we're-humans-and-the-other-side-aren't, but when you consider that Germany was a genocidal regime, and news reports had been touching on this fact for two years (though visual evidence wouldn't appear until after May 1945) Lifeboat is remarkably subtle in that regard.

Anyway, if you ever want to see a star go full nova, check this film out—Bankhead is funny, bitter, sly, ironic, desperate, and more, helped along by reliable old William Bendix, as well as Hume Cronyn, Mary Anderson, and Walter Slezak in a pivotal role. And I guess we don't have to tell you one of Hitchcock's most famous stories came from this movie, the one about his camera accidentally getting upskirt shots of a pantyless Bankhead, and the question of whether the problem was one for hair, make-up, or wardrobe.

The poster above is a really nice piece of mid-century promo art and we spent a lot of computer time trying to discover who painted it, but to no avail. That wasn't a surprise, though. It's a painted version of the photo-illustration used on the panel length promo you see below, which means it's basically a copy job that numerous artists could have executed. But it's still nice compositionally, with its beautiful blue coloration, bright yellow title, and diagonal arrangement of faces. Lifeboat premiered in the U.S. today in 1944.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 7 2014
TALLULAH INSURGENCY
Hollywood never knew what hit it.

We shared a photo of American actress Tallulah Bankhead several years ago but that shot was from the rear, which really didn’t do much to suggest how beautiful she was. Above you see her from the front, in one of the best photos we’ve encountered of her. Her kind of beauty could bring elegance or possibly even innocence to mind, but she was actually a legendary hellraiser, filling her nights with booze, drugs, affairs with both sexes, and shocking pranks such as stripping naked at parties. While she died at the fairly young age of sixty-six (with her last breath she reportedly uttered the words “codeine” and “bourbon”) she would doubtless have pointed out that a good forty-five years of wild times and memorable fun is better than sixty years of behaving oneself. Besides, even the well-behaved die early. Just imagine their regret. This shot is probably from the early 1930s. 

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Femmes Fatales Sep 3 2009
BANKHEAD OVER HEELS

American actress and legendary Hollywood partygirl Tallulah Bankhead, who shed her clothes not just for photographers, but at parties, dinners, or sometimes just in conversation.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 20
1944—Hitler Survives Third Assassination Attempt
Adolf Hitler escapes death after a bomb explodes at his headquarters in Rastenberg, East Prussia. A senior officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, is blamed for planting the device at a meeting between Hitler and other senior staff members. Hitler sustains minor burns and a concussion but manages to keep an appointment later in the day with Italian leader Benito Mussolini.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
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