They say that any publicity is good publicity, but legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead would beg to differ. There is, after all, a limit when it comes to how many scandals an acting career can take — especially in the early days of Hollywood. In those days, Bankhead was constantly turning heads with her rollercoaster career and her wild lifestyle. And while not every controversy came back with a bite, the ones that did threatened to destroy her life's work.
A hot-tempered child
Even when she was young, Tallulah was too hot to handle. Her temper would get so out of control that her grandmother did the only thing she knew would help — she'd douse Tallulah with a bucket of ice water! Despite her family's efforts, nothing ever cooled Bankhead off for good. This ended up being a blessing in disguise; only those with true passion could make it to Hollywood, after all. And when the industry was in its early years, women like Bankhead needed all the help they could get.
She was a troublemaker
It goes without saying that Tallulah was already proving to be a troublemaker at a young age, but in a family of politicians, there wasn't a lot she could get away with. Her father, who was the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the late 1930s, warned his daughter about the dangers of drinking, flirting, and overall debauchery. But even he knew that Bankhead had some inner demons that occasionally led her astray. You see, the beginning of Bankhead's life was marred by tragedy.
The loss of her mother
All her life, Tallulah grieved the loss of her mother. She'd tragically passed away while giving birth to Tallulah, and although her father assured her that it wasn't her fault, the girl blamed herself. Before she died, her mother seemed to sense Bankhead's innate inner strength. "Tallulah will always be able to take care of herself," she said on her deathbed. Sure enough, Bankhead's mischievous personality helped her cope with her grief and guilt... and so did performing.
Landing in New York
After doing a handful of silent films, she quickly realized that the stage was her calling, not the screen. And once she'd landed in New York, she befriended high-profile personalities like Estelle Winwood and Ethel Barrymore. But nothing worked out the way she'd hoped, even after she'd made it to Broadway. She had a few Broadway shows under her belt, but her star power failed to rise. Most would call it quits, but Tallulah was one heck of a fighter. If she couldn't break through at home, she realized, then she'd have to move someone else entirely.