Thirty years after her death Tallulah Bankhead's name still has the power to conjure a world of theatrical glamour and off-stage exuberance. Her one name Tallulah - is the stuff of legends. She was, and still is, known as Alabama's most distinguished actress, in movies, on radio and television, and most of all, the stage - both British and American.
Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was born in Huntsville in 1902. However her mother died soon after she was born (she was christened beside her mother's coffin) and she was reared by relatives in Jasper and Montgomery. From her family, which was prominent in national politics, she came by her dramatic personality naturally. Tallulah's father was a U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the house; her grandfather and uncle were U.S. Senators.
Attending a number of girls' schools, few for any length of time, she dreamed of becoming an actress. Quick to seize an opportunity, at the age of 15 sent a photo of herself to Picture-Play magazine as part of a talent contest. In her haste she forgot to identify herself, and was surprised some months later to find the photo in another issue of the magazine with a caption, "Who is she?" Using her identity as a circulation-building gimmick, the magazine launched a search.
She won the contest, with its promise of a movie contract, resulting in her entrè into the world of her dreams. Funded by her grandfather and chaperoned by her Aunt Louise, she set off to seek her fortune in New York staying at the Algonquin Hotel. There Tallulah found herself in the midst of a circle of brilliant theatrical personalities, including Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and George S. Kaufman. She firmly established herself as a wit even though Anita Loos said, "She was so pretty we thought she was stupid."
Tallulah arrived in London in 1923 after spending four years in New York, as a virtual unknown. When she returned to the United States eight years and 17 plays later, she was an international sensation.
On her return from England in the early 1930s, she was under contact to Paramount Pictures where she made a series of movies including "Tarnished Lady," "My Sin" and "The Cheat." She fulfilled her contract with other movies, the last "The Devil and the Deep" with Charles Laughton, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. In the 1940s she had critical and popular success with her role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat," but movies were never her metier.
Probably no play is more closely identified with Tallulah than Lillian Hellman's THE LITTLE FOXES, a story of greed and corruption in the South. Her role as Regina Giddens received the strongest reviews ever. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times said, "Her Regina Giddens is not only the finest thing she has done in the country but brilliant acting according to any standards." The play opened in New York in 1939 and ran for 408 performances before going on tour, traveling 25,000 miles for 87 one-night stands. Tallulah never missed a performance.
In her lifetime Tallulah worked in more than 50 stage plays, 20 films and countless radio and television performances. Her name was truly established as hers in the late 1940s when Proctor and Gamble launched an advertising campaign for its Prell shampoo, saying in a radio jingle, "I'm Tallulah the Tube take me home and squeeze me." She was so closely identified by her first name that she sued, eventually settling out of court, but forever staking her claim to the name Tallulah.
As Ms. Bankhead was once quoted as saying, "Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it."
Mr. and Mrs. Winton Blount
Philanthropists and Patrons of the Arts
No other Alabamians have demonstrated a greater commitment to the theatrical arts than Mr. and Mrs.Winton M. Blount. Their gift of the Carolyn Blount Theatre to the State of Alabama signified a new era in the cultural life of the state.
As a longtime supporter of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, as well as serving on the ASF Board of Directors, Carolyn Blount was well aware of the financial predicament in which "The Festival" had found itself: the highly successful and well regarded company could not make financial ends meet while limited to a six-week summer season in a borrowed high school auditorium. A year-round home was desperately needed.
In early 1982, several members of the ASF board of directors were sitting in Mr. Blount's office in Montgomery discussing the future of the Festival when Blount made his generous offer: if the Alabama Shakespeare Festival would move to Montgomery, he and Mrs. Blount would build them a permanent year-round home.
The largest single gift ever made to an American theatre company, the Carolyn Blount Theatre opened in December 1985. But, their philanthropy hardly stopped there. Additional land in the cultural park was provided for the construction of a new facility for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and the Blount Collection of American Art is now available for all Alabamians to enjoy. Even now the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park is undergoing expansion and when completed will make the site one of the most beautiful and diverse cultural institutions in America.
Born in Union Springs, Alabama, Winton Malcom Blount, known to his many friends as "Red," is a pioneer in the construction business successfully undertaking many large projects considered too risky or complicated to be completed. By seeking out the more difficult projects, Blount's flexible and imaginative direction moved the company into new fields involving nuclear energy, missile bases and space development, making Blount, Inc. one of the world's premiere construction companies.
Winton M. Blount served as Postmaster General during the Nixon administration and has served on the boards of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival; Folger Shakespeare Library; the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England; Americans for the Arts; the President's Committee for the Arts and Humanities and the national Business Committee for the Arts. He has received honorary degrees from nearly a dozen colleges.
Carolyn Self Blount was educated at Auburn University and Huntingdon College, and for six years was a teacher of literature at Sidney Lanier High School. Her love of Shakespeare and the classics prompted her early involvement with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. In addition to serving on the board of directors of ASF, she has also served on the boards of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Montgomery Ballet, First United Methodist Church, Rhodes College Art Council for the Moss Endowment for the Visual Arts, Huntingdon College and the Vail Valley Foundation Board. She holds an honorary doctorate from Huntingdon College and received the Alumni Achievement in the Humanities Award from Auburn University in 1989.
In 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Blount spoke of the "higher purpose" they had envisioned for their property in Montgomery. Their foresight and generosity in the gift of the Carolyn Blount Theatre and the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park has brought joy and enlightenment to hundreds of thousands of visitors and stimulated a climate of cultural growth unprecedented in Alabama's history.
Versatility means Fannie Flagg ... Comedy Writer, Actress, Television Star, Broadway Leading Lady and Author.
Her show business career began when she entered the Miss Alabama Pageant and won a scholarship to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. At age 19 she returned to Birmingham, her beloved hometown, with her own live 90-minute television show for ABC, where she also wrote and produced television specials that garnered many awards. As a result, she was named in "Who's Who in American Women in Communications."
Miss Flagg moved to New York where she wrote material for the sophisticated revue at the Upstairs at the Downstairs Club, and appeared in the shows, where she was hailed as one of the freshest and most exciting new talents in New York by such critics as Rex Reed and Judith Crist.
After seeing her performance, Alan Funt and his "Candid Camera" lured Fannie away from "The Upstairs." While writing, directing and appearing on this popular television show, Fannie began appearing as a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for which she also wrote and performed her own comedy sketches. The national popularity of the characters she created led to two comedy albums which she also wrote and recorded: RCA's "Rally Round the Flagg," followed by an MGM album based on Martha Mitchell entitled "My Husband Doesn't Know I'm Making This Phone Call."
Her many film and television roles which followed range from "Five Easy Pieces" to a co-starring role on "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" to numerous game shows to "Stay Hungry" with Sally Field and Jeff Bridges.
But Fannie continued to remain active in her first love, the live theatre. She has delighted audiences in "Private Lives," "Gypsy," "Here Today," "The Man Who Came To Dinner," "Mary, Mary," "Tobacco Road," "Good-bye Charlie," "Old Acquaintance," "Finishing Touches" and many others. Her Broadway roles include the lead in Jack Hefner's "Patio Porch" and "Sissy," co-starring with Sandy Dennis and Barbara Loden in "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean" directed by Elia Kazan and the starring role of Miss Mona in the Tony Award winning musical, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."
While still keeping a heavy schedule of television, movie and stage commitments Fannie began her most rewarding career. Her first novel "Coming Attractions" published by Morrow and Company and a Book of the Month Selection received high critical praise from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Publisher's Weekly and others. It was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 10 weeks.
Her second novel, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe," published by Random House, received widespread acclaim - a Pulitzer Prize nomination and spent 36 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List. Universal Studios produced "Fried Green Tomatoes" as a feature film and Fannie penned the script. It placed #1 at the box office, won rave reviews and Fannie was nominated for every industry award, including an Academy Award and the prestigious Scripter Award, which she won.
Ms. Flagg went on to record "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" on audio tape for Random House Audio and received a Grammy Award nomination for the Best Spoken Word for her performance.
Her most recent novel "Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!" received rave reviews and spent 12 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List.
Currently at work on her forth novel, Ms. Flagg divides her time between Southern California and Alabama.