January 31: Happy Birthday, Tallulah Bankhead
Darlings, Tallulah Bankhead was a hilarious star of stage and screen and the host of NBC's The Big Show from 1950-1951. The ostentatious Alabaman introduced each week's lineup of spectacular stars (Ethel Merman, Fred Allen, Groucho Marx, Martin and Lewis, Rosemary Clooney, you name 'em) and jousted with them in witty exchanges.
The ambitious and extravagant extravaganza was hosted in the 3,000-seat Center Theatre. Each show opened with the theme song "A Hand Full of Stars," Bankhead's monologue, and then the wide array of guest stars singing, dancing, or performing sketches in an ensemble.
The indomitable Tallulah, who, legend claims, smoked about a hundred and fifty cigarettes a day in rehearsals, was sometimes a bit thorny with guests. It was mostly all in good fun, but sometimes a bit uncomfortable. For example, Jose Ferrer showed reluctance at being called, by Bankhead, the day's best stage actor, Tallulah quickly shot back that he was right, he probably wasn't.
You may remember Bankhead's roles in such films as "The Trap," "My Sin," "Faithless," "Lifeboat," and "A Royal Scandal." And did you remember that she also played Black Widow in two 1967 episodes of the TV series "Batman"?