Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Tallulah Bankhead

The flamboyant, divine Tallulah Bankhead (1902–1968) made a name for herself in Hollywood circles as a wild party girl with a ravenous sexual appetite and a penchant for sharp one-liners. An American actor who became a star on the stages of London, Bankhead returned to Hollywood to make films despite not having a taste for the slow pace of filmmaking. She was publicly outspoken about her sexuality, even claiming that she only came to Hollywood to “f*ck that divine Gary Cooper.” (She later did work with Cooper on Devil and the Deep). But there was more to her than partying and pleasure; she gave generously to children’s hospitals in the United States and Britain and spoke tirelessly for Finnish refugees during World War II. She wrote a pamphlet, Human Suffering Has Nothing to Do with Creed, Race, or Politics, and read it on the radio to fifty million people.

Bankhead’s exuberant personality garnered her enough attention to make her a fixture on television up to the end of her life. In 1950, NBC Radio gave Tallulah a variety show to host, where she shone with her trademark wit and playful put-down banter with her famous friends (and some foes). One of her last public performances was on the 1967 series Batman, in which she portrayed the Black Widow. When TV producer Bill Dozier approached her for the cameo and mentioned that it would need to be campy, she reportedly replied, “Don’t talk to me about camp, dahling; I invented it!” It’s also rumored that the classic Disney villain Cruella de Vil was based on Tallulah Bankhead.

“It’s the good girls who keep diaries, the bad girls never have the time.”