Bankhead on Broadway

One of Dorothy Parker’s contemporaries is hitting the New York scene in a big way. Tallulah Bankhead, a late addition to the Algonquin Round Table, is the subject of no less than three shows on and off-Broadway. Kathleen Turner is in one of them.

One can expect Mrs. Parker’s name to be among the scripts of all three shows.

Bankhead (1903-68) was, like Mrs. Parker, great for generating quotes, gossip and stories. A star of stage and screen back in the days when that actually meant something, she bridged the gap from silent films (I think, I’m no expert) to TV (see last paragraph for something truly inane). Bankhead is getting the treatment in three productions: Tallulah Hallelujah which features Tovah Feldshuh Off-Broadway at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre; also Tallulah with Kathleen Body Heat Turner that’s in the Midwest and coming to NYC in April; and finally Dahling! will open Oct. 28 at the Grove Street Playhouse.

Bankhead was one for the one-liners. She said, “The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” Why the sudden attraction to the star, who’s been dead for more than 30 years? The New York Post did a big story about this. Susan Heyward, who wrote the Turner show, says, “I think it’s because women of that era were so strong, then hit a stone wall and were sent back to the kitchen. After that, we had women victims like Marilyn. But we haven’t had women stars as tough and strong again as Tallulah.”

We’ll check these shows out as Dorothy Parker fans and see how Tallulah plays in 2000. She had one of the greatest quotes attributed to her about college: “I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That’s what I call a liberal education.”

Finally, how are Dorothy Parker and the Round Table connected to the Batman series of the 1960s with Adam West? It’s Tallulah, in her last screen role. In 1968, she played the Black Widow, an evil villain that turned men into mush with a special brain short circuiter that she kept in her purse. She had an underground spider lair and did her best to catch Batman and Robin in her web. Just some useless trivia for you.

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