If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
A star who burned so brightly that her name became a verb, to ‘Tallulah’ was, in her own words, to “dance and sing and romp and fluff my hair and play reckless parts.” Born in Alabama but made famous in London, Tallulah was a sensation, and is remembered today for her liberalised views of sexuality and high-profile personal life as much as her on-stage performances.
The daughter of a respected Alabama senator, who would later become the Speaker of the House, she was raised by a strict Aunt who would throw cold water over her head when she would (frequently) throw a tantrum for not getting her way. Sent to a convent school with her sister in an attempt to learn some manners, Tallulah belied her stern upbringing at every opportunity, and was just 15 when she sent her picture to a magazine and won the opportunity to appear in a silent film.
She did not find success in her home country however, and after a string of poorly received performances she travelled to London on the advice of an astrologer. She was an instant hit in the West End, and soon had her own legion of ‘Gallery Girls’ who would imitate her mannerisms and fashion-sense, and never miss a performance. She was the main attraction on the London stage for the best part of the 1920s, starring in a run of plays that were critically panned but massive hits. The combination of her husky, sensual voice and her dazzling looks and charm made her the social toast of the city, and she flaunted her wit and sexuality with abandon, describing herself as ‘ambisextrous’ and revelling in her frivolity.
A rare breed who coupled raw, undisciplined talent with wit, charm and sexuality, Tallulah is probably the most famous star of her generation, and is still cited as an inspiration for women and LGBT campaigners today.