Robert Gotlieb of The New Yorker looks back at the life of Tallulah Bankhead, who originated the role of Sabina, the family maid, beauty queen, and temptress in Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, The Skin of Our Teeth.
“Most famous stage actors tactfully fade away. Who today is interested in Katharine Cornell, that First Lady of the American Theatre? Or that other First Lady, Helen Hayes? Or that First among Firsts, Ethel Barrymore? (Well, yes, she was the great-aunt of Drew.) Of the theatrical greats of their day, only Tallulah Bankhead, who died in 1968, has not gone gentle into oblivion. Since her death, there have been seven biographies, the latest, Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady, by Joel Lobenthal, published only this past fall. And her own book, Tallulah, the No. 5 nonfiction best-seller of 1952 (No. 1 was the Revised Standard Version of the Bible; Whittaker Chambers’s “Witness” was No. 9), is recently back in print.”