18 of the Most Salacious Scandals from the Golden Age of Hollywood

Few women in history were more involved in scandals than Talullah Bankhead, and few ever cared less about it. Library of Congress

3. Tallulah Bankhead was too scandalous to be linked to scandals

Tallulah Bankhead was born into wealth and privilege, and though she was mainly known as a stage actor, she became a symbol of Hollywood extravagance in her lifetime. Tallulah simply didn’t care what anyone, including her father, an 11 term member of the US House of Representatives and Speaker of the House for two terms, said of her. She enjoyed drugs and alcohol, and didn’t attempt to hide the fact from the public. In one interview she claimed that the only thing wrong with her was that she needed a man, and it had been too long since she’d had one. She had no children, but at least four abortions at a time when the procedure was illegal throughout most of the country. In 1932 she told an interviewer that she had accepted a film part only so that she could sleep with Gary Cooper, though she substituted a common four letter word for sleep with in the interview.

When she was introduced to film director Irving Thalberg, for whom she was to star in a Hollywood production, she asked him, “How do you get laid in this dreadful place?” Supposedly a sneering Thalberg told her to “ask anyone”. She was linked to sexual relationships with both men and women, among the latter were Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Hattie McDaniel of Gone With the Wind fame. She neither confirmed nor denied her sexuality, referring to herself in one interview as “ambisexual”. Warned by her father to avoid men and alcohol in New York, she told an interviewer, “He never said anything about women and cocaine.” It was she who uttered one of the most deflating political put downs of all time, referring to Republican Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey as resembling “the little man on the wedding cake”. She was never tainted by scandal because she welcomed the controversy, as evidenced by her once saying of cocaine, “Cocaine isn’t habit forming and I know because I’ve been taking it for years.”