Friday, October 16, 2009

They Totally Did: Marlene Dietrich & Tallulah Bankhead

Ah the nineteen thirties, a time of recovery from war and depression, a time when the silver screen was beginning to bud, and a time of RAMPANT LESBIANISM IN HOLLYWOOD! That's right, you heard me. At least on the side of the women, bisexuality in thirties Hollywood was very alive, and very well. In fact, many of the silver screen's leading ladies loftily laid together in lustful love. Phew, say that five times fast. Anyhoo, for the sake of brevity I'll focus on two amours of mine from the golden age of cinema; the lovely Marlene Dietrich and her successor the raunchy life-lusting Tallulah Bankhead.
Ok, what must be understood, as per the era in time, is the “Motion Picture Production Code”. For those of you who aren't ridiculous history/movie buffs (or didn't just run to Wikipedia) the Motion Picture Production Code was a set of highly conservative rules that not only governed what could be done in movies, but what could be done by actors in their lives. To give a taste of what the Code entailed I'll give you the three “General Principles” enumerated as follows:
  1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
  2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
  3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
Read between the lines, and you get no miscegenation, no drugs, and absolutely no homosexuality. However, that did not stop the raucous German songstress Marlene Dietrich from getting whatever Lola wanted.
Born in Berlin-Schöneberg in the then German Empire, Dietrich acted in solely German productions until discovered in 1930 by the director Josef von Sternberg. Sternberg then cast her in the renowned film “The Blue Angel”, as the character Lola-Lola, which featured her most famous song “Falling In Love Again”. Sternberg remained a huge facet in Dietrich's life, directing her first American film, Morocco, and generally making her the star she was at her zenith. Dietrich, being the impeccable actress that she was, managed to keep her bisexuality on the downlow and still enjoy the thriving gay scene and drag balls of 1920s Berlin. Mmm, I love a girl in a suit. Dietrich was known to have had an affair with Cuban-American writer Mercedes D'Acosta, and by extension the glamorous Greta Garbo. Thank goodness her husband was open to letting her be.

Tallulah Bankhead however, never considered openness an issue.

Pure as the driven slush and born in Alabama to a powerful Democratic political family, Tallulah Bankhead was a performer from the start. Bankhead actually developed her characteristic succexy voice from chronic childhood bronchitis. At the tender age of 15, Bankhead moved to the Big Apple and never looked back, becoming a part of the Algonquin Round Table and a hard-partying girl about town. Never one for alcohol at that stage, Bankhead smoked weed and did blow like no one's business infamously quoted as saying: "Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know- I've been using it for years." Bankhead also possessed a voracious appetite for sex, to quote her again “I've tried several varieties of sex. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic And the others give me either stiff neck or lockjaw.” Quel domage! What a tigress! Tallulah's fame as an actress was cemented for portraying Amy in Sidney Howard's 1925 Pulitzer Prise wining play, "They Knew What They Wanted". Bankhead unfortunately never garnered much success with film, but her excellence on the stage easily balanced this misfortune. Bankhead's personality was said to so fierce that it inspired much of the personality for the classic puppy skinner, Cruella De Vil. Don't worry ladies, Tallulah was reportedly a fierce lover of both animals and children. During her grandiose sex life, Bankhead supposedly slept with the likes of Billie Holiday, Greta Garbo, Alla Nazimova, Laurette Taylor, and of course one miss Marlene Dietrich.

To bring this to a succinct finish, they totally madeout.