25 January 2012

Taking Shots at Lady Lush

Tallulah Bankhead was an intoxicating character whose words you couldn't properly transcribe without italizing and CAPITALIZING, and--for years--I thought her surname was DARLING. Hopefully, we haven't already posted a clip from her 1950s NBC radio program, The Big Show, because I wouldn't want to commit the sin of repetition. On YouTube, many have already shared an excerpt from the January 7, 1951 show in which Dietrich guest starred, but the entire episode deserves a listen (even more than this lot legend about gold dust deserves a read). Available from Internet Archive, here it is:

When the guest stars introduce themselves, you may recognize some names associated with Dietrich: Fred Allen (whose Texaco Star Theater radio show featured Dietrich, readily available on TallulahDarling's YouTube page), Edward G. Robinson (Dietrich's Manpower co-star), and Danny Thomas (who went on that famous European USO tour with Dietrich).

During the show, Dietrich's appearance is hyped up, with Bankhead playfully demanding equal footing, as you'll hear in her exchange with singer Fran Warren.

WARREN: Oh, I'm very excited, Tallulah, what with Marlene Dietrich on the show. She's so glamorous!
BANKHEAD: Uh, I've heard that said about me, darling.
WARREN: And she's such an international celebrity.
BANKHEAD: I've heard THAT said about me, darling, TOO.
WARREN: I remember she was my ideal when I was a child!
BANKHEAD: And I've heard THAT said abou--UH! [laughs] OH, DARLING!

Once Dietrich makes her "appearance" 45 minutes into the show, it's one punchline after another. Dietrich then sings "Falling in Love Again" but not just the way she sang it--as Bankhead says--"35 years ago." This rendition features some over-the-top yet ethereal "ah-ah-ah"-ing choir, like in Mario Lanza's "Be My Love." Enjoy!


  1. That was a sensational program, NBC's last-ditch attempt at Sunday night radio after Jack Benny et al had defected to CBS. Since Bankhead was reportedly at her best on stage and since her film career was checkered, radio is probably the medium in which her incredible personality best survives.

    1. Her personality definitely translates well on radio--and also in writing! Just as Maria Riva (and also Sternberg and Dietrich?) wrote that people remember The Devil is a Woman in color, I'll state that one remembers Bankhead's autobiography in audio.