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After Lee Israel's solid Miss Tallulah Bankhead and Brendan Gill's stylish Tallulah, another Tallulah bio seems a bit much, dahling--especially when it's a lazy, sketchy cut-and-paste job like this one. Brian, whose dubious credits include a 1976 bio of Jeane Dixon, has patched together, in roughly chronological order, a heavily anecdotal and subjective mishmash of quotation-marked material: chunks from Tallulah's 1952 autobiography; liftings from more recent memoirs by Raymond Massey and others; the transcript of a pointless, rambling 1966 interview with Tallulah herself (""I never thought I'd take to golf, but I'm watching it on TV. . . . I wish I could find a bookie here. . . . I think dolphins are the most divine people in the world. . .""); and stories or opinions from interviews with assorted chums and colleagues. True, this uncoordinated mess of gab (which reaches comic heights of irrelevance as Brian quotes Tony Randall's views on Tallulah's early pictures or on homosexual opera audiences) is strung along with a bare account of TB's career--struggling N.Y. beginner in love with John Barrymore, overnight London star, real Broadway stardom (The Little Foxes), movies, radio, and decline. And there's mention of her bad-actor husband, her drugs (she ""treated her body as though it belonged to someone else whom she wanted to hurt""), her lesbian dalliances, her feuds. But Brian hasn't managed to make this either a readably dramatic life story or a three-dimensional portrait; he slides around any psychological insights (""The 'why' of Tallulah will get a different answer from almost everyone who knew her"") and winds up at the end with utter inanity--a list of the parallels between Tallulah and Winston Churchill (""these two strippers weepers drinkers""). Even for any remaining Tallulah fan clubs: superfluous chat.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1980
Publisher: Macmillan