Jun 24, 2015

Tallulah Bankhead, Lifeboat

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress
It is said that Alfred Hitchcock wanted the “most oblique, incongruous person imaginable” for the role of the glamourous, high-society journalist Connie Porter in Lifeboat. And to say that Tallulah Bankhead fits that criteria perfectly is an understatement. She is wholly fascinating specimen, carrying with her an alien presence that’s ripe with a sexuality and exoticism not so fitting for the Hayes Code-era. 

Whether or not she's leading is up to your interpretation; she's the first person you see as the film begins, and she has the last word as the film closes. What's more, she's the single most interesting character in the flick--even when she's not exactly doing or saying anything all that special, her overall tone and magnetism makes it hard for you to care about anyone else on that damn boat. My only qualm is that because Lifeboat is an ensemble film, we're only given a sampling of these all these characters. Thus, Connie/Bankhead, as interesting as she may be, isn't as fleshed out and fully realized a character as I'd prefer. You get glimpses into what she's like as a person--the way she so-subtly-and-oh-so-Bankheadedly talks about her love of married men comes to mind and really provides color to Connie--but I got the sense that only the surface is being scratched here. Still, Bankhead gives as much shading to Connie as is possible given the character's limited confines, and if anything, it leaves the viewing wanting more rather than leaving something to be desired; a lady so frank, so fab, and so limited would make a solid contender for the supporting category, but it's peculiar because Lifeboat is so very much her movie. And if anything, Bankhead winning New York provides ample inspired relief (the third year running too!) where the Academy so desperately lacked.


  1. I've heard so many positive things about this performance and I definitely will watch it someday. Would you have nominated her over Garson/Davis?

    1. Yeah, I think I would. Though I think she'd be more appropriate in supporting!

  2. Interesting.
    Never seen the film. There was a time about a decade ago when I was really catching with with Hitchcock, and yet I must have skipped this one.

  3. "Lifeboat" is absolutely an ensemble film and, like so many Hitchcock movies, the characters function more as plot devices than as fully realized people. Bankhead brings her theatricality, authority and charisma to her role and should have been nominated in the supporting category (where she should have bested the predictable Ethel Barrymore). There's just not enough THERE there to have been in contention for a lead Oscar. She's a hoot, though.