A couple weeks ago I watched the American Film Institute give their Lifetime Achievement Award to Al Pacino. First off, I am terribly saddened to learn Al has only a few months to live, which is certainly the only reason I know to honor that showboating overactor. They only give Lifetime Achievement Awards to dying people. They are really called Lifetime Achievements Are Over Awards.
Yes I know they gave one to Tom Hanks, and I'm glad he went into an unexpected remission (I suspect he became a Christian Scientist like me, and "Knew the Truth" and was thus miraculously healed.), but we all know that his award wasn't supposed to be taken seriously. It was a practical joke that got completely out of hand, like the Supreme Court's little practical joke of declaring George Dubya Bush President when they knew perfectly well that Al Gore had won the election. It never occurred to them that anyone would take them seriously. But the damned jerk was inaugurated before they could say "December Fool."
Secondly, every time they hand one of those trinkets out, I get card and letter asking why I, the first real star of the movies, and the second oldest nearly-living member of SAG, has never received AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award. I might add that Charles Lane's family are asking the same question about him. The man had appeared in more than three times as many movies as Al, and never overacted.
The American Film Institute and I have an odd relationship. Go through their files; they like to pretend I don't even exist! If I don't exist, then how are you reading this? I couldn't write something if I wasn't real, could I? I rest my case.
The stated purpose of the American Film Institute is to preserve American Films, yet for me alone, they have set up a special team of Anti-preservationists; basically a team of film destroyers, working day and night to see that more of my films are lost.
Readers of my almost-acclaimed autobiography, My Lush Life, are aware that many of my silent films, The Human Woman, Silent Echoes, Tramp Steamer, and others, are now lost. Well, just since my book came out in 2002, several more of my films, which did still exist then, have become lost. What gives?
The lovely photo just below is from my 1932 musical Broadway Bimbos. That's adorable little Paisley Tine hugging me. Little Paisley is completely forgotten today, even by himself. He was only in four movies. Only one of those, Broadway Monotones of 1931, still exists, and it's scheduled for demolition next month! Little Paisley wasn't terribly masculine, and hugging a woman on camera, as he is doing with me in this picture, often made him physically nauseous. Shouldn't his professionalism in the face of enormous replusion be rewarded rather than eradicated?
When my book came out, you could still see Broadway Bimbos, usually on the now-defunct cable channel TCM-2, the TCM sister channel, on which "TCM" stood for "Terribly Crappy Movies." Now however, there are no known prints left. (By coincidence, TCM are my initials: Tallulah Clytemnestra Morehead.)
I suppose, in a way, it's my fault. In my book, I tell of how the demented movie hag Delores Delgado attacked the screening of my beloved debut film, Heat Crazed, at The French Academy of Cinema Art back in 1959, when I was awarded the title Commandeutrix des Arts et Lettres, recognizing me as a Genius every bit the equal of Jerry Lewis. Delores destroyed the only known print of the original ending of the movie. (This ending was never seen in America, as it's starkly dramatic depiction of Latin Lover Supreme Gilbert Rolaids making love to me right after he had strangled me to death, was considered too outré for American filmgoers in 1915.)
The AFI read this passage, and apparently said, "Why didn't we think of that?" Since then, they have devoted themselves to eradicating my remaining work from existence.
Is the little child in this picture not adorable? It's me back in 1907, a mere, fleeting century ago, when I was touring in vaudeville as "Baby Tallulah, the World's Youngest Bartender." The head of that precious doll I am clutching could unscrew, and inside was a quart flask filled with only the finest quality Scotch whisky. I called that doll Little Loopy. How I loved her. I used to refer to the liquid gift you received when you removed her noggin as her "Giving Head," until my mother overheard me.
It's a measure of how far my career eradication has progressed, that that photo, the only one I know of from my Baby Tallulah days, comes not from a theatrical flyer or playbill, but from a wanted poster. (Something to do with Child Labor Laws. Let's face it, my act never did go over in Utah.)
Do you realize how hard it is to lose all prints of a movie that is out on DVD? The AFI film "Restorers" have even tried going door-to-door, attempting to confiscate DVDs of my early movies. Further, they have laid hands on the prints and negatives of many of my movies that were transferred onto Safety Stock, and are now engaged in transferring them back onto highly flammable nitrate film stock, and then storing them in a tin shed in the middle of the Mojave Desert, doused in gasoline (As a "Preservative"), padded with oily rags, and placed between enormous canisters of oxygen, which have rather unusually been made from plastic.
If you saw the AFI TV special The 100 American Movies We'd Most Like to Lose Forever, 43 of the movies on the list were mine! It was the most TV exposure I've had since my short-lived TV quiz show I hostessed, Blotto, went off the air back in 1958, and all they did was insult me!
In recent years, several more of my films have been irretrievably lost, including Fleshpot, Illicit Plaything, Mayfair Madness, Amok, and The Naked Nudist. Below is a lovely shot of me in the delightful musical Dancing in the Drink. It's being transferred onto nitrate stock, the soundtrack being sabotaged, and scratches being added to the images at this very moment. If you ever want to see it, stop AFI immediately!
And get me my damned Lifetime Achievement Award while you're at it. It's too late for Charles Lane. Don't let it be too late for me as well.