'101 Dalmatians' opens Tallulah Bankhead Tribute

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 6/8/17

The third annual Tallulah Bankhead Tribute promises three days of family fun to bring the people of Walker County and visitors to the city of Jasper together.

This year’s tribute will begin tonight from 8 to 10 p.m., …

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'101 Dalmatians' opens Tallulah Bankhead Tribute


The third annual Tallulah Bankhead Tribute promises three days of family fun to bring the people of Walker County and visitors to the city of Jasper together.

This year’s tribute will begin tonight from 8 to 10 p.m., with a Walker Area Community Foundation sponsored screening of Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” at the Bankhead House & Heritage Center Amphitheatre, located at 800 7th Street in Jasper. The film features villain Cruella de Vil, whose character was inspired by actress Tallulah Bankhead.

Bankhead was a native of Jasper and began her career during the silent film era, with some of her earliest work in 1918.

She later found fame on the London theatre stage before returning to America in the early 1930s to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. She continued her stage and screen career until shortly before her death on Dec. 12, 1968. Some of Bankhead’s most acclaimed roles include “Devil in the Deep,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” and her role as the Black Widow on the “Batman” television series.

“She was a winner. She was before her time. She was innovative,” Jasper Main Street Executive Director Mike Putman said of the actress. “She had an unyielding fight for the equality of all people.”

The tribute will continue on Friday in downtown Jasper’s Pocket Park, located along 19th Street, across from Black Rock Bistro. Vendors from the Walker County Farmer’s Market will display their fresh fruits and produce and other goods from 4 to 7 p.m., prior to a performance by The Velcro Pygmies band.

Friends of Downtown Jasper and Jasper Main Street are hosting the rock ‘n’ roll performance on Jasper’s downtown square from 7 to 10 p.m.

Jasper Main Street’s largest event of the tribute will be Saturday in the downtown district with the Tallulah Half Marathon, kids half marathon, 5K and one-mile fun run, presented by Powerade.

Putman said the half marathon brought 300 runners to downtown Jasper last year, and they are expecting even more people from outside the community to participate in Saturday’s run. A half marathon for children was added to this year’s tribute.

“One way it has grown is we’ve added another health event to the half marathon, which is the kids half marathon. Angela Harris, who is on the Jasper Main Street board, worked with local P.E. teachers and principals so that kids ran 12 miles throughout the school year, and they’ll run their 13th on Saturday, so they would have run a half marathon,” Putman said. “We want to encourage good health and an active lifestyle.”

The race schedule will be as follows: Tallulah Half Marathon (7 to 11 a.m.), kids half marathon (7:20 to 8 a.m.), 5K (7:15 to 8:30 a.m.) and one mile fun run (7:20 to 8 a.m.).

Runners may pre-register at www.tallulahhalf.com, and late registration will be at the square in downtown Jasper from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Each race will start and end downtown.

Sponsors of the Tallulah Bankhead Tribute include the Walker College Foundation, Byars-Wright Insurance Agency, Lavish Boutique, Honda of Jasper, Southern Orthopedic Sports Medicine Association, Young Jewelers, Black Rock Bistro, Daily Mountain Eagle, Los Reyes, Carl Cannon Chevrolet, Five Points, East Point and Curry Discount pharmacies, Alabama Power Company, Johnny Brusco’s New York Style Pizza, Warehouse 319, Desperation Church, Pinnacle Bank, Walker Area Community Foundation, The Holladay Agency, Inc., First Bank of Jasper, Synovus and Alabama Public Radio.

The Tallulah Bankhead Tribute began in 2015, featuring the play “Mr. Will & Dutch: Alabama’s Legendary Bankheads.” The Little Foxes Party was also held at Musgrove Country Club during the first tribute, and a number of people who knew Tallulah visited Jasper to share their stories. Last year a documentary on the legendary Bankhead family was screened, and a Black and White Ball was at Musgrove.

A 5K was held during the first tribute, and the city’s first half marathon began during last year’s event.

Putman said people often ask why Jasper Main Street chose to name a tribute in honor of Tallulah Bankhead.

“I think it’s important that Alabamians, much less people from Walker County, realize that she contributed a lot to us, not just her but her entire family,” Putman told the Eagle in 2016. “We tend to forget that because it was so long ago, and nobody’s trying to live on their history, but we are trying to celebrate it.”

The Bankhead family legacy began in the late 1800s. John Hollis Bankhead was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years and later served in the U.S. Senate.

His son, John Hollis Bankhead II, served on the U.S. Sentate, and his other son and Tallulah’s father, William Bankhead, became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1936.

The family’s home, built in 1925, continues to be a popular tourist attraction in Jasper.

Putman said while Tallulah is still celebrated during the event, Jasper Main Street made an intentional effort to offer events during this year’s tribute that people of all ages can enjoy.

“We just took a different direction. We wanted to have a family friendly shift,” he said.

Proceeds from this year’s tribute will help fund phase one of Jasper Main Street’s streetscape project, where trees will be planted in downtown Jasper.