Tallichet was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1914. She was descended from Albert Tallichet, who emigrated from Switzerland to the town of Demopolis. Margaret’s parents moved from Demopolis to Texas shortly before she was born, but she continued to visit relatives there for the rest of her life. Her brother David was an aviator and a pioneer of themed restaurants; he settled in California, and it is unknown whether he kept in touch with his Alabama roots.
Her film career began with a small role in the frequently remade A Star is Born, and Tallichet tested for the role of one of Scarlett O’Hara’s sisters in Gone With the Wind. (Color photos of her screen test can still be seen on the internet.) She lost out on the part, but another actress with Alabama ties got a role in the film; Birmingham native Mary Anderson played Maybelle Meriwether, and Anderson later starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat with yet another Alabama-born actress, Tallulah Bankhead.
Tallichet briefly studied theater in New York, then returned to Hollywood; her most significant film role was in Stranger on the Third Floor, often considered to be one of the first noir films. In 1938 she met the rising German-born director William Wyler, and the two married less than three
weeks later. Despite the whirlwind beginning, the marriage was an enduring one and lasted almost forty-three years.
After the birth of their second child Tallichet retired from acting. She focused on raising their five children and often acted as a sounding board for Wyler’s potential film projects. Perhaps due to Tallichet’s influence, Wyler made multiple films with southern settings, including Jezebel, and three others had Alabama ties, due to his and to Tallichet’s long friendship with playwright Lillian Hellman.
Like Tallichet, Hellman had family in Demopolis. Hellman's great-grandfather was Isaac Marx, the first Jewish settler of Demopolis, who emigrated from Bavaria to Marengo County. Hellman’s mother, Julia Newhouse, was born into one of the most affluent families in Demopolis and was the inspiration for Regina, the main character of The Little Foxes.
The acclaimed play is set in Alabama and Tallulah Bankhead originated the role of Regina on Broadway. Hellman adapted her play for the 1941 film adaptation, which Wyler directed, and both of them were nominated for Academy Awards. Wyler directed another play by Hellman, not only once but twice: Wyler brought her controversial play The Children’s Hour, first in 1936 as These Three, and then again in 1961.
Tallichet and Wyler remained lifelong friends with Hellman, and helped her financially when she was blacklisted in Hollywood due to the McCarthy witch hunts, and Hellman spent the last winter of her life with the widowed Tallichet. In 2007, the friendship between the two women was celebrated in a Demopolis festival. “Talli,” the southern belle with a wide grin, passed away in 1991, undoubtedly leaving a mark on Hollywood despite her short career.