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On the Rumored Relationship Between Louise Brooks and Kenneth Tynan

Kenneth Tynan was born in 1927 and became a prominent theater critic in the 20th century. The 1920s were the peak of Louise Brooks’ career as a silent film actress. It was in the late 1970s, while doing research for his essay The Girl in the Black Helmet, that he first saw Brooks, initiating a series of encounters that would have a profound impact on his life. Although Tynan and Brooks were separated by nearly fifty years of age, they managed to become friends and remain so until Tynan’s untimely death in 1980. They corresponded frequently, discussing books, art, and each other’s works that they both admired. A letter from Tynan praised Brooks’ “amazing mind” as “endlessly stimulating.” In his forties, as emphysema took its final toll, he looked for her. Finally, he located Brooks in Rochester, New York, where she was living in her seventies. Tynan had to wait till he saw the woman who inspired The Girl in the Black Helmet before he could write the masterpiece for The New Yorker. Their encounter was brief, but it was enough for Tynan to put pen to paper and write about the woman who had been an inspiration to him for so long.

Most of the stories that are told today about their friendship were brought forward by Tynan’s wife, Kathleen Tynan, who died in 1995, and through the screenplay, she wrote.


The Life of Kenneth Tynan

Kenneth Tynan was a huge advocate for the theatre but was also known for his elaborate parties, flooded with celebrities. He made himself a huge part of the up-and-coming generation of the 1960s, even though he was shaped through the 1940s.

Years before he met Brooks, he had impersonated her at a party, with a black wig and stockings.

Kenneth married Kathleen in 1967, she had given up journalism to support him and make a life with him in London. She had been loyal to him, even giving birth to their son, Matthew. Her writing had gone to the wayside for a while. It did pick up again just as her husband’s life began to fall apart, and he began to react with paranoia.

After The Girl in the Black Helmet was out, he contacted Brooks. He wanted to set up a meeting with her to ask whether he could make a biography of her. She had objected in her reply, stating that the notion did not appeal to her and accusing him of betraying her. While he was hurt and surprised by her stance, he honored her wishes nonetheless.

Kenneth died in 1980, but his legacy outlived him in Britain. He was very well known on British TV.


The Life of Louise Brooks

Born in Kansas, she left to go to New York to study dance, focusing on ballet. She was featured in many different dance groups in New York. While dancing in New York, she had an affair with Charlie Chaplin. They spent many days and nights together in a penthouse, she would dance, and he would act out scenes from plays.

Louise Brooks had lived in isolation in Rochester, NY since 1956, after making 24 films in her career since 1925. She had been in the film industry since then, and it had come to a screeching halt in 1938. Some of her masterpieces were Pandora’s Box and The Diary of a Lost Girl.

She left Hollywood because she felt like she wasn’t respected, and had been told she was challenging to work with, and too independent.

In his essay, The Girl in the Black Helmet, Kenneth Tynan, he had mentioned that she was bedridden, and had osteoarthritis of the hip, but seemed happy about life. It was also said that she had written 20 articles on some of her fellow colleagues. Lastly, the article wrote that she loved to talk about her colleagues, her life, and others and that she has the essence of her late character Lulu. She called these memoirs, Lulu in Hollywood.

It was said in an interview, that when she was in Hollywood, she ended up walking out on them, and did the same thing to men. She was one of Hollywood’s most independent women. She talks about how her family home was weighted down with so many books of her father’s. When she and her brother would get into fights, he would retire to his library and read his law books.

After a career that dazzled the world, Louise Brooks passed August 8, 1985, in Rochester New York, of a heart attack, she was 78 years old. She was known for her dark bobbed hair, acting, dancing, writing, and personality.


The Significance of Tynan’s, The Girl in the Black Helmet, an Analysis

Written in 1979, Kenneth Tynan’s insightful essay covered Brooks’ brief yet illustrious film career from its conception in 1925 to the twilight of 1938 when her last film was made. His essay lauded her films by Pabst in particular, citing such works as Diary of a Lost Girl, and Pandora’s Box.

From her film career, he moves on to her later years in Rochester N.Y. where she was ailing yet still quite spirited. All in all, The Girl in the Black Helmet is a touching account of one of cinema’s most beloved actresses.

He included a vast plethora of details into Brooks’ life, even touching on such details as her dance background in Denishawn and her love of Proust.


Kathleen Tynan’s Screenplay of Kenneth and Louise’s Relationship

The brief relationship that Kenneth Tynan had with Louise Brooks was the subject of a screenplay that his widow, Kathleen Tynan, and their son, Matthew, wrote. After Kenneth’s passing, the script was penned. The dying film critic meets and falls in love with one of cinema’s most iconic figures throughout the course of the story, despite the fact that he is still married to his wife. The friendship between Kenneth Tynan and Louise Brooks, their correspondence, and Tynan’s essay about Brooks, The Girl in the Black Helmet, are all likely to be explored in the script. Keeping her faith in her husband, Kathleen used the same spirit to keep the love alive as she wrote her screenplay.

One Comment

  • John L Sauve

    thank you Michael, but could not find any concrete evidence of a sexual affair between Tynan and Brooks, do you have any info on that? have read Tynan’s ‘The Girl in the Black Helmet’ and fascinated by it. Louise is buried in Rochester not far from my father’s grave, i visit it when back in my hometown where Louise moved the year I was born, 1956. can recall my sister saying a silent film star lived in our town but had no interest at the time. of course now I wish I had gone to visit Louise and tried to befriend her, but it’s still good knowing we lived less than a mile apart and shared the same weather and heard the same church bells ring and sirens sounding, but it would have been nice to have been able to make eye contact with her soul. salute!

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