On the Rumored Relationship Between Louise Brooks and Kenneth Tynan

June 27, 2020 9 mins to read
Michael Garcia Mujica
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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 twenty 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 fifties, 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.

Tables of Contents

Kenneth Tynan: The Iconoclastic Critic

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.

Louise Brooks: Hollywood’s Lost Star

I. Introduction

Louise Brooks was one of the most iconic actresses of the 1920s, known for her striking beauty and her portrayal of the quintessential “flapper” of the era. Her image has become synonymous with the rebellion and liberation of women during the Jazz Age. However, despite her initial success in Hollywood, Brooks’ career was cut short and she fell into obscurity. In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of Louise Brooks, from her early days to her eventual rediscovery as a cult figure.

II. Early Life

Louise Brooks was born on November 14, 1906, in Cherryvale, Kansas. Her father, Leonard Porter Brooks, was a lawyer and her mother, Myra Rude Brooks, was a talented pianist. From a young age, Brooks was interested in the arts and at the age of 16, she left her home to join Ruth St. Denis’ and Ted Shawn’s Denishawn modern dance company.

III. The Rise of the Flapper

Brooks quickly became a popular figure in Hollywood, with her performances in films like Pandora’s Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) cementing her status as a leading lady of the era. She personified the rebellious young woman of the 1920s who came to be known as a “flapper.” Her striking beauty and her penchant for bobbed hair and short dresses made her the perfect embodiment of the flapper aesthetic.

IV. The Public Enemy

In 1931, Brooks was offered the chance to star alongside James Cagney in the iconic film The Public Enemy. While some may see her decision to decline the role as a missed opportunity, Brooks’ decision to pass on the part can also be seen as a courageous one. Instead of sacrificing her artistic vision for a role that may not have aligned with her values, Brooks chose to stay true to herself and her craft. Though this decision may have resulted in a setback in her career, it also demonstrates her commitment to her principles and her unwavering dedication to her art. Ultimately, this decision may have led to a loss in the short term, but it also showcases the wisdom in standing firm in one’s beliefs.

V. Europe and Hollywood Comeback

After working in Europe for a time, Brooks attempted to make a Hollywood comeback in the late 1930s. She even changed her name to Linda Carter and auditioned for roles under that moniker, but her efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

VI. Setbacks in Career and Finances

In the early 1930s, Brooks faced a series of setbacks in her career, including poor box office returns for her films. Additionally, she struggled financially and filed for bankruptcy. This was further compounded by a failed business venture, which further drained her finances.

VII. Support from a Friend

During this difficult time, Brooks received support from a friend and former romantic partner, who helped her financially and emotionally. He provided her with a yearly pension for the rest of her life and became a source of stability during a difficult time in her career and personal life.

VIII. Retirement and Writing

In 1940, Brooks left Hollywood for good and returned to Kansas, where she opened a dance studio and wrote a booklet on ballroom dancing. After retiring from acting, she went on to write many witty and intelligent essays on the film industry.

IX. Friendship with Vivian Vance

As a child, one of Brooks’ best friends was Vivian Vance, who went on to become famous for her role as Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy (1951). The two remained close throughout their lives and Vance even attended Brooks’ memorial service.

X. Inspiration for Others

Despite her struggles, Brooks’ legacy lived on in the works of others. She was the inspiration for the stage play Show Girl, which in turn, inspired the comic strip Dixie Dugan. She was also the inspiration for Italian cartoonist Guido Crepax’s comic strip/graphic novel Valentina.

XI. Rediscovery and Legacy

In the 1960s and 1970s, Brooks was rediscovered by a new generation of film enthusiasts, who were captivated by her performances in the silent films of the 1920s. She was hailed as a feminist icon and her image became synonymous with the rebellion and liberation of women during the Jazz Age.

Today, Brooks’ legacy continues to be celebrated by film buffs and scholars alike. Her performances in films such as Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl are considered to be among the most iconic and memorable of the silent era. She was also an inspiration for future actresses, fashion designers, and artists.

In summation, Louise Brooks was an iconic actress of the 1920s. Her striking beauty, her portrayal of the quintessential “flapper” of the era, and her performances in films such as Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl cemented her status as a leading lady of the era. Her career was cut short due to various reasons, but her legacy lived on through her iconic performances and her inspiration to others. The rediscovery of her work in the 1960s and 1970s further solidified her place in the pantheon of film history.

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.

1 Comment on “On the Rumored Relationship Between Louise Brooks and Kenneth Tynan”

  1. John L Sauve
    October 14, 2021

    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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