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Review: Kenneth Tynan - Diaries

Updated on October 13, 2015
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Kevin was born in Stevenage New Town, UK in the summer of 1959, and graduated from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge in 1980.

Tynan

K.T.is best known for being a theatre critic, the first person to say 'f**k' on British TV, and the force behind the sex review O Calcutta! "(O Calcutta!" is an Anglo-Saxon bastardisation of the French "O, quel cul t'as!").

He was precocious and literary, and somewhat theatrical, adopting an idiosyncratic manner of smoking the many cigarettes that eventually killed him, holding each between the first and last two fingers.

He liked spanking and bottoms, and at the National Theatre worked alongside Lord Olivier for many years. He was married. with a girlfriend and died somewhat prematurely of emphysema.


"O Calcutta!"

"O what a lovely bum you've got!"
"O what a lovely bum you've got!"

Kennethy Tynan Interviews Sir Laurence Olivier Part 1

Kennethy Tynan Interviews Sir Laurence Olivier Part 2

Oxford and after

Tynan studied English Literature at Oxford under the supervision of C.S. Lewis, (of Narnia fame), a convert and proselytizer of Christianity. In the Diaries Tynan often makes reference to Lewis, fondly remembering his kindness and wisdom.

Having already made something of a name at his school (as a dramatist and actor), Oxford helped him put the finishing touches to his theatrical reputation, which was then only enhanced by his often acerbic dramatic criticism and his co-production of the ground-breaking sex-revue Oh! Calcutta!

Other than writing for The New Yorker a number of well-received portraits of various luminaries (Groucho Marx, Johnny Carson and Mel Brooks amongst others), his gretest achievement seems to have been as dramaturge (a kind of in-house critic) of the newly-established National Theatre, alongside its director Lawrence Olivier.

As well as being fascinating about himself, Tynan gives accounts of many of the famous people he knew and worked with, sometimes retelling others' anecdotes, not least Marlene Dietrich's story about going to bed with Jack Kennedy.

He is also interesting about oither less well-known figures, such as a an old friend he suspects of being a CIA agent, and a young women he shelters, knowing her to be a West German terrorist.

Kennethy Tynan Interviews Sir Laurence Olivier Part 3

Kennethy Tynan Interviews Sir Laurence Olivier Part 4

Dissapointments and Money Worries

Despite his high-standing and well-deserved reputation as a critic, Tynan reveals himself as a rather dissappointed man, growing increasingly lazy, disenchanted and frustrated. He writes less and less (the Diaries become his main literary outlet) and fails to produce the film he is keen to work on (mainly due to the failure of various 'investors' to put their money where there mouth is - most notably John Paul Getty Jnr).

Anxiety about his work rate and sense of achievement is equalled only by money worries (Martin Landau, the actor and film director) takes forever and a day to return borrowed money. Nevertheless, he spends money he does not have on a fairly luxurious lifestyle - buying a Jag, hosting exclusive parties where he provides very fine food and wine, as well as gustatory trips to French Michelin-starred restaurants.

Sex

His sexual preferences are for S&M, mainly spanking, which he indulges in with a girlfriend (and others) whilst married to his more 'normal' wife (who herself has affairs). But rather than coming across as a member of the dirty mac brigade, he portrays himself as a something of a sexual revolutionary, attempting through his theatre work and in his private life to liberate himself and others. He, however, never entirely frees himself from a sense of guilt with respect to his sexual 'perversions'.

Gulp!

Work, Colleagues and Friends

Other than writing for The New Yorker a number of well-received portraits of various luminaries (Groucho Marx, Johnny Carson and Mel Brooks amongst others), his gretest achievement seems to have been as dramaturge (a kind of in-house critic) of the newly-established National Theatre, alongside its director Lawrence Olivier.

As well as being fascinating about himself, Tynan gives accounts of many of the famous people he knew and worked with, sometimes retelling others' anecdotes, not least Marlene Dietrich's story about going to bed with Jack Kennedy.

There are nuimerous stories and pen-portraits of famous actors and directors, from both the British stage and Hollywood, few of them very flattering. Pinter, John Osborne, Warren Beatty and Vivien Leigh all get a mention. Really, the list of stars is too long to note here, but almost anyone who was anyone figures.

A real page-turner!

Kenneth Tynan: Diaries

© 2013 KevinStantonMcClintockMACantab

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