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26 January 1995
Kenneth TynanLetters 
edited by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 669 pp., £22, November 1994, 0 297 81076 6
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... no Musset; no motif of Delius – nothing but lucidity ... There’s a programme of insouciant, lilting French cabaret songs on the radio as I write and I have just lit a cigarette. Try and see me. KennethTynan, aged 18, writing from Edgbaston, to his girlfriend Pauline Whittle We are suspicious of elegant letters. In personal correspondence we expect some trade-off between sincerity and style. The ...

Skating Charm

James Wolcott: Kenneth Tynan

13 December 2001
The Diaries of Kenneth​ Tynan 
edited by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 439 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 7475 5418 8
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... KennethTynan smoked like a maestro, an aficionado of his own smooth technique. As the stripper sings in Gypsy, ‘Ya gotta have a gimmick,’ and photograph after photograph shows Tynan squiring a cigarette between the tips of his middle and ring fingers (his trademark), each puff drawing attention to the languid elegance of his long, slender, concert-pianist hands. Cigarettes were ...


Marilyn Butler

22 January 1981
Three-Quarter Face 
by Penelope Gilliatt.
Secker, 295 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780436179587
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Show People 
by Kenneth Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77842 0
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When the lights go down 
by Pauline Kael.
Boyars, 592 pp., £8.95, August 1980, 0 7145 2726 2
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... of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding’. Most of us would never have heard of Penelope Gilliatt and of the late KennethTynan if they had not been weekly columnists. Both made a name as the Observer’s regular reviewers of (respectively) films and the theatre. It is true that Gilliatt was also a novelist, and that ...
5 June 1986
Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... as they should have been. However stupid they may be, reviewers have a strong influence on the stage. Jonathan Miller recognises this in his discursive book, when he offers almost a eulogy of KennethTynan as a creator of excitement. ‘Theatre became exotic and desirable because he thought it was. I no longer turn to the theatre pages with the excitement that I once did and although ...
31 May 2017
... Acting as ‘a space for extended debate and discussion’ from 10.30 in the morning until midnight, it hosted meetings addressed not just by usual suspects such as Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, KennethTynan, the publisher John Calder, Doris Lessing, Michael Redgrave and Wolf Mankowitz, but also such distinguished figures as William Empson. ‘Events’ were held in the basement where various ...
4 December 1980
by Noël Coward.
Eyre Methuen, 358 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 46050 9
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... over three hundred published songs, plus screenplays, volumes of short stories, autobiography and fiction) contributes to his legend. His work was so successful as an advertisement for himself that KennethTynan, I think rightly, observed: ‘even the youngest of us will know in fifty years’ time what we mean by “a very Noël Coward sort of person”.’ Like all great entertainers, Coward knew how ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Tweeting at an Execution

6 October 2011
... Truman Capote drank whisky and cried all the way on the plane from Kansas to New York, having just watched his two friends, the killers Perry and Hickock, being murdered in cold blood by the state. KennethTynan, reviewing the book Capote later wrote, said that for the first time a writer in the front rank had been in a position to campaign against an execution and had failed to do so in order to get ...

At the Rob Tufnell Gallery

August Kleinzahler: Christopher Logue

5 November 2015
... might become a featured player specialising in intellectual villains, artistic misfits etc.’ ‘Dear John (We think you should be sacked because)’ (1967) Logue was introduced to Anderson by KennethTynan soon after his return to London. Around this time he had begun working on his translations from the Iliad with Donald Carne-Ross, and published a poem in the New Statesman grandly titled ‘To ...


Ronald Bryden

10 December 1987
The Life of Kenneth​ Tynan 
by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 407 pp., £16.95, September 1987, 9780297790822
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... Kathleen Tynan says that she wavered for some time between writing a personal memoir of her 16 years with her husband Kenneth and embarking on a full-dress biography, embracing the 36 before they met. As she foresaw, making the second choice has produced an odd, hybrid book, not quite one thing nor the other. At times ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan

11 January 1990
Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... if they were writers or artists, who did not even have to be particularly hideous. It is impossible to give a full list, but among those chosen were Peter Quennell, Feliks Topolski, Alan Ross, KennethTynan and Charles Addams, as well as a lot of extras with names like Old B., the Bastard and Chuff. She did not waste her time with intellectuals, but absorbed their appreciation of art and ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s

18 July 2013
Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... is a watcher of the world of entertainment and mass-media stardom. Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Bruce Forsyth are vignetted time and again. The theatre critic Alan Brien makes more appearances than KennethTynan, but is worth his place. He once accompanied Mr and Mrs Macmillan on a visit to Tyneside, to the North Sands shipyard. The ‘bronchial blast’ of a hooter sounded, startling Macmillan ...

Late Capote

Julian Barnes

19 February 1981
Music for Chameleons 
by Truman Capote.
Hamish Hamilton, 262 pp., £7.95, February 1981, 0 241 10541 2
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... rather, in words – Mr Capote is announcing his Late Period. The career began in photographs, too. When Other Voices, Other Rooms was published, ‘the press seized upon an infant prodigy,’ wrote KennethTynan, ‘photographing him crouched behind bushes, lurking in the depths of chairs, or rolling on rugs, always with a lock of fair hair obscuring one wicked eye.’ The cover picture to that first ...

Brief Encounters

Andrew O’Hagan: Gielgud and Redgrave

5 August 2004
Gielgud's Letters 
edited by Richard Mangan.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 297 82989 0
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Secret Dreams: A Biography of Michael Redgrave 
by Alan Strachan.
Weidenfeld, 484 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 297 60764 2
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... amount of time in the vicinity of Wigan Pier, where a succession of drag artists have kept working-class audiences howling into their tumblers for years. To someone like me who grew up thinking Kenneth Williams was the perfect English gentleman (and imagining Russell Harty and Lily Savage to be the perfect Northern blokes), the words of Norman Tebbit are not just mad in the way you’d expect from ...


David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise

15 April 1999
Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... of the show, that something was happening.’ Their act was moving away from the antagonistic mismatch of Abbott and Costello and closer to the exasperated camaraderie of Laurel and Hardy; as KennethTynan put it, they were ‘no longer comic and stooge, but egoists in more or less equal competition’. They still told jokes and performed in sketches that required only caricature-acting, but now ...

Be flippant

David Edgar: Noël Coward’s Return

9 December 1999
1956 and All That 
by Dan Reballato.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 415 18938 1
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Collected Plays: Six 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 415 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Plays: Seven 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 381 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Revue Sketches and Parodies 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 282 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73390 4
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Noël Coward: A Life in Quotes 
edited by Barry Day.
Metro, 116 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 9781900512848
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Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics 
Methuen, 352 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 413 73230 4Show More
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... between the elements – within and between lines, scenes and acts – which makes Coward’s best plays work, and which defines his art in relation to those who preceded and followed him. In 1977, KennethTynan claimed that The Young Idea (written in 1921, and sadly not republished this year) ‘contains the first line that distinguished Coward from all his predecessors in English comedy: “I lent ...

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