the Lunts



  • The US actor and director Alfred Lunt (1892 - 1977)and his British-born wife Lynn Fontanne (1887 - 1983),who became the most famous married couple in the US theater. RalphRichardson once said, "We often hear about the superiority ofEnglish stars. We have some very good performers, but America hassomething better - the Lunts." They appeared togetherin some 30 productions in four decades, specializing in sophisticatedcomedies. According to Noël Coward, when they rehearsedfor his Quadrille (1952), they performed "so exquisitelythat the tears were in my eyes. They are great actors."The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street in New Yorkwas named in their honour in 1958.

    Fontanne was born in Woodford, Essex, and made her stage debutin 1904 in the chorus of the pantomime Cinderella at DruryLane. Lunt was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and made his Broadwaydebut in 1918 in Romance and Arabella at the Harris Theatre.They married in 1922 and joined the Theatre Guild in 1924,opening in Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman and going on to enjoysuch successes as Shaw's Arms and the Man (1925) and Pygmalion(1926). Later highlights included Maxwell Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen(1930), Coward's Design for Living (1933), which was written especiallyfor them, and Dürrenmatt's The Visit (1958).

    For the play At Mrs. Beam's (1926), Fontanne was requiredto slap her husband but found in rehearsal that she could not. Aftershe had tried several times and failed, Lunt shouted, "For God'ssake, Lynn, you're the lousiest actress I've ever played opposite."She immediately gave him a good whack, and during each subsequentperformance he had to whisper "Don't be lousy, dear" beforethe blow.

    During the war the Lunts worked in Britain, where they performedin hospitals and military bases. In 1943 they were appearing in ThereShall Be No Night at the Aldwych Theatre when a bomb fell nearby.The fire curtain was lowered, but Lunt yelled, "Take it up,we're going on" and the audience applauded. Terence Morgan,playing their son, had been blown out of the stage door by the explosion,but, smoothing his hair and somewhat shaken, he reappeared on cue.see also green umbrella.