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Alfred Lunt

photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1932
Born Alfred Davis Lunt, Jr.
August 12, 1892(1892-08-12)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died August 3, 1977 (aged 84)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Actor/Director
Years active 1923–1966
Spouse(s) Lynn Fontanne (1922-1977)

Alfred Lunt (August 12, 1892 – August 3, 1977) was an American stage director and actor, often identified for an incomparable, long-time professional partnership with his wife, actress Lynn Fontanne. Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne theatre was named for them.

Contents

Career

Lunt received two Tony Awards, an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for 1931's The Guardsman and an Emmy Award for the Hallmark Hall of Fame's production of The Magnificent Yankee. He became a star in 1919 as the buffoonish lead in Booth Tarkington's Clarence, but soon distinguished himself in a variety of roles. The roles ranged from the Earl of Essex in Maxwell Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen, to a song-and-dance man touring the Balkans in Robert Sherwood's Idiot's Delight, a megalomaniacal tycoon in S. N. Behrman's Meteor and Jupiter himself in Jean Giraudoux's Amphitryon 38. His appearances in classical drama were infrequent, but he scored successes in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Chekhov's The Seagull (in which Lunt played Trigorin, his wife played Arkadina, and Uta Hagen made her Broadway debut in the role of Nina). He was described by director and critic Harold Clurman as "universally acclaimed the finest American actor in the generation which followed John Barrymore". [1]

Lunt had a very distinctive stage technique; among other traits, in almost every one of his roles he made a point of playing at least one protracted sequence with his back to the audience, conveying his character's emotions with his voice and body rather than his face.

In 1964, Alfred Lunt and his wife, Lynn Fontanne, were presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson.

Personal life

Alfred Davis Lunt, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin[2] to Alfred D. Lunt and Harriet Washburn Briggs. With the exception of his paternal grandmother, who was of Scottish descent, his ancestors were of pre-Revolutionary Maine and Massachusetts stock. After his father, who was in the lumber business, died in 1893, Alfred's mother remarried a Finnish-born physician, Dr. Karl Sederholm, and had another son and two daughters. The Sederholms eventually moved to Genesee Depot, in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Lunt later attended Carroll College in nearby Waukesha.

Along with his wife Lynn Fontanne, whom he married on May 26, 1922, in New York City, he was half of the pre-eminent Broadway acting couple of American history, having the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway named in their honor. Celebrated for their sophisticated comic skills, they were known for their ability to swiftly overlap dialogue with such adroitness that every word was understood. Secure in their public image as a happily married couple, they sometimes titillated audiences by playing adulterers, as in Robert Sherwood's Reunion in Vienna, or as part of a menage a trois in Noel Coward's Design for Living. (In fact, Design for Living, written for the Lunts, was so risqué, with its theme of bisexuality and a ménage à trois, that Coward premiered it in New York, knowing that it would not survive the censor in London.) The Lunts appeared together in over 24 plays - and most recently on an American postage stamp. The couple also made one film together (The Guardsman 1931), starred in several radio dramas for the Theatre Guild in the 1940s and starred in a few television productions in the 1950s and 1960s. They retired in 1966.

Ten Chimneys, Alfred and Lynn's estate in Genesee Depot, located in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, is now a house museum and resource center for theater.

Alfred Lunt is buried next to his wife at the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.

Sources

References

  1. ^ Harold Clurman. The Collected Works. Ed. Marjory Loggia and Glenn Young. (New York: Applause Books, 1994): 890.
  2. ^ "Birth Record Details". Wisconsin Historical Society. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/vitalrecords/index.asp?id=2878783&record_type=b. Retrieved 2009-07-23.  

External links

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