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Fontanne, Lynn (1887–1983)

Fontanne, Lynn (1887–1983)

British-born star of the American stage who, together with her American husband Alfred Lunt, formed the most celebrated acting couple in the history of the American theater. Born Lillie Louise Fontanne in Woodford, Essex County, England, on December 6, 1887; died on July 30, 1983; youngest of five daughters of Jules Pierre Antoine Fontanne (a French designer of printing type) and Frances Ellen (Thornley) Fontanne; attended local schools in various parts of London; studied acting under Ellen Terry (1903–05); married Alfred Lunt, Jr., on May 26, 1922; no children.

First visited the U.S. (1910); came permanently to appear with Laurette Taylor (1916); teamed for the first time with Alfred Lunt (1919) and together they joined the Theater Guild (1924), where their participation in its productions was vital to its success; after Lunt's death (1977), spent her last years between her New York City apartment and her retirement home in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin.

Awards:

American Academy of Arts Gold Medal for Diction (1935); Delia Austrian Medal (1943); (with Alfred Lunt) Drama League of New York (1943); honorary degrees from Russell Sage College, Troy, New York (1950), New York University, Beloit College, Wisconsin, Carroll College, Waukesha, Wisconsin, Yale University, Brandeis University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Wisconsin; Globe Theater, New York City, renamed Lunt-Fontanne Theater (1958); received the President's Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson (1964); Emmy award (1965).

Made first stage appearance in London as a child extra in Edwin Drood (1899); appeared in London in the Christmas Pantomime Cinderella (December 1904); toured in Alice Sit-by-the-Fire (1905); appeared as an extra in several London productions over the next four years; toured as Rose in Lady Frederick (1909); appeared in London in Where Children Rule and as Lady Mulberry in Billy's Bargain (both, 1910); made American debut as Harriet Budgeon in Mr. Preedy and the Countess in Washington, D.C. (fall, 1910) and then at Nazimova's 39th Street Theater(November 7, 1910); back in London as Gwendolyn in The Young Lady of Seventeen (February 1911); as Mrs. Gerrard in A Storm in a Tea Shop (September 1911); toured as Gertrude Rhead in Milestones (1912–13); in London as Liza and Mrs. Collison in My Lady's Dress and as Gertrude Rhead in Milestones (1914); in London in Searchlights; in the title role in The Terrorist, as Ada Pilbeam in How to Get On, and in The Starlight Express (all, 1915); The Wooing of Eve (in Rochester, NY, and then in New York City) and The Harp of Life (1916); Out There, The Wooing of Eve and Happiness (all, 1917), A Pair of Petticoats, Someone in the House (both 1918); A Young Man's Fancy (Chicago, 1919); in New York, as Mary Blake in Made of Money (1919); in Chris (Chicago, 1920); in London in One Night in Rome (1920); in Philadelphia in Chris (1920); as Dulcinea in Dulcy (Chicago, 1921); Lady Castlemaine in Sweet Nell of Old Drury and In Love with Love (1923); in New York as the wife in The Guardsman (1924); in New York as Raina in Arms and the Man (1925); in New York as Stanja in The Goat Song and At Mrs. Beam's (both, 1926); in New York in The Second Man, as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, Agrafina in The Brothers Karamazov, and as Jennifer Dubedat in The Doctor's Dilemma (all, 1927); in London, as Nina Leeds in Strange Interlude and Ilsa von Lisen in New York in Caprice (1928); in Meteor (1929); in New York as Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth the Queen (1930), as Gilda in Design For Living (1933); in New York, as Elena in Reunion in Vienna (1934), as Linda Valaine in Point Valaine (1935), as Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (1935), Irene in Idiots Delight (1936), Alkmena in Amphitryon 38 (1937), Madame Arkadina in The Seagull (1938), Miranda Valkonen in There Shall Be No Night (1940), Manuela in The Pirate (1942), Olivia Brown in O Mistress Mine (1946), The Marchioness of Heronden in Quadrille (1952), Essie Sebastian in The Great Sebastians (1955), and Claire Zachanassian in Time and Again which toured in England and New York under title The Visit (1958).

Films:

Second Youth (1931); The Guardsman (1931); (cameo) Stagedoor Canteen (1943). Radio (for the Theater Guild): "The Guardsman" (September 30, 1945); "Elizabeth the Queen" (December 2, 1945); "Strange Interlude, Part 1" (March 31, 1946); "Strange Interlude, Part 2" (April 7, 1946); "Call It a Day" (June 2, 1946); "The Great Adventure" (January 5, 1947, and November 20, 1949); "There Shall Be No Night" (September 24, 1950); "Pygmalion" (October 21, 1951); "I Know My Love" (January 6, 1952); "The Old Lady Shows Her Medals" (February 3, 1952). Television: "The Great Sebastians" (1957); "The Old Lady Shows Her Medals" (June 12, 1963, the last Theater Guild TV production); "The Magnificent Yankee" and "Anastasia" (both, 1964), and a 90-minute guest appearance on the "Dick Cavett Show" (1972).

Lynn Fontanne was born Lillie Louise Fontanne in Woodford, Essex, England, on December 6, 1887. Her father Jules Fontanne, a French printer and designer of printer type, was descended, he claimed, from a noble family that had been ruined in the French Revolution. An unsuccessful businessman, more devoted to tinkering with his inventions than earning a living, Jules seems to have been devoted to literature and the arts and to have introduced his daughters to Shakespeare. Her mother Frances Thornley Fontanne appears to have been a hot-tempered Irish woman. Lynn Fontanne freely admitted that she had come from an unhappy home from which each of her sisters as well as herself had extricated themselves as soon as they were able to leave. Years later, she chided the playwright Eugene O'Neill for his sentimental portrayals of mothers and urged him to write a play about another kind. The result was Strange Interlude, one of his more remarkable plays.

Determined to be an actress, Fontanne made her stage debut at age 12 as one of a bevy of children in the play Edwin Drood, starring Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree in 1899. Until then, her parents had discouraged her from pursuing her theatrical goal, but, after seeing her live on a London stage, they relented. Thereafter, she appeared in similar bit parts with the French actor Coquelin and with Lewis Waller in a revival of Monsieur Beaucaire. At 17, Fontanne managed to secure an introduction to Dame Ellen Terry , then the leading actress of the English stage, who, impressed by Lynn's reading of one of Portia's scenes from The Merchant of Venice, allowed Fontanne to join a select group of young women to whom she taught acting, and who then secured her a role in a London Christmas Pantomime at the Drury Lane Theater in 1904. Fontanne's first appearance outside of London was on tour with Terry in the popular Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire.

Fontanne's big break came shortly thereafter, when she was one of 15 who read for the title role in Somerset Maugham's Lady Frederick. Cast in the part, she appeared in the "first" (main) company to take the popular play on tour (1909). After a season touring the provinces, Fontanne secured another tour with Weedon Grossmith in Mrs. Preedy and the Countess. In 1910, she journeyed to America to appear in Mrs. Preedy, which opened at the long-gone Belasco Theater on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., and then moved to New York. There it lasted a scant 24 performances, after which Fontanne returned to London.

Her first London lead was in A Young Lady of Seventeen, which was unsuccessful but which led to her being engaged to tour in Milestones (1912–13), and a dual role of a poor girl and a young lady in My Lady's Dress (London, 1914). Meanwhile, at a London garden party in 1913, Fontanne met the famed American actress Laurette Taylor , who at that time was making her London debut in her great New York success, Peg o' My Heart. A casual conversation led to an invitation from Taylor to join her in America where she planned to stage a number of plays in repertory. The invitation arrived when Fontanne was patriotically driving a munitions truck during the First World War. Arriving in New York in 1916, Fontanne immediately began performing and received favorable notices. Laurette Taylor was delighted at the success of her discovery and soon the two women became fast friends—if not more. "Lynn became Miss Taylor's constant companion, the satellite to the planet," writes Maurice Zolotow, "the confidante of Miss Taylor's problems and pleasures, the eternal protégée. She was backstage at the Globe every matinee and evening. She lived in Laurette's dressing room and dined regularly at Laurette's house."

The story of Lynn Fontanne is inseparable from that of her husband, colleague, co-star and life's companion, Alfred David Lunt. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 8, 1893, he was the son of a lumber and railroad man, who was 70 at the time and died when Alfred was two. Lunt's mother, 32 years younger than her husband, was remarried in 1898 to a Finnish doctor who took the family back to Finland every summer, while allowing Alfred to spend his winters at school in the Wisconsin. While attending Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he became exposed to theatricals and, as soon as he graduated, he secured a position as a performer in the John Craig Stock Company in Boston. He then toured with the celebrated actress, Margaret Anglin , appearing in such plays as Green Stockings, Beverly's Balance, As You Like It, Medea and Iphigenia in Tauris. He made his New York debut at the Standard Theater in 1916, then toured with the famed British stage star of the previous century, Lillie Langtry , in a vaudeville sketch called "Ashes." In 1918, Lunt joined the Tyler Stock Company. It was during their summer season in Washington, D.C, the following year that he met Fontanne. The joint career of the Lunts thus began when the producer George C. Tyler, planned a series of five new plays at the National Theater, featuring Lunt, Fontanne, Helen Hayes , Cornelia Otis Skinner , Glenn Hunter, and Sydney Toler, ultimately to be remembered as Charlie Chan. One of the five plays, Made of Money, marked the first occasion on which the Lunts ever worked together. Lynn Fontanne's first outstanding success was in the role of Dulcinea in Dulcy (1921), after which producers showered her with scripts from which she chose whatever role she wished; Lunt's first success, was in Booth Tarkington's Clarence (1922). Their first success together would be in Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman. Lynn Fontanne always joked that she knew she had arrived as an actress when the press finally got her surname right and stopped spelling it Fontaine.

After their marriage, the Lunts took an apartment at 969 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, complete with their own cook. Unencumbered by children, they were great gadabouts in their early years together. These were the "roaring '20s" and both Lynn and Alfred were not averse to parties and long nights on the town, but they always kept these activities well within limits; they were too professional to do otherwise.

In 1924, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne joined the Theater Guild, under whose auspices they were to have most of their greatest successes. Consisting of a group of dedicated artists determined to raise the level of the American theater, the Theater Guild was a producing organization founded in New York City in 1918. So successful was the Guild in achieving its goals that by 1931 all respectable theatrical producers had adapted its standards, and plays of intellectual depth and unusual construction had become commonplace. In the words of New York critic Brooks Atkinson: "The modern American theater began with the appearance of one dramatist and one producing organization. The dramatist was Eugene O'Neill. The producing organization was the Theater Guild." Many of the finest actors in America joined the Guild or at least appeared with it, and several began their careers under its aegis. The names of the numerous performers associated with it in its greatest years form almost a who's who of the American and British stages between the wars: Stella Adler , Sara Allgood , Tallulah Bankhead , Ethel Barrymore , Ina Claire , Gladys Cooper , Jane Cowl , Clare Eames , Jose Ferrer, Margalo Gillmore , Ruth Gordon , Sydney Greenstreet, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn , Josephine Hull , Eva Le Gallienne, Gene Lockhart ,

Pauline Lord , Helen Menken , Philip Merivale, Paul Muni, Alla Nazimova , Claude Rains, Edward G. Robinson, Joseph Schildkraut, Sylvia Sidney , Franchot Tone, Lucille Watson , Clifton Webb, Helen Westley , Margaret Wycherley , Blanche Yurka , and, of course, the Lunts. Through careful selection of plays (Shakespeare, Shaw, Strindberg, Molnar, Pirandello, Galsworthy, O'Neill, Werfel, Odets, Sherwood, Behrman, Anderson, Wilder, Hecht, Rice, Saroyan, etc.), directors (Rouben Mamoulian, Theresa Helburn ), composers (Lorenz and Hart, George and Ira Gershwin), set designers, costume designers and lighting experts, the Guild, while not always successful with the critics or at the box-office, succeeded in making the New York stage one of the most brilliant in theatrical history.

The Lunts were noteworthy for having been responsible for a great deal of the success of the Theater Guild in its first two decades. Under its auspices, they appeared in well over a dozen Guild productions, both light and serious, including Molnar's The Guardsman (1924, one of the Lunts' greatest hits and which marked the debut of the celebrated theatrical setting and lighting designer, Jo Mielziner), Shaw's Arms and the Man (1925), Werfel's Goat Song (1926), Behrman's The Second Man (1927), Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma (1927), Sil-Vara's Caprice (1928), Behrman's Meteor (1929), Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen (1930), Sherwood's Reunion in Vienna (1931), Sherwood's Idiot's Delight (1936), Giradoux's Amphitryon 38 (English adaptation by S.N. Behrman, 1937), and Sherwood's There Shall Be No Night (1940). Among the most memorable of their teamings was the rollicking production of The Taming of the Shrew (1935), the Guild's first attempt at a Shakespearean classic, and widely considered to be the best production of the comedy ever seen. In their spirited and hilarious performance, Lunt and Fontanne squeezed laughs out of lines where none had been detected, and filled the stage with ingenious interpretations and bits of business that left the audience in tears and the critics groping for superlatives.

Lawrence Langner, one of the founders of the Theater Guild, said of the Lunts:

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne had written a vivid page in the history of the American theater…. The couple brought such zest and vitality to their acting, and there was such interplay of point and counterpoint in their scenes together, that soon one began to think of them as one personality … capable of endowing every couple that they played with the qualities of beauty, charm, wit, gaiety and enormous interest in one another…. [No film] can convey the sheer delight which the audiences of our time have enjoyed in watching their virtuoso acting, which can range, as occasions demand, from delicate sentiment to deep emotion and tragedy, from moods of gaiety and light laughter to the savage laughter of satire or irony…. They work without sparing themselves, paying attention to the minutest details.

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were described by New York drama critic, Brooks Atkinson, as two perfectly matched geniuses, the secret of their success together being the way that they were so perfectly attuned to one another. When playwright Robert E. Sherwood was asked the secret of his success, he replied: "I write plays for the Lunts."

The Lunts were known both for their professionalism and their search for perfection, and Laurence Olivier, meeting them for the first time in 1931, confessed to having been overwhelmed by their total absorption in the theater. Fontanne's contribution to this perfectionism was demonstrated by her attention to every detail of a particular production, spending weeks and months selecting designs for costumes and then choosing the appropriate fabrics and color to suit the characters, the roles, and the particular demands of theatrical lighting. Lunt's professionalism was shown when, distraught at the deterioration of a cast's performance, he called for a full rehearsal two days before the play was to close, and, on another occasion, even went so far as to try out new bits of business at a final performance just to see how they would work. The success of the Lunts' teaming did not keep them from appearing solo. Fontanne singled in Eugene O'Neill's Chris, an earlier version of his later success Anna Christie. Later, she starred in his ground-breaking Strange Interlude, in which the cast froze when each character voiced his or her thoughts aloud, and as Eliza in Shaw's Pygmalion, a part in which she was favorably compared to Mrs. Patrick Campbell , for whom Shaw had written the role in 1914. This was one of Fontanne's greatest successes and the hit of the Theater Guild in its 1926–27 season. For his part, Lunt appeared solo in O'Neill's Marco Millions, in Werfel's Juarez and Maximillian, and as Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone, among other plays.

In 1931, the Lunts went to Hollywood to do a screen version of The Guardsman for producer Irving Thalberg, the "Boy Wonder" of MGM. The story has it that the film was shot in as few as 21 days simply because the Lunts insisted on rehearsing each scene before it was filmed, a feat achieved a year later when Mae West brought in She Done Him Wrong in three weeks using the same device. The Guardsman was a critical success but predictably not a popular one. Nevertheless, Thalberg offered the Lunts a three-year contract at $990,000 to do a number of films, some of them based on their stage successes, the rest to be chosen by the studio. To Thalberg's astonishment, the Lunts declined, refusing to give up control in regard to directors, casting, costumes, and other aspects of the production over which they had always had control on the stage. The Guardsman, thus, was the only film the Lunts ever made together, and this, along with their rare television appearances, are the only record of their art.

In 1933, the Lunts sailed to Europe specifically to appear in a London production of The Guardsman, but to also travel to the Soviet Union, France, Italy, and Egypt. The Soviet portion of the trip was to last five days but was extended to two weeks as the Soviet government, only just recently recognized by the United States, outdid itself with its lavish hospitality for two bright lights of the American theater. As with George Bernard Shaw, who had visited the Soviet Union the year before, the Lunts were carefully screened and insulated from the realities of Soviet life. The London opening of The Guardsman in January 1934 was a great success, and the Lunts found themselves the toast of the season, the most desired guests in the social whirl. They made many trips to Europe, usually in connection with the London opening of one of their New York successes.

Not everything went smoothly for the Lunts with the Theater Guild. There were many artistic disputes of one kind or another and, in 1940, they terminated their association with the company. In later years, however, they continued to do occasional plays for the Guild and always spoke well of the organization. Not until the Guild produced the musical Oklahoma!, however, would it have a success to surpass that of the Lunts in The Guardsman.

One of the last plays that the Lunts did before leaving the Theater Guild was Sherwood's There Shall Be No Night, a play written in protest of Russia's invasion of Finland in the socalled "Winter War," an event that had deep personal significance for Alfred Lunt who knew Finland from his boyhood. A deliberate piece of propaganda, written to arouse Americans to the growing threat of Nazi and Soviet aggression, the production co-starred Sidney Greenstreet, Thomas Gomez, and a young but soon-to-be-famous Montgomery Clift. One of the few "message plays" in which the couple had ever appeared, it won the Pulitzer Prize for best play of 1940 and served them well for a triumphal tour of the United States, Canada, and England. In the full fury of the war, the Lunts pulled the necessary strings to get themselves back to England with There Shall Be No Night, hoping to give war-weary audiences a sense of what they were fighting and suffering for. Back in America, the Lunts toured army bases with their production of Terence Rattigan's O Mistress Mine while the war was on, demonstrating, as Sarah Bernhardt had done in World War I, that ordinary soldiers, many of whom had never seen a live production, could become enthralled by serious theater.

Becalmed in the middle of the stage she looks like some exquisite ship turning all about her to anchorage.

—James Agate

Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt were the most successful acting couple of all time, their 40 years performing together having broken the records of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in England and E.H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe in the United States. After their retirement, no acting couple even came near to replacing them, not Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh , nor Fredric March and Florence Eldridge . When rehearsing a play, the Lunts learned their parts in a way that somewhat approximated the idea of improvisation popularized by the method acting technique that became popular after the Second World War. Acting together, they played with one another to perfection, artfully overlapping their lines in such a way that no meaning was lost and in a manner that became a kind of trademark. Although there is no question that the Lunts excelled in light and sophisticated comedy, they took great pride in their versatility and deliberately chose to alternate between comedy and more serious plays. Performers in the old tradition, they could never reconcile themselves to the idea that the theater had become limited to New York and to a handful of other large cities, and continued to tour the country. In 1940, at the end of a major tour with Idiot's Delight, The Seagull, The Taming of the Shrew, and Amphitryon 38, done in repertory, they estimated that they had traveled over 39,000 miles in a five-year period, appearing before 300,000 in 80 cities. Everywhere, their names meant packed houses, delighted audiences, and rich box-office returns. It was said of the Lunts that they never once let down an audience, a producer, a director, a playwright or a fellow actor. If the town was snowed in, they played to however few managed to get to the theater. If the scenery failed to arrive, they played without it. In every town, drama teachers could be counted on to haul their students down to see two real "pros" at work.

The marriage of Lynn Fontanne to Alfred Lunt seems to have been on the order of that between Katharine Cornell and Guthrie McClintic, in each case, the lady in question concealing her preference for her own gender by marrying a man who preferred his. In both cases, however, the partners appear to have been genuinely devoted to one another and the arrangement would seem to have suited both concerned. The Lunts lived together, worked together, took their vacations together, had their friends in common, and seem to have had no special interests that the other did not share. Their lives were also enriched by many friendships. Noel Coward was their oldest and dearest, but they were also close to the photographer and costume designer Cecil Beaton, another Brit, like Coward, known for his attraction to his own sex. Naturally they knew well and counted as good friends many of their own generation in the theater, including Laura Hope Crewes , Ina Claire, George and Beatrice Kaufman , Irving and Ellen Berlin , Alexander Woolcott, as well as George Burns and Gracie Allen , whom they had seen on the stage and whom they admired enormously for their incredible timing. They were devoted to Olivier and Leigh, consoling them all night after their disastrous Romeo and Juliet. As they grew older, however, the Lunts kept themselves apart from the hurley-burley of theatrical life. Whenever they finished a play or a tour, it was off to Ten Chimneys, their 110-acre farm that Alfred had purchased in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, early in their marriage and which became their permanent home after they retired.

Lynn Fontanne was not a beauty and made no bones about it, once saying, "I am picturesque in a gauche and angular way. With lots of trouble, with infinite care in the choice of clothes, I contrive to look smart." In appearance, she had brown eyes and dark brown hair, which for a long time she kept carefully dyed. She was tall and rather gaunt, and, with the addition of high heels, her height (5'6") made her an imposing figure on the stage. Like all good actresses, however, she could command beauty when the part called for it, and, if the part called for her to look smart, she certainly achieved the desired results and was reckoned one of the best-dressed women of the stage, some of her costumes even setting fashion trends. Her perennial youthfulness was a legend, and it was joked that Alfred would soon look too old to play with her. Fontanne was lively, with a vivaciousness that stood her well in the comedy roles she preferred, and she had a bright and sparkling sense of humor. She hated writing letters, loved wines and liqueurs (she once shilled for the Wine Growers of California in the '40s), and claimed that her favorite role was always the one in which she was currently appearing. At 90, however, she would admit that the highpoint of her career was her appearance with Lunt in There Shall Be No Night.

After World War II, the Lunts continued to perform in New York and London, though with decreasing frequency, and so closely were their names associated now that they never appeared apart. Among their later successes were Noel Coward's Quadrille (1952) and The Great Sebastians (1955) by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse. In 1957, upon their return from a road tour with the last named play, the Lunts announced their retirement, a little too soon as it turned out, capping this with a protracted visit to Paris, where Alfred studied cooking at the Cordon Bleu School. The following year, however, the Lunts returned to the stage one final time for a production of The Visit, a dark comedy by the Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt, that had captured their imagination. After an initial and unsuccessful production in London, the play was taken to New York, where, despite its unpleasant subject matter, tone and mood, those who believed in its quality, including the Lunts, were willing to give it another chance. Far from softening the essentially evil character of the woman Lynn was playing or that of the decadent, depraved old villain portrayed by Alfred, the Lunts played their parts as written. Upon the opening of the play at the newly restored Globe Theater on 47th Street on May 5, 1958, it was announced that the playhouse was to be renamed in their honor. The glittering opening night was followed by a ball at which the Lunts were greeted with a red carpet and serenaded by Mary Martin . (The demolition of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in the 1980s, one of Broad-way's most beautiful venues, together with the Helen Hayes Theater next door, was greeted with protests and demonstrations.)

Alfred Lunt died on August 3, 1977, age 84, and only then did Lynn Fontanne acknowledge the coming of old age. She stopped dyeing her hair and admitted frankly that she was 90, claiming that even her husband had gone to his grave thinking her to be a year younger than she actually was. Fontanne never fully recovered from her husband's death, which effectively ended any chance of her resuming her long career. In an interview for The New York Times in 1978, she said of Alfred: "I miss him every second of every day."

Offers continued to arrive, but she had reached the point where her memory had begun to fail her, and she could no longer remember lines. She flew to London with the idea that she might live out her last years in her native land, but a few months away taught her that after so many decades her home was in America, and she returned to Ten Chimneys. There, in the summer, she enjoyed her walks with her poodle, getting her exercise from a stationary bicycle in the winter. Otherwise, tended by a live-in cook, a maid and a manservant-cum-butler, who had been in the Lunts' employ for 50 years, she passed her time enjoying the company of her niece and nephew, who lived on the grounds, and weekly visits from her brother-in-law, whiling away the hours making her own clothes, watching television, reading novels, playing cards, and keeping in touch with the world by phone. Occasionally, she would suddenly fly off to New York or Denver to visit with old friends.

Lynn Fontanne's last public appearance took place in 1979 when, at 92, she was the guest of honor at the American College Theater Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the city where she had made her American acting debut 69 years before. She died on July 30, 1983, at the age of 95.

sources:

Coe, Richard L. "Fontanne always had perfection and poise," in Washington Post. August 2, 1983.

Current Biography, 1941. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1941.

The Free Library of Philadelphia, Theater Collection.

Zolotow, Maurice. Stagestruck: The Romance of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965.

suggested reading:

Nadel, Norman. A Pictorial History of the Theater Guild. NY: Crown, 1969.

Young, William C. Famous Actors and Actresses of the American Stage. Vol. 2. NY: R.R. Bowker, 1975.

Robert H. Hewsen , Professor of History, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey

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