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Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made monumental contributions to theatre on Broadway. Alfred Davis Lunt, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1892, and Lynn Fontanne was born in Essex, England in 1887. They met in 1917 in New York when Fontanne was starring in a show called "The Wooing of Eve." In 1919, they appeared together in Summer Stock in a show called "A Young Man's Fancy." They were married in 1922.
Known to have a very close relationship, they decided to forego individual careers and signed a contract which stipulated that they would only ever work together. Every play they starred in from then on was as a couple. They loved the theater so much that they took significant pay cuts (from $900 per week to $300 per week each) to sign with the Theater Guild, a group that promoted new writers. The duo also insisted on taking summers off and stayed at their Ten Chimneys estate in Wisconsin.
After their first movie, "The Guardsman," they were so thoroughly bored with the process that they decided to work primarily on stage their entire career. When they were offered a two-movie deal for $1 million, Lynne was quoted as saying:
In 1958 they retired from the stage. Alfred Lunt passed away in 1977 at 84 years of age, and his wife followed six years later in 1983 at 96.
The Globe Theater opened in 1910 and was renamed The Lunt-Fontanne Theater in 1958 to honor Broadway's favorite couple. The architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings designed the building. It changed hands several times over the years and even served as a movie house during the Great Depression. City Playhouses, Inc. bought the theater in 1957 and dedicated it the next year after major renovations were finished.
The husband and wife team received numerous accolades and adoration throughout their careers. Although they only did four television productions, both garnered Emmy Awards. Both received Oscar nominations for their roles in their first Hollywood film together, "The Guardsman" in 1931. They were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. They were both members of the American Theater Hall of Fame. In 1980 Fontanne accepted a Kennedy Center Honor. More than 42 million 33 cent U.S. stamps were issued in New York in 1999 featuring the couple as part of a performance series.
Cover photo credit: NBC Radio via Wikimedia