Michael Garland: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne
Artist: Michael Garland
Born in the late 19th century in Essex, England, Lynn Fontanne decided at the age of 10, after seeing a country play, that she would devote her life to the stage. When she was 15, Fontanne went to study with the great Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. In 1903, she played her first part, Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire. In 1919, Fontanne was backstage at the New Amsterdam Theater when she met a handsome actor who literally fell head over heels for her. Reaching out to take her hand, Alfred Lunt slipped and toppled down a short flight of steps. The pair were married three years later. In 1924, the Lunts joined the Theater Guild and appeared in The Guardsman, which ran on Broadway for 40 weeks. A critic prophetically remarked, "They have youth and great gifts and the unmistakable attitude of ascent, and those who saw them on opening night, bowing hand in hand for the first time, may well have been witnessing a moment in theatrical history. It is among the possibilities that we were seeing the first chapter in a partnership destined to be as distinguished as that of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, and Sothern and Marlowe." In 1940, the couple starred in Robert E. Sherwood's drama There Shall Be No Night, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for best play. The couple's last stage performance together was in 1958's The Visit. That same year, New York City's Globe Theater was renamed the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in their honor. In 1964, each was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson.
This painting was originally published on the Fleetwood® First Day Cover for the U.S. 33¢ Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne Performing Arts Series stamp issued March 2, 1999.
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