Alfred Lunt (August 12, 1892 – August 3, 1977) was an American Tony Award-winning stage director and actor.
Early life and career
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
and of Finnish descent, he 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
, 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
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
. He was described by director and critic Harold Clurman
as "universally acclaimed the finest American actor in the generation which followed John Barrymore
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.
Along with his wife Lynn Fontanne
, whom he married on May 26, 1922, in New York City
, Lunt 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
. They 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. They had no children.