Lynn Fontanne, 1887 – 1983

December 6, 1887 – Birthdate of Lynn Fontanne, British actress.

Fontanne was a British-born American-based actress for over 40 years. She teamed with her husband Alfred Lunt. Lunt and Fontanne were given special Tony Awards in 1970. They both won Emmy Awards in 1965, and Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre was named for them. Fontanne is regarded as one of the American theater’s great leading ladies of the 20th century.

Fontanne and Lunt worked together in 27 productions.  Of her acting style with Lunt, British broadcasting personality Arthur Marshall – having seen her in Caprice at St. James’ Theatre (1929) – observed: “In the plays of the period, actors waited to speak until somebody else had finished; the Lunts turned all that upside down. They threw away lines, they trod on each others words, they gabbled, they spoke at the same time. They spoke, in fact, as people do in ordinary life.”

Fontanne married Alfred Lunt in 1922. The union was childless.  The couple lived for many years at “Ten Chimneys” in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. They were married for 55 years and were inseparable both on and off the stage.

Fontanne went to great lengths to avoid divulging her true age. Her husband reportedly died believing she was five years younger than he (as she had told him).  She was, in fact, five years older, but continued to deny, long after Lunt’s death, that she was born in 1887.

Lynn Fontanne died in 1983, aged 95, from pneumonia, at “Ten Chimneys” in Genesee Depot and was interred next to her husband at Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 33-cent stamp honoring Lunt & Fontanne (Scott No. 3287):

lunt-fontanne-usa-3287-1999

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