Lynn Fontanne Biography

Lynn Fontanne was an American actress born in Britain who spent most of her acting career in the United States. This biography provides detailed information on her childhood, life, acting career, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: December 6, 1887

Nationality: American, British

Famous: Actresses Theater Personalities

Died At Age: 95

Sun Sign: Sagittarius

Also Known As: Lillie Louise Fontanne

Born Country: England

Born in: Woodford, London, England, UK

Famous as: Actress

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Alfred Lunt

father: Jules Pierre Antoine Fontanne

mother: Frances Ellen Thornley

Died on: July 30, 1983

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Lynn Fontanne was an American actress born in Britain who spent most of her acting career in the United States and dazzled the audience with her acting performance. She married Alfred Lunt in 1922 and teamed up with him to act in several stage plays, films and television. Their enduring theatrical love affair and partnership was a very rare thing to see. They remained inseparable for 55 years and acted in sophisticated comedies written by Terence Rattigan, George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward. Noel Coward wrote his masterpiece ‘Design for Living’ keeping the wife and husband team of Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt in mind. They acted together in 27 stage productions during their entire acting career and held audiences spellbound with their acting genius wherever they appeared irrespective of the place. Their efforts turned the fledgling ‘Theater Guild’ into a roaring success and their fluency in acting together bordered on the ecstatic. They could speak through each other’s lines but were heard separately and looked as if they were carrying on a conversation in real life making the audience believe that they were also a part of it. There has never been an acting pair such as Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt in the history of theater or movies.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Lynn Fontanne was born Lillie Louise Fontanne in Woodford, Essex, England on December 6, 1887. Her father was a French brass type founder named Jules Pierre Antoine Fontanne and her mother was an Irishwoman Frances Ellen Thornley. She had two sisters.
  • At the age of 10, she decided to become an actress after watching a country play in Woodford.
  • In 1902, at the age of 15, she started taking acting lessons from a great Shakespearean actress named Ellen Terry.
  • In 1903 she and Ellen Terry toured the country with the play ‘Alice Sit by the Fire’.
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Career
  • She debuted as a professional actress in 1909 in the pantomime ‘Cinderella’ staged at the Drury Lane Theater, London.
  • In 1910 she made her debut appearance on the New York stage in the play ‘Mr. Preedy and the Countess’ at the ‘39th Street Theater’.
  • She acted in the ‘The Harp of Life’ on the New York stage in 1916 and also in ‘Out There’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and in George S. Kaufman’s ‘Someone in the House’.
  • In 1919 after completing a run on Kaufman and Marc Connelly’s ‘Dulcy’, she met Alfred Lunt at the backstage of the ‘New Amsterdam Theater’. They got married three years later and appeared together for the first time in 1923 in the play ‘Sweet Nell of Drury Lane’.
  • In 1924 both of them appeared in the play ‘The Guardsman’ which was a huge success and ran on the Broadway for 40 weeks.
  • In 1925 she appeared in the film ‘The Man Who Found Himself’ and in 1928 in the play ‘Strange Interlude’.
  • She showed her amazing acting skills in the plays ‘Arms and the Man’ and ‘Pygmalion’ in 1925, ‘The Goat Song’ in 1926 and ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ in 1927, ‘Elizabeth the Queen’ in 1931, ‘Idiot’s Delight’ in 1936, ‘Amphitryon 38’ in 1938 and ‘The Pirate’ in 1942.
  • During the staging of ‘Elizabeth the Queen’ in Chicago, Lynn and her husband were invited by Irving Thalberg of MGM to act in the film version of ‘The Guardsman’ and travelled to Hollywood to make the film. They won Academy award nominations for this film.
  • She co-starred with her husband in light comedies such as ‘Reunion in Vienna’ and ‘Point Valaine’ in 1935.
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  • She toured with Robert E. Sherwood’s anti-war play ‘There Shall Be No Night’ from 1940 to 1941. The play provided comfort to the Londoners during the World War II bombings.
  • In 1946 she and her husband had their biggest success with the Terence Rattigan’s comedy ‘O Mistress Mine’ which ran for 451 performances at the ‘Empire Theater’ in New York.
  • After their appearance in ‘I Know My Love’ in 1950, the Lunts did not appear on the New York stage for four years.
  • Fontanne showed her artistic capabilities in acting in sophisticated comedies such as Noel Coward’s ‘Quadrille’ staged in London and other cities in 1952.
  • She repeated her success by acting in the same play held at the ‘Coronet Theater’ in New York in 1954.
  • She toured with Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse’s play ‘The Great Sebastians’ from 1956 to 1957 and appeared in the same play at the opening ceremony of the ‘Lunt-Fontanne Theater’ in New York in 1958.
  • The films that she acted in were ‘The Second Youth’ in 1924, ‘The Man Who Found Himself’ in 1925 ‘The Guardsman’ in 1931 and ‘Hollywood Canteen’ in 1944.
  • Lynn and Alfred’s last stage appearance together was ‘The Visit’ which was staged in New York in 1958.
  • They left the stage in 1958 and retired to their 120 acre farmhouse-home ‘Ten Chimneys’ in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin.
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  • In 1965 she and her husband came out of retirement and acted together in the television movie ‘Magnificent Yankees’ for which both of them won ‘Emmy Awards’.
  • She acted for the first time since 1928 without her husband in the television movie ‘Anastasia’ in 1967.
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Awards & Achievements
  • Lynn Fontanne was nominated for the ‘Academy Award for the Best Actress’ in 1931 for ‘The Guardsman’.
  • She received the ‘Medal for Diction’ from the ‘American Academy of Arts and Letters’ in November, 1935.
  • She was awarded a ‘Doctor of Letters’ degree by the ‘Russell Sage College’ and a ‘Doctor of Humane Letters’ from the universities of New York, Yale and Dartmouth in 1950.
  • In 1959 she was nominated for ‘Tony Award’ for ‘Best Actress’ for her role in ‘The Visit’.
  • Lynn and Alfred received the ‘United States Freedom Medal’ Prize’ from President Johnson in 1964.
  • She and her husband Alfred won ‘Emmy Awards’ in 1965 for their role in the television movie ‘Magnificent Yankees’.
  • Both of them shared a ‘Tony Award’ in 1970.
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  • In 1972 they received the ‘National Artist Award’ from the ‘American National Theater and Academy’.
  • Lynn was a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame’ and was made a member of the ‘Kennedy Center’ in 1980.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • She married Alfred Lunt on May 26, 1922 but remained childless.
  • After Lynn Fontanne and her husband retired from the stage in 1958, the ‘Globe Theater’ was renamed the ‘Lunt-Fontanne Theater’ in their honor.
  • Lynn Fontanne died of pneumonia on July 30, 1983 at Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, USA at the age of 95.
  • She and her husband appeared in a postage stamp brought out in New York by the US postage department in 1999.
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Trivia
  • Lynn Fontanne loved to read romantic novels written by Barbara Cartland and to go on bicycle rides.
  • They were strongly against acting in films.
  • Though she was older than her husband, she kept her actual age secret from Alfred who thought that she was younger.
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See the events in life of Lynn Fontanne in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Lynn Fontanne Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/lynn-fontanne-7550.php
Last Updated
- November 02, 2017
Lynn Fontanne

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