THE FABULOUS LUNTS: A Biography of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne by Jared Brown

THE FABULOUS LUNTS: A Biography of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne

Email this review


They were the king and queen of the American theater, embodying all the clichÉs of the successful acting couple--tempermental, professional, argumentative, competitive, rebellious, ingenious, on-stage magic, offstage magical. Much like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, they allowed few accesses to reality, draping themselves in the comforting robes of theatrical royalty. Theater historian Brown is a fan of Lunt and Fontanne, and thus ignores the warts and focuses on the beauty. The 512-page text contains all the data that's available about the Lunts--that they performed the most varied and difficult of works, from Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman to Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Visit; that they practically brought the Theater Guild to life by themselves. You appreciate their relationship with Noel Coward and the works that this friendship spawned. But you never really get to know the people. And with these allegedly intimate biographies (especially those written with full family cooporation as this one was) that always seems to be the biggest problem. Brown leaves us with no understanding of the pressures, if any, they faced as America's premier theatrical, duo. We know they respected each other's life and work, but not if they truly loved each other or simply stayed together for the sake of their mutual careers. There is no feel for what they were like after the curtain fell. Otherwise, the book is richly researched, full of theatrical anecdotes, loaded with names from a past much richer than our present; and an understanding of what it truly means to be a Broadway star. Within a 25-block radius in New York City, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were treated as though they owned the world. And in that period, and in that space, during those many nights of drama, comedy and tragedy, they did. If they had a reality beyond it, Brown does not present it here. They remain actors, not people.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Atheneum