Design for Living: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne
"A warm, witty, wise, and wondrous account of the greatest double-act in theatre history." Sheridan Morley
Featuring: Alfred Lunt; Lynn Fontanne
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Individually, they were recognized as extraordinary actors,
each one a star celebrated, imitated, sought after.
Together, they were legend. The Lunts. A name to conjure
with. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne worked together so
imaginatively, so seamlessly onstage that they seemed to
fuse into one person. Offstage, they brawled so famously
and raucously over every detail of every performance that
they inspired the musical Kiss Me, Kate. At home on
Broadway, in Londonâ€™s West End, touring the United States
and Great Britain, and even playing â€śthe foxhole circuitâ€ť
of World War II, the Lunts stunned, moved, and mystified
audiences for more than four decades. They were considered
to be a rarefied taste, but when they toured Texas in the
1930s, the audience threw cowboy hats onto the stage.
Their private life was equally fascinating, as unusual as
the one they led in public. Friends like the critic
Alexander Woollcott (whom Edna Ferber once described
as â€śthe little New Jersey Nero who thinks his pinafore is a
togaâ€ť), NoĂ«l Coward, Laurette Taylor, and Sidney
Greenstreet received lifelong loyalty and hospitality. Ten
Chimneys, their country home in Genesee Depot,
Wisconsin, â€śis to performers what the Vatican is to
Catholics,â€ť Carol Channing once said. â€śThe Lunts are where
we all spring from.â€ť
In this new biography, Margot Peters catches the magic of
Lunt and Fontanneâ€”their period, their work, their intimacy
and its contradictionsâ€”with candor, delicacy, intelligence,
and wit. She writes about their personal and creative
choices as deftly as she captures their world, from their
meeting (backstage, naturally)â€”when Fontanne was a young
actress in the first flush of stardom and Lunt a lanky
midwesterner who came in the stage door, bowed to her
elaborately, lost his balance, and fell down the stairsâ€”and
the early days when an unknown and very hungry NoĂ«l Coward
lived in a swank hotel in a room the size of a closet and
cadged meals at their table to the telegram the famous
couple once sent to a movie mogul, turning down a studio
contract worth a fortune (â€śWe can be bought, my dear Mr.
Laemmle, but we canâ€™t be boredâ€ť).
We follow the Lunts through triumphs in plays such as The
Guardsman, The Taming of the Shrew, and Design for Living;
through friendships and feuds; through the intricate way
they worked with such playwrights and directors as S. N.
Behrman, Robert Sherwood, Giraudoux, DĂĽrrenmatt, Peter
Brook, and with each other.
Margot Peters captures the gallantry of two remarkably
gifted people who lived for their art and for each other.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were once described as
an â€śamazing duet of intelligence and gaiety.â€ť Margot Peters
re-creates the fun and the fireworks.
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