Wallace (Wally) Munro, Director of Planned Giving for the Actors' Fund of America, recently told us an alarming story. An out-of-towner called the Fund with a puzzlement. He had been to see Titanic at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and his question was: "What is a Lunt?" This is not entirely surprising. When Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, the premier acting couple of the American theatre died (he in 1977, his wife Lynn in 1983), a memorial service was given for them at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Sadly, it was sparsely attended.
Their illustrious memory, however, is being preserved in a splendid manner. When they weren't acting, the Lunts relaxed and entertained theatrical greats at their regal estate, Ten Chimneys, just outside of Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. Their guests included Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn and Carol Channing, who remarked that when you went there, you felt you had died and gone to heaven. When Richard Whorf first saw the estate he said, "My God, every room's a stage set." And after her visit, Hepburn was in a "daze of wonder."
The Lunts starred together in The Guardsman, Idiot's Delight and many of the most prestigious straight plays of the 1930s-1950s. The theatre is named in their honor.
Last year, the immaculately preserved Ten Chimneys was almost sold, only to be saved by a snowstorm. Before the sale could be concluded, Joe Garton, a patron of the arts, bought it and established the Ten Chimneys Foundation to preserve the estate in memory of the Lunts.
-- Louis Botto