Mount Mary University Digital Collections

Lynn Fontanne

Lynn Fontanne (née Lillie Louise Fontanne) (1887-1983) was born in England in 1887. She studied acting with Ellen Terry and performed for a few years in England before her first New York City role in 1910 in Mr. Preedy and the Countess. She came to the United States permanently in 1916 and shortly thereafter met Alfred Lunt, an actor originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were married in 1922 and went on to earn fame as one of the greatest acting teams in American theater. 
In 1924 Lunt and Fontanne, already popular and critically-acclaimed actors, joined the Theatre Guild, a new company devoted to producing avant-garde works. From 1928 on, they nearly always performed together, in dozens of plays, a few television productions, and one well-received movie. Their use of more naturalistic acting techniques, including overlapping dialogue and turning their backs to the audience, helped transform the style of American theater. 
Lynn sari dress 1976.jpg
Lynn with Cole Leslie and Alfred, possibly at Ten Chimneys. Lynn is wearing a dress she made (Object ID #1983.192).
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
Fontanne’s connection to the Milwaukee area comes from her husband, who purchased land in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, and designed a country home eventually known as Ten Chimneys. Fontanne and Lunt lived there after their marriage during the summers when they weren’t acting and full-time after their retirement. Ten Chimneys was a haven for artistic creation and inspiration as Fontanne and Lunt hosted countless distinguished guests at the estate. Fontanne died there in 1983, six years after her husband. 
Over the course of her career, Fontanne wore costumes created by Valentina, Balenciaga, and other designers represented in Mount Mary’s Fashion Archive. She was also known as a well-dressed woman personally, wearing garments from Norman Norell and other major designers. Some of her garments were purchased for the Fashion Archive at the auction of her estate using funds from Mount Mary alumnae. Many of these items have been digitized and are available below. 
Shoes, Hats, Jewelry, Purses, and Gloves