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Lunt, Alfred (1892-1977), and Lynn Fontanne (1887-1983)  
 
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Taylor and Manners, who had seen Fontanne in Milestones, offered her a role in Manners's The Wooing of Eve in New York.

Taylor soon became a close friend and influential advisor of Fontanne. The two often spent weekends together at Taylor's home, but it is not known if they engaged in a physical relationship. According to theater insiders, Taylor's marriage was "a business arrangement," and she had extramarital affairs of which Manners was aware and to which he apparently did not object. Alla Nazimova was said to be among her conquests.

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Taylor reputedly "stage-managed" Fontanne's romance with Lunt, but then became jealous of their relationship. The friendship did not survive the marriage; finding Taylor's vindictive behavior toward Fontanne intolerable, the couple soon dropped her from their circle.

Working Together

Following their appearance in Made of Money, Lunt and Fontanne worked together in John T. McIntyre's A Young Man's Fancy in 1919. When that show closed, each went on tour in other plays. Lunt's performance in the title role of Booth Tarkington's Clarence and Fontanne's in George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly's Dulcy established the two of them as stars.

After their marriage in 1922 they continued working in separate shows for a time. Both were dissatisfied with the light comedies in which they were appearing, and yearned to do more serious, sophisticated theater.

Accordingly, in 1924 they joined the Theater Guild, which produced plays of greater literary merit. In their years with the Guild, they appeared in such works as George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man (1925), Pygmalion (1926), and The Doctor's Dilemma (1927), Franz Werfel's The Goat Song (1926), and Robert Sherwood's Reunion in Vienna (1931-32 in New York, 1934 in London).

The favorable public and critical reception of their first Theater Guild production, Ferenc Molnár's The Guardsman (1924), established the Lunts as an acting team. From that time on, they always performed on stage together except for once, in 1928, when Fontanne, at Lunt's urging, appeared without him in Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude.

The Lunts' project of performing in more sophisticated and sexually-daring plays came at a time when such material was gaining in popularity with audiences. The era of light-hearted musical shows and the extravaganza of The Ziegfield Follies was waning as dramatists such as O'Neill offered more controversial fare and Mae West challenged notions about propriety with her plays Sex and The Drag.

Gay New York

During the 1920s New York experienced what George Chauncey has called the "Pansy Craze," a fascination with the gay communities of Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side, and Harlem. Attending drag balls was a fashionable entertainment for straight couples.

There were strict limits to the tolerance, however. Throughout the period, the police raided businesses catering to a gay clientele. Patrons were subject to arrest and imprisonment, and, even if not convicted, could find their careers ruined.

Since theater folk tended to be more accepting than the general public, many gay men and lesbians chose to live in neighborhoods of "theatrical boarding houses." Rents were reasonable, and residents tended not to complain about neighbors who might be considered unconventional elsewhere.

In the early years of their marriage Lunt and Fontanne lived in a theatrical boarding house. To what extent they participated in the life of the community in unclear, but they certainly would have been aware of it.

Over the years, their social circle included gay playwright and actor Noël Coward, gay photographer Carl Van Vechten, and the sexually ambiguous critic Alexander Woollcott.

Rumors

There were rumors about the sexual orientation of Lunt and Fontanne in the theater world.

In 1933 an item entitled "Stage Stars in Action" in the gossipy tabloid Broadway Brevities did not name the Lunts but clearly seemed to target them, saying "This little fact concerns two of the greatest stars of the legitimate theatre and who are supposed to be happily married. The pair, however, are as queer as a couple of bugs. He is a pansy who is conducting an affair with his male secretary, while she is a lesbian and has several girls acting as her lovers. Cute, eh?"

The rumors never became fodder for the mainstream press, though. Marriage seems to have shielded their reputations.

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