Alfred Davis Lunt, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1892 to Alfred D. Lunt and Harriet Washburn Briggs. With the exception of his paternal grandmother, who was of Scottish descent, his ancestors were of colonial Maine and Massachusetts stock. His father was descendant of Henry Lunt, an early settler of Newbury, Massachusetts.
His mother had several New England ancestors including Mayflower arrivals. After his father, who was in the lumber business, died in 1893, Alfred's mother remarried a Finnish-born physician, Dr. Karl Sederholm, and had another son and two daughters. The Sederholms eventually moved to Genesee Depot, in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Lunt later attended Carroll College in nearbyWaukesha, Wisconsin.
Along with his wife Lynn Fontanne, whom he married on May 26, 1922, in New York City, he was half of the pre-eminent Broadway acting couple of American history, having the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway named in their honor. Secure in their public image as a happily married couple, they could play adulterers, as in Robert Sherwood's Reunion in Vienna, or as part of a menage a trois in Noël Coward's Design for Living. (In fact, Design for Living, written for the Lunts, was so risqué, with its theme of bisexuality and a ménage à trois, that Coward premiered it in New York, knowing that it would not survive the censor in London.) The Lunts appeared together in more than twenty plays. They also appeared posthumously on an Americanpostage stamp. The couple made one film together (The Guardsman; 1931), starred in several radio dramas for the Theatre Guild in the 1940s and starred in a few television productions in the 1950s and 1960s. They retired in 1966.
In 1964, Lunt and Fontanne were presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson.
Alfred Lunt received two Tony Awards, an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for 1931's The Guardsman and an Emmy Award for the Hallmark Hall of Fame's production of The Magnificent Yankee.
He became a star in 1919 as the buffoonish lead in Booth Tarkington's play, Clarence, but soon distinguished himself in a variety of roles. The roles ranged from the Earl of Essex in Maxwell Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen, to a song-and-dance man touring the Balkans in Robert E. Sherwood'sIdiot's Delight, a megalomaniacal tycoon in S. N. Behrman's Meteor and Jupiter himself in Jean Giraudoux's Amphitryon 38. His appearances in classical drama were infrequent, but he scored successes in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Chekhov's The Seagull (in which Lunt played Trigorin, his wife played Arkadina, and Uta Hagen made her Broadway debut in the role of Nina). He was described by director and critic Harold Clurman as "universally acclaimed the finest American actor in the generation which followed John Barrymore; the Lunts are absolute angels."
Ten Chimneys, Alfred and Lynn's estate in Genesee Depot, located in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, is now a house museum and resource center for theater. Alfred Lunt died August 3, 1977, nine days before his 85th birthday, in Chicago from cancer. He is buried next to his wife at the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.