PRONI - Document of the month: There’s nothing quite like Christmas at the theatre!

Date published: 21 December 2017

PRONI has selected as its’ document of the month for December a Christmas card from the Londonderry Papers (D4567/5/5).

On the front of the card is a glamorous black and white photograph of screen and theatre legends, Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt.

Joy Carey, Digitisation Manager, PRONI, said: “I discovered this beautiful photograph while looking through the Christmas card albums of the Londonderry family. It captures so well the elegance and allure of the theatre. What makes it doubly appealing is that it was sent by the actors who are depicted – Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt. I imagine it would be the equivalent of receiving a card from George and Amal Clooney this Christmas!”

“The photograph was taken from the back of the stage and this has enabled the photographer to expertly capture not just the stage lights and the audience but also some of the atmosphere and magic of a night at the theatre.”

The card was sent to Lady Edith Vane Tempest-Stewart of Mount Stewart, County Down, in the early 1950s and is from the celebrated London-born actress Lynn Fontanne and her actor husband, Alfred Lunt. They were married for 55 years and were inseparable both on and off the stage, as this photo-card demonstrates. Fontanne went to great lengths to avoid divulging her true age. Fontanne’s husband reportedly died believing she was five years younger than him (which is what she told him). She was, in fact, five years older, but continued to deny, long after Lunt's death, that she was born in 1887.

The photograph was taken by the equally famous English fashion, society-portrait and war photographer and painter, Cecil Beaton (1904-1980).

Six albums of Christmas cards and cards marking other occasions in the life of the Londonderry family can be viewed in the PRONI reading room by ordering D4567/5/1-6. They cover the period 1931-1957. Many are from members of the royal family, other aristocratic individuals, and other famous names who were friends of the family during this period.

Many of PRONI’s rich photographic collections can be viewed on Flickr.  

Notes to editors: 

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