Magazine article The New Yorker

In the Spotlight

Magazine article The New Yorker

In the Spotlight

Article excerpt

Eleonora Duse, the turn-of-the-century Italian actress who inspired Stanislavsky's Method, told her company that to play Ibsen's characters they had to know unhappiness, and, if necessary, they should go looking for it. In ELEONORA DUSE: A BIOGRAPHY (Knopf), Helen Sheehy makes it clear that Duse followed her own advice. Duse was a genius at creating misery for herself; her disastrous affair with the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio must have fed her onstage characterizations of Hedda and Marguerite, just as it gave d'Annunzio material for his novel "Il Fuoco."

As the premier husband-and-wife acting team of the middle of the twentieth century, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne--the subject of Margot Peters's DESIGN FOR LIVING (Knopf)--projected sizzling chemistry onstage. Offstage, their marriage was probably sexless--Alfred was rumored to have been gay--and their domestic arrangements gravitated toward chaste menages a trois, often with their friend Noel Coward. …

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