On the eve of the US entry into World War II, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne returned to Little Rock in the national tour of Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize winning There Shall Be No Night. It played at Robinson Memorial Auditorium on Monday, November 24, 1941.
Set in Finland in the time leading up to and during the start of the Russian invasion, it looked at the impact of impending war on a family. Between the time it premiered in March 1940 and the tour in 1941, so many European countries experienced the horrors of war as countries were overtaken and troops were either killed or pressed into service by the enemy. A program note in the playbill outlined much of this and noted how the script had not been updated to reflect the changes in world events. (When Robinson opened in February 1940, the Russian invasion of Finland was a top international story.)
Joining Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were many members of the original Broadway cast including Sydney Greenstreet, Thomas Gomez, Elisabeth Fraser, and Maurice Colbourne. Also from the original cast was a young actor who played the Lunts’ son, Montgomery Clift.
The play was directed by Mr. Lunt. The sets were by first time Broadway designer Richard Whorf. He would go on to have an illustrious career as a theatrical designer. He had been an actor on Broadway and was a member of the unofficial Lunt-Fontanne repertory company of actors. The costumes were by Valentina, who often designed costumes for Miss Fontanne.
2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted. Many of these titles have been produced numerous times. This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.