Charles Allan "Lanny" Lutz
Charles Allan "Lanny" Lutz, a man of prodigious intellect and prodigious theatrical talent, passed away on January 5, 2021, in Los Angeles of kidney disease after an extended illness. He was born on January 1, 1942 to Ruth Flarida Lutz and Allan Barr Lutz in Washington, DC, and moved with the family to Birmingham, Michigan, after the war and in 1953 to Darien, Connecticut. In high school in Darien he excelled in competitive sports, being captain of the high school hockey team and a football player. He was an avid sailor and won numerous races on Long Island Sound racing out of the Noroton Yacht Club of Darien.
His father, Allan Barr Lutz, a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, was a maritime lawyer. In the war years, he was a lawyer with Judge Advocate’s in Washington, DC. In Michigan, his work was involved with the St. Lawrence Seaway and large ship loss litigation. After the move to Connecticut, he became a partner in a Canal Street law firm where he worked on international major sea disasters and losses.
His mother, Ruth, had various jobs, including an assistant editor at the local Darien Review newspaper, at the national headquarters for the Episcopalian Church main office in New York City, as a volunteer at two Episcopal churches in Darien for years writing art and poetry reviews in their quarterlies, later at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan as Reader, volunteering in both churches for years. Lanny got his love of France and French from his mother, who had lived in France as a high society young woman.
His maternal grandfather was a stock broker in Ohio. In 1929 his maternal grandmother took Ruth with her to France, planning to be there in Paris for a year, where Ruth studied at The Sorbonne, a study terminated prematurely by the 1929 stock market crash from which the family suffered significant losses.
Lanny’s first acting gig was playing Santa in the Birmingham, Michigan, Cub Scouts, and his next was as Pontius Pilate, at a church in Darien, Connecticut. But the acting bug first really bit when he tore up the scenery at Yale University as Jimmy in The Rainmaker, getting a laugh on every line.
A 1964 graduate of Yale University, Lanny majored in English while his love for theatre flourished in Yale dramatic productions. Also a student of French, which he spoke fluently, he took a year off from Yale to explore France where in Paris he met and married Katia Brillie. He was an accomplished pianist.
Study at RADA
After returning to finish his B.A. at Yale, Lanny taught English at Milford Academy while Katia taught French at several schools, including Yale. In 1967, they moved to New York City where their daughter Natalie Cybèle was born and where Lanny devoted himself to acting full-time. In 1969 Lanny and his wife moved to London where he had been accepted, after their months-long rigorous international audition process, and attended the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), from 1969 to 1971, seven three-month terms. Of the thousands who apply, only 28 are accepted. In his mid-late twenties, Charles was the oldest of the students accepted by several years. It was a 2 1/2 year course of study in movement, dance, voice, speech, fencing and other stage fighting arts, theatre history, and more. Charles, as his RADA friends refer to him, was graduated with the Honours Diploma, or “Hons. Dip. RADA” which is vaguely equivalent to an Arts B.A. It was not then a degree program, and graduates exited with a RADA Diploma, “RADA Dip.” for short. There he won the highest and most prestigious honor the institute conferred, The Bancroft Gold Medal, for his entire career at RADA, including a memorable performance in the title role in Tartuffe. While in London, his wife worked for the BBC and their daughter Natalie learned English with a thick cockney accent from her nanny, only French being spoken in the home.
A classmate, Canadian writer Alexandra Sellers wrote, “He was a brilliant, intense actor, and the pity was that as an American he wasn’t allowed to work in the UK. Other people in that position could marry a Brit, but Charles was already married and he couldn't take that route. So he had to go back to the US. So all the connection with West End directors and casting agents was sadly wasted.”
New York and Oak Park residence
In 1971, after being graduated from RADA, the family relocated back to New York City, where Lanny continued to study acting, with Uta Hagen and Bill Hickey. He moved to Los Angeles and, after a divorce, he relocated to the Chicago area, where he lived in Oak Park for more than twenty years.
He was involved in numerous pursuits in Oak Park, as an actor, founder in about 1996 with Dr. Gerald Clay of the Black-White Dialogue, an awareness movement including monthly dialgoues on the black-white experience, host of a radio program on which Dr. Clay was a frequent guest, passionate spokesman for sugar maples, and a distributor of Lūtz Wine, for which Lanny sponsored numerous wine-tasting parties in homes and river boat cruises as well as supporting Oak Park Festival Theatre by purchasing display ads in their programs. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of Oak Park Festival Theatre for several years. He founded a contractor’s reference service, Lanny’s List, and was proud of having passed the stringent requirements to become a licensed 18-wheeler truck driver. He loved fine wine and good meals with friends and a good debate. Possessing a booming laugh, Lanny was to some a Zorba the Greek.
In 2005, he performed to acclaim the lead role in All My Sons at Oak Park Festival Theatre and in 2006 he reprised his RADA performance in the title role of Tartuffe in another acclaimed role at Oak Park Festival Theatre, both performed with his lofty professional skills. He played a small, but significant role in the film Batman, the Dark Knight, the Chicago scenes being shot in 2007. He was a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Relocation to Los Angeles
In 2016 he left the full life he had lived in Oak Park and returned to Los Angeles to pursue his dream. He left behind his baby grand piano, many friends, and those who admired the work he had done raising awareness against racism. He enjoyed life in Los Angeles, with walks on the beach, visits to the library, compulsively following the news (on five different news channels including Aljazira,sp??Aljazeera?? France 24, Chinese, and Russian news channels, according to his daughter?? You told me, right Natalie??), and playing piano in the lobby of his residence building, where fellow residents referred to him as Beethoven.
Lanny had a full and adventuresome life which he dedicated to his passion, acting. He dreamed of becoming the publicly recognized great actor that his theatre friends claimed was his due and continued to pursue that dream throughout his life, without achieving stardom, which saddened him and his many friends, but without compromise, regret, or self-pity. He was happy to be free, referring to himself as a gypsy, and chose and enjoyed the life he wanted, always living according to his values. Lanny Lutz was content with the life he led.
A Zoom celebration of Lanny’s life on January 30 organized by his daughter Natalie was attended by dozens of family and friends from France, England, Canada, and the U.S. with beloved tales of Lanny’s well-lived life from his youth to his studies at RADA to his years in Oak Park. Lanny was predeceased by his parents Ruth and Allan Lutz. Lanny is survived by his daughter Natalie Lutz (Toulouse, France), his ex-wife Katia Lutz (Irvington, New York), his sister Carolyn Gibson (born 1944) (Vero Beach, Florida), his dear friend from Oak Park, Janet Bohler (Reno, Nevada), and two grandchildren, Loic Tatischeff, 27 (wife Summer) (Paris, France), and Magalie Tatischeff, 25 (Vancouver, Canada), nephew Ian Gibson (Atlanta), and niece Elizabeth (Liz) Gibson (Vancouver Island, Canada).
As Lanny would say: “Tally Ho, Daddio!”