The Yale Puppeteers, consisting of Forman Brown, Harry Burnett, and Roddy Brandon, came together in the 1920s and spent almost the next seven decades touring the United States, putting on satirical performances that featured puppets in starring roles. They also staged performances at the Turnabout Theater from 1941 to 1956, turning it into a Hollywood institution.
In 1965, while speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Harry Burnett reflected on his career and recalled how the puppet troupe “entertained Charles Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Lionel Barrymore,” and even “presented a special show for Dr. Albert Einstein when he visited the street while teaching at Caltech.” That’s likely the origin of the early 1930s photo above, which features Einstein posing with an Einstein marionette. The website Retronaut provides a little more background on the photo:
Einstein saw the puppet perform at the Teatro Torito [a predecessor to the Turnabout Theater] and was quite amused. He reached into his jacket’s breast pocket, pulled out a letter and crumpled it up. Speaking in German, he said, ‘The puppet wasn’t fat enough!’ He laughed and stuffed the crumpled letter up under the smock to give the puppet a fatter belly. This is a wonderful photograph that Harry treasured. Harry Burnett also kept the letter in a frame and loved to retell the story and at the end give his pixish laugh.
The story of Burnett and his comrades was told in a 1993 documentary, Turnabout: The Story of the Yale Puppeteers. Unfortunately it’s not available online.
via Dangerous Minds
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