Life on a String: The Yale Puppeteers and the Turnabout Theatre Audio Tour

18. Eugene Richee, Marlene Dietrich, Inscribed, Ca. 1930s

Transcript below

b/w headshot of Marelene Dietrich, signed and inscriped to Yale Puppeteers



The German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich was a fan of the Yale Puppeteers. She had landed her breakthrough role in Joseph von Sternberg's 1929 hit movie The Blue Angel and arrived in Hollywood shortly afterwards, a bona fide superstar. One evening, she snuck into the Teatro Torito and left without being recognized, later sending this studio shot with her signature.

On this wall you see many of the autographs the Yale Puppeteers acquired over the years.


In addition to the signatures that they obtained on the walls of their theaters they would also get inscribed portraits of many of the film stars. And these photos followed them from Olvera Street to New York, to the Turnabout, and finally to their Turnabout house at the end of their lives. These were objects that they always considered very important and cherished.


Look carefully and you'll find some of the most distinguished names in art and entertainment: the English stage and film actors Leslie Howard and Charles Laughton; Chinese-American actress Anna Mae Wong, whose career spanned silent film, radio, stage, and television; the showman and theater owner Sid Grauman; child-star Shirley Temple; the flapper Colleen Moore, and vaudeville veteran Marie Dressler, who had helped the Yale Puppeteers to success in New York.

The Turnabout theater was especially popular with L.A.'s community of émigrés who had come to California to escape the war in Europe. The German novelist and 1929 Nobel prize winner Thomas Mann had signed, along with the German-born pianist Bruno Walter and the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg; they all reveled in the literate entertainment the Yale Puppeteers provided.

Life on a String Audio Tour Credits

  • Produced by the Los Angeles Public Library
  • Written by Claudia Bohn-Spector
  • Edited by Acousticguide, Inc.
  • Interviews with James Reynolds, Christina Rice, John F. Szabo, and Charles Taylor recorded at the Central Library Octavia Lab
  • Interview files edited by Sye Gutierrez, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
  • Archival audio of Dan Bessie, Forman Brown, Harry Burnett, Odetta, Dorothy Neumann from the documentary Turnabout: The Story of the Yale Puppeteers (1993). Used courtesy of Dan Bessie.
  • Images of puppets and costume taken by Keith Kesler, Los Angeles Public Library Public Relations Department