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

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

NARRATOR [JAMES REYNOLDS]:

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.

CHRISTINA RICE:

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.

NARRATOR [JAMES REYNOLDS]:

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.

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