File puptcrit/puptcrit.0907, message 126

Date: Sat, 18 Jul 2009 12:30:52 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: [Puptcrit] Another picture of very young Harry Burnett and Bob


For another picture of very young Harry Burnett and Bob Bromley go to:

You will see Harry Burnett and Bob Bromley with portrait puppets of Douglas Fairbanks, Ram=C3=B3n Navarro and Marie Dressler. Marie Dressler had become very popular in movies and was the highest paid star at that time toward the end of her life. Ms. Dressler was a frequent visitor to the Teatro Torito and Yale Puppeteer=E2=80=99s show. That is where she knew she had contact with Bob Bromley.

Another note of interest that may not have been mentioned is that next door to the theater was Adrian=E2=80=99s dress shop. If you enjoy old movies, then you would have seen Adrian=E2=80=99s name as the costumer many times. Adrian was the Bob Mackey of his time and everyone wanted his designs.

Because Olvera Street was a brand new tourist attraction in 1931, it was the hot spot and thus an excellent place for Adrian=E2=80=99s studio. That brought many wealthy and movie stars to the street. There they discovered the portrait puppets of themselves if they hadn=E2=80=99t already visited the Yale Puppeteers little house theater when previously they were in Benedict Canyon.

But Bob Bromley was also working in the movie industry at the time. His job was to play records for movie stars to put them into the =E2=80=9Cmood=E2=80=9D for their character. He knew what music they preferred. He ingratiated himself with many of the directors and producers and was asked to run a little theater in Beverly Hills. His main function was to keep wives and girl friends that wanted into movies out of the hair of their husbands or lovers.

This gave Bob an opportunity to run experimental theater in which one time he directed a Shakespearian play on a teeter totter. The ridiculousness didn=E2=80=99t matter, he had cart blanche and ran with it. It was during this period that the Yale Puppeteers contacted him to rejoin them on Olvera Street.

Bob claimed that he and Harry did quite well in synchronizing the puppet dances. I have seen a short film of the ostrich sisters and the pianist which is quite charming. Roddy and Forman were not very good at manipulating puppets.

Bromley was well known in the Hollywood set at the time so it was very possible that he met Marie Dressler at another location than Olvera Street.

One of my favorite movies is Dinner at Eight in which she plays an aging actress. The last line of the movie she delivers wonderfully. So that I won=E2=80=99t spoil it, you will just have to see it for yourself. Marie Dressler died around 1934

Just about that time, Bob Bromley and Virginia Austin (Curtis) went on tour. I suspect it was Virginia=E2=80=99s association with Bob that led her into sculpting and prepared her for the opportunity to work with Edgar Bergen for Mortimer Snerd and the Charlie McCarthy vent figures. Virginia's early life was quite fascinating. She had the unusual distinction of being the only white woman allowed to live in old China Town granted by the Tong. That was before the fire destroyed wooden buildings China town in the oldest part of Los Angeles. China town was moved a few blocks away where it is now and on the original location was built the railway station in the mid 1930's. Virginia Austin was eeking out a living making baskets and purses and selling them to department stores like Bullock's. That is when she ventured into Olvera Street and asked for a job as a waitress in Bob Bromley's little restaurant above the puppet theater. Olvera Street seemed to have spun a lot of magic over many people in those days that influenced Los Angeles puppetry for generations.

Charles Taylor

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