Obituaries : Forman Brown; Composer, Co-Founder Turnabout Theater

Forman G. Brown, 95, composer, lyricist, author and co-founder of the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood. Brown--with his cousin, Harry Burnett, and a friend, Richard "Roddy" Brandon--was one of the three legendary Yale Puppeteers, a marionette troupe that toured the country during the 1920s. Burnett designed the puppets, Brown wrote the songs, Brandon handled the business arrangements and all three pulled the strings. Arriving in Hollywood in 1929, the trio performed in theaters in Beachwood Canyon and on Olvera Street before opening their own stage--the Turnabout Theater on La Cienega Boulevard--in 1941. Equipped with seats from old trolley cars, the Turnabout presented a marionette play at one end, then invited audiences to turn the seats around and watch Elsa Lanchester, Burnett and other live performers do vaudeville songs and gags at the other end. Brown served principally as the writer, turning out such satiric plays as "Gullible's Travels" and "Caesar Julius," along with dozens of witty ditties for Lanchester and Burnett. The theater closed in 1956 after 4,535 performances, a victim of the growing preference for television. Brandon died in 1985. Burnett died in 1993. In recent years, Brown won acclaim for his landmark autobiographical gay novel "Better Angel," written under a pseudonym in 1934. Of heart failure Wednesday at his home in Hollywood.

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