Part 2 of a list of puppeteers, all born in January. A special thank you to Steve Abrams for putting this blog post together.
Ernie Kovacs (Jan 23, 1919-Jan 13, 1962). Wildly innovative, out of the box , comedy genius of early TV. He sometimes used puppets. Lenny Suib was his puppetry mentor. You can see a clip on youtube form NBC Dec 1955 “Caputsa Kid in Outer Space”
Pauline C Benton (Jan 25, 1898-Nov 22, 1974) Born in Kansas, Pauline studied Chinese shadow puppetry in Beijing. She founded the Red Gate Shadow Players in the 1930s, Her company toured the United States giving audiences their first chance to see Chinese shadow puppetry. She is the subject of a new biography by Grant Hayter-Menzies.
Soupy Sales (Milton Supman) (Jan 8, 1926-Oct 22, 2009) Clyde Adler (Jan 24, 1926-Sept 4,1993) Frank Nastasi (Jan 7,1923-June 15,2004) The raucous, irreverent pie-in-the-face humor of television entertainer, Soupy Sales also included the puppets White Fang and Pookie, the lion. At various times during the run of the show, the characters were brought to live by Clyde Adler and Frank Nastasi.)
Remy Charlip (Jan 10, 1929-Aug 14, 2012) A dancer, choreographer, director, author, illustrator and teacher, Remy Charlip was truly a Renaissance-man. He was one of the founders of the Paper Bag Players in NY. He established the department of Children’s Theatre at Sarah Lawrence College and was mentor to puppeteers Dan Hurlin and Brian Selznick.
Forman Brown (Jan 8, 1901-Jan 10,1996) Harry Burnett (Jan 6 1901-May 28, 1993) with Roddy Brandon were the Yale Puppeteers. They toured extensively in the 1930s performing seasons in New York and Los Angeles. From 1941 to 1956 they performed in their own cabaret theatre in Los Angeles. Elsa Lanchester (known for her role in Bride of Frankenstein, and wife of film star Charles Laughton) regularly performed Forman Brown’s witty adult themed songs at Turnabout Theatre. Many of the Hollywood stars who attended the Turnabout Theatre, left their autographs on a large “graffiti” wall in the theatre. The Yale Puppeteers were mentors to many west-coast puppeteers. Openly gay, Forman Brown was the author a ground breaking novel Better Angel.
Josef Skupa (Jan 16, 1892-Jan 8,1957) His famous puppets Hurvinek and Spejbl created for his own puppet theatre in Czechoslovakia became greatly loved national icons. Skupa was arrested by the Nazi’s in 1944, survived, and continued his work. He served as the president of UNIMA international.
Ascanio Spolidoro (Jan 23. 1896-May 1968) For more than 30 years” Spoli” was Remo Bufano’s right hand man. His Broadway credits include Eva LaGallienne’s “Alice In Wonderland”. He worked with the Suzari. Company. For many years he ran the shop at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park.
Cora Baird (Jan 26, 1912- Dec 7, 1967) Cora Burlar was a Martha Graham dancer when she met Bil Baird in the WPA production of Doctor Faustus (1937). The rest, as they say, his history. This is year is the 50th anniversary of the film Sound of Music that included the Baird puppets in the “Lonely Goatherd.” Bil and Cora had worked for years to establish a permanent theatre in New York. The theatre opened in 1967 just before Cora passed away from lung cancer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbuDaXjN8o8
Shari Lewis (Jan 17, 1933 – Aug 2, 1998) Ventriloquist, author, singer, entertainer, Shari Lewis was a sparkling star on television. Winner of numerous awards, in 1980 she was on the historic program at Kennedy Center that featured Bil Baird, Burr Tillstrom, Shari Lewis and Jim Henson.
Harry Corbett (Jan 28, 1918-Aug 17, 1989) Corbett’s lovely little hand-puppet bear, Sooty, created in 1948 first appeared on England’s BBC TV in 1952 and became an icon of popular culture in the UK, made his debut in 1948
Josef “Papa” Schmidt (Jan 29, 1822-Dec 31, 1912) After many years of performing with his marionette character Kasperl, in 1900 the city of Munich created a permanent puppet theatre for Papa Schmidt.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp (Jan 19, 1889 – Jan 13, 1943) She was one of group of artists who met at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich-where DaDa was born. Her 1918 cubist marionettes for “King Stag” modern and astonishing in 1918 and they still look modern.
Yoshida Tamao (Jan 7, 1919-Sept 25, 2007) In 2003 Tamao Yoshida of the Bunraku Theatre of Japan was named a “Living National Treasure.”