Image of Forman Brown


Lifetime: 1901 - 1996 Passed: ≈ 28 years ago




United States

Forman Brown

Forman Brown was one of the world's leaders in puppet theatre in his day, as well as an important early gay novelist. He was a member of the Yale Puppeteers and the driving force behind Turnabout Theatre. He was born in Otsego, Michigan, in 1901 and died in 1996, two days after his 95th birthday. Brown briefly taught at North Carolina State College, followed by an extensive tour of Europe. 


Forman's Yale Puppeteers, which he established upon graduating from University of Michigan (class of 1922), opened a puppet theatre in Los Angeles in 1941 (the Turnabout Theater) that attracted celebrity attention and support from some of Hollywood's biggest names, e.g., Greta Garbo, Colleen Moore, Marie Dressler, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, as well as other notable figures including Albert Einstein and Aimee Semple McPherson. Brown wrote all the songs and sketches for the troupe's productions. Regular performers included Elsa Lanchester and Odetta. Bette Midler sang one of Forman's songs, Mrs. Pettibone, at a Los Angeles AIDS benefit. 


Along with Yale Puppeteers Harry Burnett and Richard Brandon (1905 – May 4, 1985) (Brown's lifelong lover), Brown launched Turnabout Theatre in 1941 as "a vehicle for performing both puppet plays and revues for adults." Turnabout Theatre was a highly popular puppetry venue until its dissolution in 1956. Reversible seats were installed in the theatre so that after the puppet shows were performed at one end of the auditorium, the puppeteers asked the audience to "turnabout" their seats for the Turnabout revue staged at the opposite end of the auditorium. 


In 1933, he wrote Better Angel, under the pseudonym Richard Meeker, about a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality. The novel is regarded as "the first American novel to present the 'gay' experience in a healthy light." When it was reprinted in 1995, under the assumption that the author was no more alive, Brown stepped forward and acknowledged the novel was heavily autobiographic: the main character, Kurt, was the same Forman Brown; one of the main character's love interests, Derry, was Brown's cousin, Harry Burnett; Kurt's main love interest, David, was Richard Brandon; another of Kurt's lovers, Tony, was actor Alexander Kirkland. 

Books by Forman Brown

Better Angel Cover image

Better Angel

Fiction Novel
Homosexuality Bildungsroman

Better Angel is a novel by Forman Brown first published in 1933 under the pseudonym Richard Meeker. It was republished as Torment in 1951. It is an early novel which describes a gay lifestyle without condemning it. Christopher Carey called it "the fi...