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Jean Gros

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Jean Abel Gros was a prominent American marionette artist of the early twentieth century. In 1928 he mounted an Oz puppet show called The Magical Land of Oz, written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. The production played at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. Regrettably, Gros's Oz show was apparently never filmed or otherwise preserved.

Gros was originally from Pittsburgh. Through the 1920s and '30s, he produced a number of classical stories in marionette form, in the style of classic French puppetry — Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland, and Maeterlinck's Bluebird among others, plus popular shows like Little Orphan Annie at the Circus. He designed marionettes for a WPA project during the Great Depression, which were used for teaching schoolchildren. Over the years he created an elaborate traveling marionette show — which collapsed when he staged a puppet version of grand opera, with 75 singers hidden behind the curtains. At its peak, Gros's show reportedly involved 150 puppets, controlled by 2000 strings.

Gros enjoyed a resurgence in the 1940s, when he created miniature Thanksgiving Day parades for smaller cities — diminutive versions of the famous Macy's parade in New York City. Gros's parade included balloons that were low enough to fit under the overhead trolley wires of smaller towns; his largest balloon was a dragon 100 feet long.

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