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Bert Lahr

(1895 - 1967)

LAHR, BERT (Irving Lahrheim; 1895–1967), U.S. actor, comedian. Born in New York of German immigrants, Lahr began his career at 15, became the "boy wonder" of burlesque, and had his first Broadway success in Hold Everything (1928). He then appeared in a series of Broadway shows, worked with road companies, and returned to Broadway, playing comedies of Shakespeare and Aristophanes. His Broadway performances include Flying High (1930), Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), The Show Is On (1937), DuBarry Was a Lady (1940), Burlesque (1947), Two on the Aisle (1951), Waiting for Godot (1956), Hotel Paradiso (1957), and The Girls against the Boys (1959). He won a Tony Award in 1964 for Best Actor in the musical Foxy and in 1963 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony for his role in the drama The Beauty Part.

Lahr appeared in more than a dozen films between 1931 and 1939 but was best known for his role as the cowardly lion in the highly successful musical The Wizard of Oz (1939). However, as he later commented, "After The Wizard of Oz I was typecast as a lion, but there just weren't that many parts for lions." He appeared in Sing Your Worries Away (1942), Ship Ahoy (1942), Meet the People (1944), Always Leave Them Laughing (1949), Mr. Universe (1951), Rose Marie (1954), The Second Greatest Sex (1955), and The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968). He also appeared on television, as a guest on variety shows and early TV playhouse dramas, as well as the TV movies The Great Waltz (1955) and The Secret World of Eddie Hodges (1960), and the short comedy Thompson's Ghost (1966).

His son John Lahr, a drama critic with The New Yorker, wrote a biography about his father, Notes on a Cowardly Lion (1969), which became a bestseller.

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.