The life & times of the Cowardly Lion:Bert Lahr
On August 13, 1895, Bert Lahr was born. His parents weren’t wealthy, and the family grew up in poverty. Irving Lahrheim was his real name. Lahr dropped out of school at an early age. Lahr taught himself by watching vaudeville shows. Soon after, he began crooning on the streets with a group of other young singers. Bert had a rich baritone voice. Lahr began performing in Burlesque Theaters. His specialty in no time became comedy, and he would portray comical characters that were the stark opposite of his problematic fosterage. Fate was in the cosmos when producer Blutch Cooper discovered Bert Lahr one evening during one of his performances. The producer put Lahr in The Best Show in Town . It was in this show in which Bert Lahr came of age as a comedic actor.
Lahr’s career really took off in 1927 when went to Broadway, with a part in Harry Delmar’s Revels. Over the next few years, Lahr lent his comedic talents to shows such as Hot-Cha (1932), Life Begins At 8:40 (1934) and Scandals (1936). Lahr wasn’t satisfied with Broadway. He needed more. In 1938 Bert Lahr was headed to Hollywood.
Lahr’s Hollywood career began with roles in the Shirley Temple film ‘Just Around the Corner’, followed by Zaza, in which Lahr played a role of a Vaudeville performer, a role he was all too familiar with. It wasn’t until 1939 that Lahr landed the role that he would be remembered for until this day. The Wizard of Oz cast Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. The character was perfect for Lahr’s comedic instincts. The lovable Lion became a hit with audiences.
Lahr’s stint in Hollywood never materialized much beyond the Wizard of Oz. Soon after, he turned to theater. Lahr went on to play Estragon in Waiting for Godot, a play directed by Herbert Berghof. Lahr was great in the play despite it’s small success.
Bert Lahr passed away on December 4, 1967 at the age of 75 while filming The Night They Raided Minksy’s. Lahr was truly a gifted comedic performer that still brings a smile to millions worldwide.
Lahr was a frequent visitor to The Stork Club. To learn more about the Stork Club and the other vintage celebrities that went there, head over to www.storkclub.com .