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Bert Lahr

Broadway, movie, and television actor

Bert Lahr

Irving Lahrheim was born in New York City on August 13, 1895. He dropped out of school at age 15 to join a juvenile vaudeville act, and gradually worked his way up to top billing on the Columbia Burlesque Circuit. Over the course of his career he was always popular due to his uncanny ability to create very unusual facial expressions and ad-libbed one-liners.

Lahr made his Broadway debut in Delmar's Revels in 1927, and ultimately appeared in 18 Broadway plays.Some of his most notable roles were in Hold Everything (1928-1929), Flying High (1930), Hat-Cha! (1932), Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), The Show is On (1936), and DuBarry Was a Lady (1939). He was nominated for the Best Actor (Dramatic) Tony for his role in The Beauty Part in 1963, and won a Tony for Best Actor (Musical) for Foxy in 1964. He made his feature film debut in the movie adaptation of Flying High in 1931, but his brand of comedy never translated well to the silver screen. His only real movie success came when he played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Bert Lahr as the 'Cowardly Lion'

Lahr's movie career was fairly limited, but he maintained a fairly active career on Broadway into the 1960's. He also made several television appearances, both as himself and as a guest actor, but the only recurring role he ever had was as "Aunt Tillie" in a series of Lay's potato chip commercials during their "Betcha can't eat just one" campaign.

Lahr died in New York City while filming The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), on December 4, 1967. Although it was reported at the time that he had died of pneumonia, it was later revealed that Lahr had been suffering from cancer for some time. He is buried in Union Field Cemetery, Flushing, Queens. His biography, Notes on a Cowardly Lion, was published by his son John in 1969.

His Marriages and Children

Mercedes Delpino -- August 29, 1929 - 1940 (annulled) -- 1 son, Herbert -- (she was mentally ill and spent most of marriage in an asylum)
Mildred Schroeder -- February 11, 1940 - his death -- 1 son, John (who became a theatre critic), and 1 daughter, Jane

His Movies

Faint Heart (1929)
Flying High
Henry the Ache
No More West
Gold Bricks
Boy, Oh Boy
Whose Baby Are You?
Off the Horses
Montague the Magnificent
Merry Go Round of 1938
Love and Hisses
Just Around the Corner
The Wizard of Oz
Sing Your Worries Away
Ship Ahoy
Meet the People
Always Leave Them Laughing
Mr. Universe
Rose Marie
The Second Greatest Sex
The Great Waltz
(TV movie, 1955)
The Secret World of Eddie Hodges
(TV movie, 1960)
Thompson's Ghost
(TV movie, 1966)
The Night They Raided Minsky's

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This page was last updated on 08/13/2018.