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Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of…

Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr (1969)

by John Lahr

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This a very compelling biography. While this book, written by his son, is intimate and affectionate, John Lahr still succeeds in building all the frank details of his fathe'rs life into a exemplar of theatrical history and and a profound psychological study of a performer. He doesn't pull any punches, but I found his portrayal of Bert Lahr more sympathetic, rather than less so, because I felt I could see him as a whole person.
  mermind | Aug 21, 2015 |
Normally I don't read biographies, especially show business biographies. That isn't to say I never read them, just not in the usual pattern of things. However, Bert Lahr has always held a special place in my heart, so I bought this one on a whim one day while browsing through a used book store. I'm so very glad I did.

Notes on a Cowardly Lion may be the best show biz biography I've ever read. John Lahr knew his father's strengths and weaknesses intimately, and portrays them honestly, without blinking, without flinching. A wonderful, moving, funny and sad story. With pictures and script excerpts from Bert Lahr's 60+ year career. ( )
  avanta7 | Apr 24, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520223047, Paperback)

With a New Preface by the Author
First published in 1969, Notes on a Cowardly Lion has established itself as one of the best-ever show business biographies. Drawing on his father's recollections and on the memories of those who worked with him, John Lahr brilliantly examines the history of modern American show business through the long and glorious career of his father--the raucous low-comic star of burlesque, vaudeville, the Broadway revue and musical, Hollywood movies, and the legitimate stage. Here in rich detail is Lahr evolving from low--dialect comic to Ziegfeld Follies sophisticate, hamming it up with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman on the set of The Wizard of Oz, and debuting Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in America, which Kenneth Tynan called "one of the most noble performances I have ever seen." In the examination of Bert Lahr's chronic insecurity and self-absorption, the breakdown of his first marriage, and the affectionate arm's length he kept between himself and his adoring second family, John Lahr's book also brings the reader closer than any other theater biography to the private torment of a great funny man.
This edition of the book includes the award-winning essay "The Lion and Me," John Lahr's intimate reflections on family life with his distant, brooding, but lovable father. A first-class stylist, John Lahr takes the reader beyond the magic of show business to a dazzling examination of how a performing self is constructed and staged before the paying customers. Both as theater history and biography, Lahr's book is superb.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:33 -0400)

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John Lahr's stunning and complex biography of his father, the legendary actor and comedian Bert Lahr Part biography, part history of American show business, Notes on a Cowardly Lion is John Lahr's masterwork: an all-encompassing biography of his father, the comedian and performer Bert Lahr. Best known as the Cowardly Lion in MGM's classic The Wizard of Oz, Lahr was a consummate artist whose career spanned burlesque, vaudeville, Broadway, and Hollywood. While he could be equally raucous and polished in public, Lahr was painfully insecure and self-absorbed in private, keeping his family at arm's length as he quietly battled his inner demons. Told with an impressive objectivity and keen understanding of the constructionand destructionof the performer, Notes on a Cowardly Lion is more than one man's quest to understand his father. It is an extraordinary examination of a life on the stage.… (more)

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