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Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr

Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr
Your Price: $34.95 CDN
Limited Quantities
Author: John Lahr
Publisher: University of California Press
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 394
Pub. Date: 2000
ISBN-10: 0520223047
ISBN-13: 9780520223042

Out of Print - Limited Quantities

About the Book:

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.

First published in 1969, this edition of Notes on a Cowardly Lion 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.

What people say:

"This is a biography of the late Bert Lahr, that clown-comedian who played everything from burlesque to Aristophanes and Shakespeare, by his son, who is one of that rare species, an authentic theater critic.... John Lahr is frank and objective about his father. He sees that Bert was wildly funny on the stage and unhappy off. He was a haphazard father, a selfish lover, a thoughtless husband (his wife cherished him), a hypochondriac and a ruthless 'professional.' The past becomes present in this biography, so that we come to know and understand the actor as clearly as the man. The book abounds in anecdotes that smack of the footlight world and its fascinating fauna. John Lahr is an honorable as well as a talented writer on the theater." — Harold Clurman, influential and respected American theatrical director and drama critic in The New York Times Book Review

"Endlessly fascinating, excellent.... A work of literature, a work of history, a subtle psychological study." — Richard Schickel in Harper's Magazine

"A book-length love letter. To open it is to enter a life, to participate in a sensibility and, perhaps most important, to laugh. Uproariously." — Stefan Kanfer, bestselling author of biographies, cultural histories and novels in Life Magazine

"An always intelligent, often moving biography that shifts with impressive ease, depth and clarity from a son writing about his father to a theater critic and cultural historian analyzing a great comic and his time." — Jules Feiffer, Pulitzer-Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist, playwright and screenwriter

About the Author:

John Lahr was the hugely respected Senior Drama Critic at The New Yorker for more than two decades and touted as "the most intelligent and insightful writer on theatre today" by The New York Times. Now a regular contributor to The New Yorker, he is also the author of 18 books, including two novels, several best-selling biographies —the subject of one being his vaudeville comedian father, Bert Lahr — and numerous adaptations, which have been staged in England and the U.S. Among his honours is becoming the first critic ever to win a Tony for co-writing the one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty.