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Bert Lahr is Born

Today in Masonic History Bert Lahr is born in 1895.

Bert Lahr was an American actor.

Lahr was born Irving Lahrheim on August 13th, 1895 in New York City, New York. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 to join a juvenile vaudeville act. Before long he had the top billing in the Columbia Burlesque Circuit.

In 1927 Lahr made his Broadway debut and appeared in several Broadway productions including the play Flying High a comedy musical. He later reprised his role for the film adaptation of the play in 1931. His appearance in the film Flying High was his first film.

In 1939, Lahr appeared in his biggest success The Wizard of Oz. In the film he played the Cowardly Lion. He was the only one in the movie who sang two solo numbers. Behind the scenes he often ad-libbed lines to add to the comedy. Many of his scenes required multi takes because his co-stars, particularly Judy Garland, laughed. The Cowardly Lion costume contained actual lion fur and was unbearably hot for Lahr. After appearing in The Wizard of Oz he was warned of being typecast. To this he replied "Yeah, but how many parts are there for lions?"

Lahr alternated between movies and plays through out the rest of his career. In 1944 he appeared in the film Meet the People which is notable because his character uttered the line "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" which would be later adopted by the cartoon character Snagglepuss.

In 1956 Lahr moved away from comedy to star in the play Waiting for Godot. He first appeared in the play in Miami, Florida. The play was complete flop. Critics and audience members walked out in droves. Which helped to confirm Lahr's fears the play was too cerebral. In part the failure was due to the fact it was billed as a light comedy. It was actually an absurdist play and is described as a tragicomedy. Later the play was moved to Broadway and was given to a new director. Lahr remained on board and the play was a success in it's limited run.

In the late 1950's, Lahr moved into television appearing in a variety of made for television movies and guest appearances in various series.

In 1967, at the age of 72, Lahr filmed The Night They Raided Minsky's. Despite the fact his age and his standing in the acting community meant he didn't have to work long hours, he willingly did because he trusted the producers of the film. Around November 21st, Lahr returned home after a long evening of shooting in a cold and damp studio. Shortly after he was hospitalized for what was said to be a back ailment. On December 4th, 1967, Lahr passed away from what was officially reported as pneumonia. Later it came out Lahr had cancer and did not know it, there is some debate about whether the official cause of his death should be listed as cancer or pneumonia.

Lahr was a member of Pacific Lodge No. 33 in New York.