Bert Lahr, The Cowardly Lion In “The Wizard of Oz,” Is Fondly Remembered By His Daughter
The daughter of Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," is speaking out to reveal he was a quiet man behind the scenes.
It has been more than 50 years since Hollywood star Bert Lahr passed away in 1967, but he is still beloved by millions of fans for his role as the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.
Now, his 77-year-old daughter Jane Lahr is speaking out to reveal some surprising details about who the main with the mane was behind the scenes.
Lahr Didn’t Watch ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ For Years
“My father would never watch his own movie work because he didn’t really like his movies except for ‘Zaza,’” Jane recently told Closer Weekly. “When ‘The Wizard of Oz’ came to C, he never watched it until very close to the end of his life. I was home from college and it came on television and he watched it. And he thought, ‘Hmm, that’s OK. That was good.’”
“He was a great stage performer, because of his energy and his physicality and his sounds. He was a perfect Lion because even when he was a vaudevillian, he made these animal sounds. He had all of the body movements, all of the power, all of the physicality, but he also had a sweetness and a pathos — a vulnerability that we all, as human beings, understand.
“We love that and so, in a way, at the end of the movie, when Judy Garland kisses Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow, and says, ‘I’m going to miss you most of all,’ I always thought, ‘Oh, you are not. You’re going to miss the Lion most of all because he was the most adorable.”
Lahr Was A Quiet Man
While many Hollywood stars are extroverts, Jane remembers her father as a man who was both quiet and shy.
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“We had a lovely relationship, but I developed an intuitive sense because he was a man of so few words,” she explained. “You had to pay attention and read him, but there was that sweetness there and I could make him laugh. I’ve always felt admired by dad. He never knew what schools [my brother] John and I were in or anything; he really lived in another world.”
“He was a big worrier and I’d say he was a classic clown,” Jane continued. “He was a very serious, sweet hermit who didn’t talk too much. But he did have great instincts and taste and was a reader, despite the fact he had no real education. He would do the New York Times crossword puzzle every week and would read Dickens.”
While Lahr may not have been much of a talker, Jane has never forgotten one piece of advice he gave her:
“When I was just becoming a teenager and flirting with guys, I was on the phone once and dad overheard me. I was basically jerking these guys around and not treating them respectfully. He came into the room and said, ‘In my neighborhood, if you behaved that way, you’d end up in the East River with your feet in cement.’ Do you think I ever did that again in my life with anybody.”
“But the thing is, he wasn’t tough. Again, there was a sweetness there. When I was a teenager I blared music in my room. Then, when I went away to college, he would go into my room and put on my records. But he couldn’t say I love you. John and I, between us, received two letters from him our whole life. But I knew he loved me. The very fact that mom said he was going in my room and playing my records said everything.”
Jane Reveals What Happened When She First Visited Her Dad’s Grave
Jane concluded by recalling what happened when she and her brother visited their father’s grave in Ridgewood, New York, for the first time.
“His gravesite is supposed to have perpetual care,” she remembered. “Well, I don’t know what they mean by perpetual care, but as we got there we saw there wasn’t a lot of it being done. But on his stone, a child had left a toy lion, and that speaks to me of dad. We fixed up the gravesite, I planted a plant and we moved the little toy lion right up front and left everything in good shape.”
“But that’s when I really think of dad; the thought of that child leaving that lion for him,” Jane added. “I can see a mother with a little boy, saying, ‘Oh, this is the lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and the toy is left in tribute. It’s so sweet.”