Bert Lahr, born Irving Lahrheim, (August 13, 1895 - December 4, 1967) was a United States comic actor, best remembered today for his role as the Cowardly Lion in the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, but known during his life for a career in burlesque, vaudeville and Broadway.
Dropping out of school at the age of fifteen to join a juvenile vaudeville act, Lahr worked his way up to top billing on the Columbia Burlesque Circuit. In 1927 moved to Broadway plays as a comic actor, performing classic routines such as Woodman, Spare That Tree!
Aside from The Wizard of Oz, his movie career never caught on, possibly because his gestures and reactions were too broad for that intimate medium. His later life was troubled, although he made the transition to straight theatre, particularly in a much-praised version of Waiting for Godot, in which he played Estragon.
Lahr died in 1967 in the middle of filming The Night They Raided Minksy's, forcing producers to use a double in several scenes. Fittingly, this last role was as a burlesque comic.
His son, John Lahr, wrote a biography of his father's life entitled Notes on a Cowardly Lion.