Notes on a Cowardly Lion

The Biography of Bert Lahr

Notes on a Cowardly Lion

John Lahr’s stunning and complex biography of his father, the legendary actor and comedian Bert Lahr 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 construction—and destruction—of 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 in American show business.

Coward The Playwright

Coward The Playwright

A reissue in hardback of critic John Lahr's famous 1982 study of Noël Coward's plays "Noël Coward," said Terence Rattigan, "is simply a phenomenon, and one that is unlikely to occur ever again in theatre history." A phenomenon he certainly was, and it is part of John Lahr's purpose in this book to show how that phenomenon called "Noël Coward" was largely Coward's own careful creation. Lahr's penetrating critical study of Coward's drama investigates all the major and minor plays of "The Master". Private Lives, Design for Living and Hay Fever make a fascinating group of "Comedies of Bad Manners". Blithe Spirit and Relative Values raise the "Ghost in the Fun Machine". Lahr then goes on to explore the "politics of charm" oozing through The Vortex, Easy Virtue and Present Laughter. In all Coward's plays Lahr uncovers a coherent philosophy in which charm is both the subject of Coward's comedies and the trap which made his very public life a perpetual performance. "A smashing, thoughtful and very good guide to Coward's plays" (Sheridan Morley)

Prick Up Your Ears

The Biography of Joe Orton

Prick Up Your Ears

This watershed biography, first published in 1978 to critical acclaim, reconstructs the life and death of Britain's most popular comic playwright, murdered by his lover in their London flat. The award-winning author was praised by the "New York Times Book Review" as "probably the most intelligent and insightful writer on the theater today". 29 photos.

The Autograph Hound

A Novel

The Autograph Hound

Hailed as a “tour de force” by the New York Times, this irresistible novel captures John Lahr’s madcap genius Meet Benny Walsh: busboy at the Homestead restaurant in New York City by day, compulsive autograph hunter by night. Known for going to extraordinary lengths for a much-coveted signature, Benny is also tangled up with an actress and fellow autograph hound named Gloria, and drawn into an embittered battle with his archenemy, a headwaiter with a grudge. Lahr’s acclaimed debut novel captures one wild week in Benny’s life. It is an introduction to a brilliantly drawn and determined character who will stay with you long after the final page.

Joy Ride

Lives of the Theatricals

Joy Ride

'John Lahr manages to write better about the theatre than anybody in the English language,' says Richard Eyre. Joy Ride, which includes the best of his New Yorker profiles and reviews, makes his expertise and his exhilaration palpable. From modern greats, like Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, David Mamet, Tony Kushner and August Wilson, through the work of directors like Nicholas Hytner and Ingmar Bergman, to Shakespeare himself, the depth of Lahr's understanding is plain to see and extraordinary to read. He brings the reader up close and personal to the artists and their art. Whether you are a regular theatre-goer, or just starting out, Lahr's book delights as both a celebration and a guide.

Tennessee Williams

Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

Tennessee Williams

On 31 March 1945, at The Playhouse Theatre on Forty-Eight Street the curtain rose on the opening night of The Glass Menagerie. Tennessee Williams, the show's thirty-four-year-old playwright, sat hunched in an aisle seat, looking, according to one paper, 'like a farm boy in his Sunday best'. The Broadway premiere, which had been heading for disaster, closed to an astonishing twenty-four curtain calls and became an instant sell-out. Beloved by an American public, Tennessee Williams's work – blood hot and personal – pioneered, as Arthur Miller declared, 'a revolution' in American theatre. Tracing Williams's turbulent moral and psychological shifts, acclaimed theatre critic John Lahr sheds new light on the man and his work, as well as the America his plays helped to define. Williams created characters so large that they have become part of American folklore: Blanche, Stanley, Big Daddy, Brick, Amanda and Laura transcend their stories, haunting us with their fierce, flawed lives. Similarly, Williams himself swung high and low in his single-minded pursuit of greatness. Lahr shows how Williams's late-blooming homosexual rebellion, his struggle against madness, his grief-struck relationships with his combustible father, prim and pious mother and 'mad' sister Rose, victim to one of the first lobotomies in America, became central themes in his drama. Including Williams's poems, stories, journals and private correspondence in his discussion of the work – posthumously Williams has been regarded as one of the best letter writers of his day – Lahr delivers an astoundingly sensitive and lively reassessment of one of America's greatest dramatists. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is the long-awaited, definitive life and a masterpiece of the biographer's art.

Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization

Backstage with Barry Humphries

Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization

An insider's account of a great clown and a great act, this book goes backstage at London's Theatre Royal, with Barry Humphries, and into the weird and wonderful world of his show-stopping creation, Dame Edna Everage. 8 photos.

The Great Parade

Broadway's Astonishing, Never-to-Be-Forgotten 1963-1964 Season

The Great Parade

It was the Broadway season when Barbra Streisand demanded "Don't Rain on My Parade" and Carol Channing heard the waiters at the Harmonia Gardens say "Hello, Dolly!". From June 1, 1963 through the final day of May 31, 1964, theatergoers were offered 68 different productions: 24 new plays, 15 new comedies, 14 new musicals, 5 revivals of plays, 3 revues, 3 plays in Yiddish, 2 in French, 1 double-bill and even 1 puppet show. Peter Filichia's The Great Parade will look at what a Broadway season looked like a half-century ago analyzing the hits, the flops, the trends, the surprises, the disappointments, the stars and even how the assassination of JFK and the arrival of the Beatles affected Broadway. The Great Parade is a chronicle of a Broadway season unprecedented in the star power onstage: Barbara Streisand, Carol Channing, Claudette Colbert. Colleen Dewhurst, Hal Holbrook, Mary Martin, Christopher Plummer, Robert Preston, Julie Harris, Jason Robards, Jr., Carol Burnett, Tallulah Bankhead, Alec Guinness, Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Richard Burton, Mary Martin, Beatrice Lillie, Hermione Gingold, Robert Redford and many more. Neil Simon and Stephen Sondheim burst on to the Broadway stage with Barefoot in the Park and Anyone Can Whistle. The '63-'64 season was one of Broadway's greatest and in The Great Parade, Peter Filichia gives us another classic.

Show and Tell

New Yorker Profiles

Show and Tell

"What a talented, wonderful, and complete writer."--Mel Brooks "By far the best thing about my stuff I've ever read."--Arthur Miller "These are wonderful portraits."--Edna O'Brien "The high-water mark of theatrical reportage. Exhilarating! Smart! Lahr gives as much thunderous pleasure as the great entertainers he writes about."--Richard Avedon "There's never been an American critic like John Lahr. His writing exalts, honors, and dignifies the profession and, more importantly, the art."--Tony Kushner

Flights of Fancy

The Great Fantasy Films

Flights of Fancy

In-depth analyses are presented of 15 superior films, each one representing a subgenre of fantasy cinema—Beauty and the Beast, Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal, Dragonslayer, 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jason and the Argonauts, King Kong, Lost Horizon, Popeye, Superman, The Thief of Baghdad, Time Bandits, Topper, and The Wizard of Oz. A chapter is devoted to each film, providing a plot summary and detailed information about cast and crew, special effects (stop-motion animation, miniatures, hanging miniatures, optical effects, tricks of perspective, blue screens, matte paintings, glass shots, reverse projection, slow motion, rear and front projection, etc.), and strengths and weaknesses, as well as explorations of the film’s relationship to written fantasy, other films, and cultural myths.