One of the leading burlesque and vaudeville stars who went on to Broadway musical comedies, Bert Lahr had a fitful and rather unremarkable film career highlighted only by his delightful turn as the Cowardly Lion in the now classic 1939 version of "The Wizard of Oz. " Born to a German immigrant father in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, the precocious Lahr dropped out of school at age 15 and quickly found success with the Seven Frolics, a children's stage act. Altering his last name from Lahrheim to Lahr, he went on to a successful career as a burlesque comic (performing "Dutch" characters, replete with accent) and later in an acted paired with his future wife Mercedes Delpino, eventually playing the Palace Theater in 1925. After debuting on Broadway in "Harry Delmar's Revels" in 1927, Lahr had his first major success in a stage musical playing the prize fighter hero of "Hold Everything" (1928-29). Several other musicals followed, notably "Flying High" (1930), Ziegfeld's "Hot-Cha!" (1932) and "The Show Is On" (1936), which teamed him with Beatrice Lillie in a show conceived and directed by Vincente Minnelli. Audiences loved Lahr's penchant for mugging. twisting his face into comic grotesques and ad-libbing hilarious quips. Often onstage, he would perform routines that became signature pieces, like his famous "Stop in the name of the fire house" routine.