John Henry Lahr
BornJohn Henry Lahr
(1941-07-12) July 12, 1941 (age 81)
Los Angeles, California, US
OccupationTheater critic, writer, biographer
EducationWorcester College, Oxford
Yale University
Spouse
Anthea Mander
(m. 1965; died 2004)
(m. 2000)
Children1
ParentsBert Lahr (father)
Mildred Schroeder (mother)
RelativesJane Lahr (sister)
Website
johnlahr.com

John Henry Lahr (born July 12, 1941) is an American theater critic and writer.[1] From 1992 to 2013, he was a staff writer and the senior drama critic at The New Yorker.[2] He has written more than twenty books related to theater.[2] Lahr has been called "one of the greatest biographers writing today".[3]

Early life

Lahr was born in Los Angeles, California to a Jewish family.[4][1] He is the son of Mildred "Millie" Schroeder, a Ziegfeld girl, and Bert Lahr, an actor and comedian most famous for portraying the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.[2][5][6] When his father left movies for the stage, the family moved from their home in Coldwater Canyon to Manhattan.[7]

Until his father was on the cover of Time magazine when Lahr was in grade school, he did not know what his father did for a living.[8] Lahr wrote:

On stage, Dad was sensational; in private he was sensationally taciturn: a brooding absent presence, to be encountered mostly in his bedroom chair at his desk, turned away from us, with his blue Sulka bathrobe knotted under his pot belly. The Bert Lahr my sister and I call "Dad" is the ravishing performer, not the indifferent parent. We loved him; we just couldn't reach him. The public got his best self—inspired, full of prowess—the family got the rest. At home, Dad was depressed, bewildered, hidden; in front of the paying customers, however, he was buoyant and truthful—a bellowing, cavorting genius who could reduce audiences to a level of glee so intense that from the wings I once saw a man stuff a handkerchief in his mouth to stop laughing.[8]

However, Lahr did spend a lot of time with his father at theaters playing with props and costumes.[9] His childhood was also filled with access to Hollywood and Vaudeville celebrities who were his father's friends, such as Eddie Foy Jr., Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx, and Ethel Merman.[8]

Lahr received a B.A. from Yale University.[10] While there, he was a member of the literary fraternity of St. Anthony Hall and was an editor of the Yale Daily News.[11] He also has a master's degree from Worcester College, Oxford University.[10][7]

Career

Theater

Lahr started his career managing theaters.[9] In 1968, he was a literary adviser to the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[2] He was an advisor to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Manhattan, New York from 1969 to 1971.[2] He also was a literary consultant for the Lincoln Center's Repertory Theater in the 1970s.[11][6]

He has adapted several books for the stage; these plays were performed at the Royal National Theatre in London, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and in the West End of London.[12]

In 2002, he co-wrote Elaine Stritch's one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty.[1] He and Stritch won a Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for the show.[1][9][13][14] However, Lahr sued Strich, claiming she "cheated him of profits" from the play.[15]

Critic and writer

Lahr became a contributing editor to Evergreen Review in 1967.[11] At the same time, he was a freelance theater critic for The Village Voice and as a general theater editor for Grove Press.[11][12][6] He has also written for British Vogue, BroadwayWorld, the Daily Mail, Esquire, The Guardian, The Nation, The New Indian Express, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Slate, and The Telegraph.[16][2]

In 1992, when he was fifty years old, Lahr became a staff writer and a senior drama critic at The New Yorker magazine.[2][8] He wrote profiles, reviews, and behind-the-scenes portraits. He also began reviewing regional and international theater, expanding the magazine's coverage beyond Broadway for the first time.[2] His profiles are biographies consisting of 8,000 to 10,000 words.[8] Each article takes him three to four months to write and research.[17] Throughout his time at The New Yorker, Lahr profiled more than forty actors, including Woody Allen, Roseanne Barr, Ingmar Bergman, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Bob Hope, Eddie Izzard, Tony Kushner, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, Helen Mirren, Mira Nair, Mike Nichols, and Al Pachino.[8][18][5][7] On unique aspect of a profile by him is that "Lahr typically receives more access to his subjects than they've ever allowed before. Just as he wants to write about them, they want to be written about in his magazine."[18] For example, Sean Penn gave his mother's telephone number to Lahr.[18]

In 2000, his compilation book, Show and Tell: New Yorker Profiles, included a profile of his mother who was a Ziegfeld Follies girl.[7] Lahr's most recent book, Joy Ride: Show People and Their Shows in the US (2015), is a collection of his New Yorker profiles on playwrights and directors, as well as some of his reviews of their work.[19]

He retired from The New Yorker in 2013.[2][17] His 21-year stint is the longest in the magazine's history.[17] He is currently a chief theater critic emeritus of The New Yorker and writes two profiles a year.[18][17]

Film

In 1987, Lahr co-produced Prick Up Your Ears, a film version of his 1978 book about a British playwright, Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton.[2][20] Lahr was portrayed in the film by Wallace Shawn.[18][20]

Lahr has also written movie scripts, including the short film Sticky My Fingers...Fleet My Feet which was nominated for a 1971 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects.[2][21][11]

Author

When Lahr was 21 years old, he decided to connect to his father by writing a biography.[8] Eight years later, he finished the biography called Notes on a Cowardly Lion, the week before his father died.[17] Since then, he has written many other books, including the novels and biographies of theatrical figures.[2] His biographies include the Australian comedian Barry Humphries, Joe Orton, and Frank Sinatra.[11]

In 1994, Lahr published an expose in The New Yorker detailing the behavior of Lady Maria St. Just, the literary executor of playwright Tennessee Williams's estate.[22][20][6] Lahr's profile helped Lyle Leverich publish Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams after "a five-year legal stranglehold" by St. Just.[20][6] In 2000, Leverich died while working on a planned second volume about Williams, and named Lahr as his successor in this project; Lahr agreed to complete book, covering Williams from 1945 to his death in 1983.[23][3]

Lahr's stand-alone biography, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, was published in 2014.[3][6] In the United States, the biography won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Vursell Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for the best gay biography.[24][25][26] In the United Kingdom, it won the 2015 Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography.[27]

Awards

Personal life

In July 1965, Lahr became engaged to Anthea Mander of Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton who he met while they both were attending Oxford University.[32][33] She was the daughter of the Liberal politician, art patron and industrialist Sir Geoffrey Mander.[32] They married on August 12, 1965, at St. Peter's Church in Eaton Square, London.[32] They also had a second wedding in New York City for Lahr's parents who were unable to travel to England.[32] After their marriage, they lived in New York City.[32] They had a son named Christopher.[17][7]

Lahr moved to London in 1973.[17] While he was still working for The New Yorker, he divided his time between the two cities, spending two weeks in New York City a month, returning home to London for the rest of the month.[18][10] Rather than maintaining a residence in New York, he rented the maid's room of producer Margo Lion's apartment.[18]

In 1988, Lahr began a relationship with New York-born ex-pat actress Connie Booth, co-writer and a cast member of Fawlty Towers and ex-wife of John Cleese.[34][7] Lahr and Booth lived together for fifteen years before marrying 2000.[34] They live in Highgate in north London.[34]

Lahr contributed to John Kerry's presidential campaign and Democratic organizations.[35] His sister is the editor and writer Jane Lahr.[36]

Publications

Books

Biographies and profiles

Collected criticism

Fiction

As editor

Plays and film adaptations

Essays and reporting

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "John Lahr". IBDB: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Contributors: John Lahr". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Larman, Alexander (October 5, 2014). "Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh Review". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  4. ^ "Stephen Frears & John Lahr". Independent on Sunday [London, England], September 6, 2015, p. 42. Gale General OneFile, Accessed May 18, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e New York State Writer's Institute (Summer 2002). "Writers Online Magazine Volume 6, Number 2". www.albany.edu. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Diamond, Robert. "New Yorker's John Lahr to End Run as Critic; Begin Profiles". Broadway World. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Campbell, Duncan (August 26, 2001). "Following Yonder Stars". The Observer (London, England). p. 80 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "The Depressed Lion, Bert Lahr. His son, writer John Lahr: 'We loved Dad, we just couldn't reach him'". The Life & Times of Hollywood. November 27, 2018. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c "Bright lights; John Lahr on the theatre". The Economist, vol. 416, no. 8955, September 12, 2015, p. 80. Gale General OneFile, Accessed May 18, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "John Lahr". New York State Writer's Institute. 2002. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism | Literatures in English". Cornell University. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  12. ^ a b c "John Lahr | Penguin Random House". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  13. ^ a b "2002 Tony Award: Special Theatrical Event, Elaine Stritch at Liberty". Playbill. June 2, 2002. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  14. ^ a b "Drama Desk Awards Announced; Goat, Metamorphoses Tie for Best Play, Millie Scores". Playbill. May 20, 2002. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  15. ^ Perlow, Jonathan (June 25, 2009). "John Lahr Takes Elaine Stritch to Court". www.courthousenews.com. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  16. ^ "John Lahr". muckrack.com. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Porter, William (September 25, 2015). "Writer John Lahr, Son of a Beloved Actor, Took His Own Theatrical Road". The Denver Post. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Tracer, Jake (September 1, 2007). "The Man in the Middle". The New York Review of Magazines. Archived from the original on March 22, 2022. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  19. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Joy Ride: Show People and Their Shows by John Lahr". Publishers Weekly. September 1, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  20. ^ a b c d Taylor, Paul (September 21, 2014). "John Lahr on his Dazzling Biography of Tennessee Williams". The Independent. Archived from the original on June 13, 2022. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  21. ^ a b "Sticky My Fingers, Fleet My Feet (1970)". The Cave of Forgotten Films. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  22. ^ Lahr, John (July 28, 2014). "The Lady and Tennessee". The New Yorker.
  23. ^ Kondazian, Karen. "Spirit and Substance", Back Stage West, February 22, 2001. Retrieved on August 30, 2007.
  24. ^ a b "Previous Winners". Lambda Literary. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  25. ^ a b "The National Book Critics Circle Award 2014". National Book Critics. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  26. ^ a b "2015 Literature Award Winners – American Academy of Arts and Letters". artsandletters.org. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  27. ^ a b Shenton, Mark (March 19, 2015). "John Lahr Wins London's Eighth Annual Sheridan Morley Prize for Tennessee Williams Biography". Playbill. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  28. ^ "Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh". National Book Foundation. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  29. ^ "31st Annual ASCAP Deems Taylor Award Recipients". ASCAP Foundation. 1998. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  30. ^ "15th Annual ASCAP Deems Taylor Award Recipients". ASCAP Foundation. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  31. ^ a b "Keys to the Kingdom - The National Arts Club". www.nationalartsclub.org. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  32. ^ a b c d e "Miss Anthea Mander Engaged". The Birmingham Press (Birmingham, England). July 27, 1965. p. 15. Retrieved May 21, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  33. ^ "Marriage in London". Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut). August 13, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved May 21, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  34. ^ a b c "Life after Polly: Connie Booth (a case of Fawlty memory syndrome)". The Independent. May 2, 2008. Archived from the original on April 9, 2022. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  35. ^ Dedman, Bill (July 15, 2007). "The list: Journalists who wrote political checks". NBC News. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  36. ^ Gross, Ed (June 2, 2020). "'The Wizard of Oz' Star Bert Lahr Remembered by His Daughter". Closer Weekly. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  37. ^ Lahr, John (1969). Jules Feiffer: Interviewed by John Lahr. The Transatlantic Review, 32, 38–47. via JSTOR, accessed May 21, 2022
  38. ^ John, Lahr. 2014. "Caught In The Act". The New Yorker, September 15. Via EBSCO. Accessed May 21, 2022
  39. ^ John Lahr. When he acted it was like jazz. Daily Telegraph (London). September 2014:8,9. Accessed May 22, 2022. via EBSCO, accessed May 21, 2022.