What makes the Hottentot so hot, what puts the “ape” in apricot, what have they got that I ain’t got? Courage!
— From “If I Were King of the Forest,” in The Wizard of Oz, 1939
“I accepted Bert [Lahr] and wanted him for the part of the Cowardly Lion because the role was one of the things that The Wizard of Oz stands for, the search for some basic human necessity. At the heart of this seeking after courage is fear. Call it anxiety now; call it neurosis. We’re in a world we don’t understand. When the Cowardly Lion admits that he lacks courage, everybody’s heart is out to him. He must be somebody who embodies all this pathos, sweetness, and yet puts on this comic bravura. Bert had that quality to such a wonderful degree. It was in his face, it was in his talk, it was in himself. To me, that kind of comedy is on a higher plane approaching a more humanitarian, universal statement about Man.”
E.Y. Harburg, lyricist for The Wizard of Oz, on casting Lahr for the Cowardly Lion, quoted in John Lahr’s Notes on a Cowardly Lion (Alfred A. Knopf, 1969)