Barr as Shady Tree in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
September 27, 1903
|Died||November 22, 1980
|Occupation||Comedian, film actor|
Leonard Barr (September 27, 1903 – November 22, 1980) was an American old-style, one-liner standup comic in the tradition of Henny Youngman. He was the uncle of Dean Martin (being the brother of Dean Martin's mother Angela). Thanks to Martin, and TV talk shows, he achieved a significant amount of visibility and recognition in the twilight of his career.
He had a brief role in The Sting, appropriately as a burlesque comic. That is also the way his character is listed in the credits—as an anonymous comedian. However, in the wings of the stage just before the comic's entrance, he has a brief conversation with Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), who addresses him as "Leonard".
He is perhaps best remembered internationally for his appearance in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever in which he played Shady Tree, a stand-up comedian and smuggler in Las Vegas who was assassinated by henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
He also appeared in The Odd Couple usually in the non-dialogue New York street scenes in the first season or 5 episodes later in 1975 with dialogue and, albeit unnamed, on an episode of M*A*S*H as a USO comedian. He also made numerous guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. John Read and Dave Maskin recall that the year 1957 was Barr's favorite year in show business. Cameron Crowe briefly depicted Barr as a foul-mouthed real-life character in Almost Famous, his semi-autobiographical film of 2000.
In the film The Sting, after Hooker's girlfriend Crystal (Sally Kirkland) comes offstage (in the foreground of the scene) from doing her burlesque act, Leonard goes onstage (in the background) and tells a joke to the out-of-sight audience. Hooker and Crystal mostly talk over the joke, so the film's audience only hears the punchline. The complete joke involves a man who had just bought a live duck and then impulsively goes to a movie theater, hiding the duck in his pants so the ticket-taker won't hassle him about bringing a bird into the theater. Once in his seat, sitting next to two women, he opens his fly so the duck can stick out its head and breathe easily. In the darkened theater, the women misinterpret what the man is doing. Most of this part of the joke is heard in the film: "The first woman says to her friend, 'This man's fly is open!' The second woman says, 'When you've seen one, you've seen 'em all!' The first woman says, 'Yeah, but this one's eating my popcorn!'"
The same punchline, again without the preceding anecdote, is heard in the film Men in Black spoken by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) to James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith). This punchline was also heard in the season 5 Cheers episode "Money Dearest." Sam Malone tells it to a group of party goers in the bar at the beginning of a scene, and Spin City season 6 episode "Age Against the Machine".
The 77-year-old Leonard Barr suffered a stroke on October 28, 1980 in his hotel room in West Hollywood and died on November 22, 1980 in a hospital in Burbank, California.
Leonard Barr was introduced on a Colgate Comedy Hour by his nephew, Dean Martin, and danced a magnificent eccentric dance to "The Darktown Strutter's Ball".