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Who is Lionel Bart? » Get Man and Van

Who is Lionel Bart?

Author: Kim Jacobs All about moving and London

Lionel Bart

Maybe because of our own plain lifestyles and existential dread, or because of each and every one of us becoming more anonymous and sheep-like by the day, we have gown to enjoy watching the lives of the wealthy and/or famous. It is a strange sort of voyeuristic pleasure that we find in peeping on the daily routines of those “different” from us, either by the amount of material possessions they own, their affinity for scandals or just their plain ignorance. Many a producer have sought to capitalize on this by overexposing the life of those people, so we are becoming more and more unfazed by such actions. There was one person however who surpassed all the decadency of our contemporary “stars” by a great margin at his heyday.

From humble beginnings

One could not fully appreciate the huge leaps and falls that Lionel Bart’s life has led him trough without analyzing his past. He was born to the family of Jewish immigrants, fleeing from one of the many pogroms during the early 20th century in Austria. His father, a tailor, managed to provide only a humble living for his seven offspring. The young Begleiter (Bart’s original family name) had an affinity for music and was very adept at entertaining his peers with his wit. At the age of six, his music teacher even proclaimed him to be an “artistic genius” His rise to the top however was not a steep climb, as much as a trek over rough terrain, as his initial dabbling in the musicals arts was unsuccessful (up until the end of his life he could not write musical notation), nevertheless he pursued his passion, even earning a scholarship to the renowned St Martin’s School of Art.

Becoming Lionel Bart

Lionel BartUpon seeing David Lean’s film adaptation of “Oliver Twist”, Bart became bent on creating a better version of it someday. He decided to replace his foreign family name, with the short and memorable Bart as it would be both easier to remember and to show in credits. Starting his career in amateur plays as a producer he became a recognizable name rather quickly. Even then his tendency for excessive celebration was manifesting itself – he spent all of the money, received for his first published song on a party for the occasion. Amazingly enough without any musical training he managed to reach the top of the music charts with ease (sometimes with songs, composed in under 10 minutes, as he believed in keeping  his art short and simple), yet he yearned for his music to be part of plays.

The Magnum Opus

He ran into trouble with finding someone who would showcase his masterpiece “Oliver!”. When someone finally agreed to do it Bart fled the theater in fear of the audience’s reaction, thinking he had just ruined his career. What he did was in fact create the best British musical at the time, something he became aware of only after being coerced back to the theater to receive the standing ovations.

The Downfall

The producer became phenomenally wealthy overnight, however his joy was short-lived. He could never achieve personal happiness, perhaps that is why he overindulged so much. He spend the money he had earned extremely frivolously and by the time he realized he was running out of funds his lifestyle had taken a toll on both his health and his capabilities. His latter plays we all flops, and he was forced to relocate to Acton, where he spent the rest of his life, eventually succumbing to his illnesses.