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Zero Mostel

Zero Mostel

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Also Known As: Samuel Joel Mostel Died: September 8, 1977
Born: February 28, 1915 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: actor, comedian, art teacher, painter, miner, factory worker, longshoreman

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This volatile, stage-trained comic actor made his film debut playing dual roles in "Du Barry Was a Lady" (1943). Mostel's solid, bulky build and heavy-lidded eyes made him a convincing heavy, but his promising film career (e.g., "Panic in the Streets" 1950) was cut short when he was blacklisted following his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. His fortunes revived in the early 1960s with his maniacally comic Broadway performance in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1962) and, as Tevye, in "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964). Mostel turned in a landmark screen performance as bamboozling Broadway producer Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (1967), and continued making regular film appearances into the late 1970s. One of his most notable later roles was in the Martin Ritt drama, "The Front" (1976), as a man facing the blacklist.

This volatile, stage-trained comic actor made his film debut playing dual roles in "Du Barry Was a Lady" (1943). Mostel's solid, bulky build and heavy-lidded eyes made him a convincing heavy, but his promising film career (e.g., "Panic in the Streets" 1950) was cut short when he was blacklisted following his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. His fortunes revived in the early 1960s with his maniacally comic Broadway performance in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1962) and, as Tevye, in "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964). Mostel turned in a landmark screen performance as bamboozling Broadway producer Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (1967), and continued making regular film appearances into the late 1970s. One of his most notable later roles was in the Martin Ritt drama, "The Front" (1976), as a man facing the blacklist.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Best Boy (1979)
2.
 Watership Down (1978) Voice
3.
 The Front (1976) Hecky Brown
4.
 Hollywood On Trial (1976) Himself
5.
 Mastermind (1976)
6.
7.
 Foreplay (1974) Don Pasquale; President
8.
 Marco (1973)
9.
 Once Upon a Scoundrel (1973) Carlos Del Refugio
10.
 The Hot Rock (1972) Abe Greenberg
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised on NYC's Lower East Side
1937:
Hired by the Federal Arts Program to teach drawing and painting
:
In the early 1940s, began to be hired as an entertainer at private parties
1942:
Debut as a stand-up comic at Cafe Society in NYC; given nickname 'Zero' by club's press agent because he was "a guy starting from nothing"
1942:
Broadway debut in the revue "Keep 'Em Laughing"
1943:
Briefly served in the US Army
1943:
Feature film debut in "DuBarry Was a Lady"
1946:
Appeared in the stage musical "Beggar's Holiday"
1948:
Performed regularly on "Off the Record" (DuMont)
1949:
Acted alongside wife Kate in two Moliere plays, "The Imaginary Invalid" and "The Doctor in Spite of Himself", at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts
1950:
Had featured role in "Panic in the Streets", helmed by Elia Kazan
1951:
Called to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities; was blacklisted
1952:
Reteamed with Kazan for the stage drama "Flight into Egypt"
1952:
Last film for nearly a decade, "The Model and the Marriage Broker"
1958:
Made stage comeback in "Ulysses in Nighttown", directed by Burgess Meredith
1959:
Appeared in "The World of Sholom Aleichem" (syndicated)
1960:
Severely injured left leg when he was struck by a bus (January)
1960:
Acted in "Zero", adapted from a Samuel Beckett play; screened at Venice Film Festival but never released theatrically in the USA
1961:
Returned to Broadway after long recovery to star in Ionesco's "Rhinoceros"; received Tony Award
1962:
Enjoyed hit as the star of the vaudeville-like musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"; received second Tony Award
1963:
Headlined one-person special "Zero Mostel"
1964:
Delivered a well-received stage turn as Tevye the milkman in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof", adapted from the stories of Sholom Aleichem; production directed by Jerome Robbins; garnered third career Tony Award
1966:
Recreated his stage role as Pseudolus in the film adaptation of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
1967:
Starred in the variety program "Zero Hour" (ABC)
1968:
Offered what is perhaps his best recalled film performance as outsized impresario Max Bialystock in "The Producers"
1970:
Co-starred in "The Angel Levine"
1972:
Acted in the caper comedy "The Hot Rock"
1974:
Recreated another stage role in the film adaptation of "Rhinoceros"
1974:
Final Broadway appearance recreating role of Leopold Bloom in "Ulysses in Nighttown"; earned Tony nomination
1976:
Appeared alongside Woody Allen in "The Front", about the Hollywood blacklist, scripted by Walter Bernstein and directed by Martin Ritt
1977:
Last TV appearance, a guest spot on the syndicated series "The Muppet Show"
1977:
Final stage performance as Shylock in "The Merchant", Arnold Wesker's reworking of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"
1978:
Heard posthumously as the voice of Kehaar the seagull in the animated film "Watership Down"
1979:
Seen in footage of the documentary "Best Boy"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New York University: New York , New York -
The Education Alliance: New York , New York -
City College of New York: New York , New York - 1935
City College of New York: New York , New York - 1935

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Clara Sverd. Married in 1939; separated in 1941; divorced in 1944.
wife:
Kate Mostel. Actor, dancer, writer. Former Rockette; of Irish ancestry; when Mostel married her, his parents stopped talking to him.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Josh Mostel. Actor. Born on December 21, 1946.
son:
Tobias Mostel. Artist. Born on September 29, 1948.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Zero Dances: A Biography of Zero Mostel" Limelight Editions

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