Raised on NYC's Lower East Side
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
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"
Broadway debut in the revue "Keep 'Em Laughing"
Briefly served in the US Army
Feature film debut in "DuBarry Was a Lady"
Appeared in the stage musical "Beggar's Holiday"
Performed regularly on "Off the Record" (DuMont)
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
Had featured role in "Panic in the Streets", helmed by Elia Kazan
Called to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities; was blacklisted
Reteamed with Kazan for the stage drama "Flight into Egypt"
Last film for nearly a decade, "The Model and the Marriage Broker"
Made stage comeback in "Ulysses in Nighttown", directed by Burgess Meredith
Appeared in "The World of Sholom Aleichem" (syndicated)
Severely injured left leg when he was struck by a bus (January)
Acted in "Zero", adapted from a Samuel Beckett play; screened at Venice Film Festival but never released theatrically in the USA
Returned to Broadway after long recovery to star in Ionesco's "Rhinoceros"; received Tony Award
Enjoyed hit as the star of the vaudeville-like musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"; received second Tony Award
Headlined one-person special "Zero Mostel"
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
Recreated his stage role as Pseudolus in the film adaptation of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
Starred in the variety program "Zero Hour" (ABC)
Offered what is perhaps his best recalled film performance as outsized impresario Max Bialystock in "The Producers"
Co-starred in "The Angel Levine"
Acted in the caper comedy "The Hot Rock"
Recreated another stage role in the film adaptation of "Rhinoceros"
Final Broadway appearance recreating role of Leopold Bloom in "Ulysses in Nighttown"; earned Tony nomination
Appeared alongside Woody Allen in "The Front", about the Hollywood blacklist, scripted by Walter Bernstein and directed by Martin Ritt
Last TV appearance, a guest spot on the syndicated series "The Muppet Show"
Final stage performance as Shylock in "The Merchant", Arnold Wesker's reworking of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"
Heard posthumously as the voice of Kehaar the seagull in the animated film "Watership Down"
Seen in footage of the documentary "Best Boy"