Zero Mostel


Actor
Zero Mostel

About

Also Known As
Samuel Joel Mostel
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
February 28, 1915
Died
September 08, 1977
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

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 fortune...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

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

Bibliography

"Zero Dances: A Biography of Zero Mostel"
Arthur Sainer, Limelight Editions (1998)

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.

Life Events

1937

Hired by the Federal Arts Program to teach drawing and painting

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"

Photo Collections

The Producers - Movie Posters
Here two different styles of the American one-sheet movie poster for Mel Brooks' The Producers (1967). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Du Barry Was a Lady - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), starring Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Zero Mostel.

Videos

Movie Clip

Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, A - Comedy Tonight! Director Richard Lester with the opening tune, as catchy as any in composer Stephen Sondheim's catalog, delivered with the credits by star Zero Mostel as slave "Pseudolus," who gets caught by his owners (Michael Hordern, Patricia Jessel), in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, 1966.
Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, A - Erotic Pottery Michael Crawford as Roman Hero finishes his Sondheim tune with the slave girl Philia (Annette Andre) he hopes to buy, his family's head slave Hysterium (Jack Gilford) objecting, and his underling Pseudolus (Zero Mostel) advocating, in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, 1966.
Panic In The Streets (1950) - You Can't Quit Now The title but not this opening scene would suggest the topic, of a contagious disease outbreak in a port city, as clearly ill and probably-immigrant Kochak (Lewis Charles) tries to leave a poker game run by Blackie (Jack Palance), Fitch and Poldi (Zero Mostel, Guy Thomajan) his henchmen, in Elia Kazan’s Panic In The Streets, 1950.
Front, The (1976) - First Class Script His first visit to the TV studio, Howard (Woody Allen), posing as a writer in place of his blacklisted friend, meets Florence (Andrea Marcovicci), Sussman (Herschel Bernardi), actor Parks (William Bogert) and comic Hecky (Zero Mostel), in Martin Ritt's The Front, 1976.
Front, The (1976) - Sincerity Is The Key We meet Remak Ramsay as Hennessy, the ex-FBI man whose job is to clear network employees suspected of having Communist connections, as comic Hecky (the long-blacklisted Zero Mostel) has his initial interview, in The Front, 1976, from Walter Bernstein’s original screenplay.
Producers, The (1967) - You're Incorrigible Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) is raising money in what he calls "little-old-lady land" for his planned-flop "Springtime for Hitler" in Mel Brooks' original The Producers, 1967.
Producers, The (1967) - I'll Do It! Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) takes nervous accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) out on the town and persuades him to pursue happiness in Mel Brooks' The Producers, 1967.
Producers, The (1967) - You're Only Half-Dressed Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and Bloom (Gene Wilder) make their pitch to director Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett) and personal secretary Carmen Giya (Andreas Voutsinas) in Mel Brooks' The Producers, 1967.
Producers, The (1967) - Springtime For Hitler Max (Zero Mostel) and Leo (Gene Wilder) are giddy as they watch the premiere of the ever-outrageous "Springtime for Hitler" number in Mel Brooks original The Producers, 1967.
Great Catherine (1968) - Hands Off You Swine! Brit captain Edstaston (Peter O'Toole, also co-producer), in Petersburg to brief the empress on the American revolution, meets apparently dissolute Prince Patiomkin (Zero Mostel) and niece (Marie Kean), Akim Tamiroff and Jack Hawkins in support, in the Bernard Shaw adaptation Great Catherine, 1968.
Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, A - Was One A Good Year? Bumbling Roman patrician teen Hero (Michael Crawford) launches himself toward a girl he admires, meeting his family slave Pseudolus (Zero Mostel), and together they agree to visit the bordello run by Lycus (Phil Silvers), early in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, 1966.
Producers, The (1967) - A Minor Compulsion Nervous accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) and desperate producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) discuss financial chicanery and psychological nuances in an early scene from Mel Brooks' The Producers, 1967.

Trailer

Family

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

Companions

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

Bibliography

"Zero Dances: A Biography of Zero Mostel"
Arthur Sainer, Limelight Editions (1998)