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Zero Mostel –

Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

About Zero Mostel (1915 – 1977)
Zero Mostel was born on February 28,1915 in Brooklyn, New York. Mostel was also an artist.

Zero Mostel began his life as an entertainer working as a comedian at a New York jazz club in 1942. He continued working as a comedian in the Big Apple, and also on tour. After serving in the army, briefly in World War II, he subsequently worked entertaining troupes.

After the War, he appeared in early television plays. In 1950, He was then cast in Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, as a poker player who is involved in a murder, and at the same time, is exposed to a deadly, highly contagious disease. The film won an Oscar for Best Story.

In 1955, Zero Mostel was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, after being named by choreographer Jerome Robbins. He cracked jokes during his testimony and refused to name names, claiming it was against his religion (Mostel was Jewish). Mostel had already been lampooning the Committee in his nightclub act, inventing a pompous character by the name of Polltax T. Pellagra. Zero Mostel was blacklisted from working in Hollywood or the better nightclubs. He turned to selling his paintings, working as a comedian in low paying clubs and eventually working again as an actor in the theater, where blacklists were not kept.

By 1959, he had weathered the blacklist and was back working on television. The following year he was hit by a bus, severely injuring his leg. He stayed in the hospital for five months and eventually, after several operations and much struggle, regained the use of his leg.

Mostel worked with choreographer Jerome Robbins when he was cast as the lead in the stage production of the Stephen Sondheim musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962. The production, with its broad comedy, was inspired on the ancient Roman comedies of Plautus. Mostel plays the slave Pseudolus, who aims to win his freedom through match making machinations on his young master's behalf. In 1966, he played in the film version, which won an Oscar for Best Music.

In 1968, he played a scheming theatrical producer, in Mel Brooks' movie, The Producers, in which he over solicits backing money for what he hopes will be a flop, (and he can pocket the excess) improbably titled "Springtime for Hitler." Surprisingly, the well known film The Producers was itself a financial flop.

Zero Mostel continued to work in films and television throughout the '60s and '70s, until the end.

Zero Mostel's notable movie credits include...

Watership Down (1978)
Mastermind (1976)
The Front (1976)
marco (1973)
the great bank robbery (1969)
the producers (1968)
a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (1966)
The Enforcer (1951)




Zero Mostel in The Great Bank Robbery (1969).




Zero Mostel (left) in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.



Zero Mostel (right) in The Producers.






Zero Mostel in The Front (1976).