Ninety-eight years ago, Zero Mostel was born. I always loved seeing him in movies. He was especially charming in The Producers. And when I read, years later in When The Shooting Stops … The Cutting Begins, that Mostel and Mel Brooks had a feud going throughout the filming, it only made me love him more. (Note: Mel Brooks is a well documented asshole.)
Another great film that I have seen dozens of times is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The film has a great cast, but I can’t imagine it without Mostel. Mostly, he just did his shtick. But like most comedic geniuses, he was also a good actor who did what was appropriate. His performance in The Front is downright subtle. The fact that he was blacklisted makes it all the more poignant—as does his death soon after the film’s release.
But what I will always associate Mostel with is Fiddler on the Roof. He wasn’t in the movie and I never saw him on stage. But when I was young, I loved Broadway musicals and I listened to every original cast album I could get my hands on. One of my favorites was Fiddler on the Roof. Here is Mostel performing “If I Were a Rich Man” at the 1971 Tony Awards:
Zero Mostel died much too young, but he left us quite a legacy.