Zero Mostel


Samuel Joel “Zero” Mostel (February 28, 1915 – September 8, 1977) was an American actor, singer and comedian of stage and screen, best known for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye on stage in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus on stage and on screen in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (the film adaptation directed by Richard Lester), and Max Bialystock in the original film version of Mel Brooks‘ The Producers (1967), with Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, and Kenneth Mars. Mostel was a student of Don Richardson, and he used an acting technique based on muscle memory.

He was blacklisted during the 1950s, and his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee was well-publicized. Mostel would later star in Martin Ritt‘s Hollywood Blacklist drama film The Front (1976) alongside Woody Allen, for which Mostel was nominated for the British Academy Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. Mostel was an Obie Award and three-time Tony Award winner. He is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame, inducted posthumously in 1979.

Early films include Roy Del Ruth’s Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), with Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly and Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra; Elia Kazan‘s Panic in the Streets (1950), with Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Jack Palance; The Enforcer (1951), with Humphrey Bogart; Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951), withClifton Webb; George Cukor‘s The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951), with Jeanne Crain, Scott Brady, and Thelma Ritter.

Later films included Great Catherine (1968), with Peter O’Toole, Jeanne Moreau, and Jack Hawkins; The Great Bank Robbery (1969), with Kim Novak, Clint Walker, and Claude Akins; Peter Yates‘s The Hot Rock (1972), with Robert Redford, George Segal, Ron Leibman, Paul Sand, and Moses Gunn; Journey into Fear (1975), with Sam Waterston, Yvette Mimieux, Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, Shelley Winters, Stanley Holloway, Joseph Wiseman and Ian McShane. His last role was voicing in the animated film Watership Down (1978), with John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne, and Roy Kinnear.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)


  • Du Barry Was a Lady (1943) – direcyed by Roy Del Ruth
  • Panic in the Streets (1950) – directed by Elia Kazan
  • The Enforcer (1951) – directed by Bretaigne Windust
  • Sirocco (1951) – direted by Curtis Bernhardt
  • Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951) – directed by Henry Koster
  • The Guy Who Came Back (1951) – directed by Joseph M. Newman
  • The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951) – directed by George Cukor
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) – directed by Richard Lester
  • The Producers (1967)** – directed by Mel Brooks
  • Children of the Exodus (1967) – directed by Peter Ebin – short
  • Ride of the Valkyrie (1967) – directed by Peter Brook – short
  • Monsieur Lecoq (1967) – directed by Seth Holt – also co-writer – unfinished
  • Great Catherine (1968) – directed by Gordon Flemyng
  • The Great Bank Robbery (1969) – direcyed by Hy Averback
  • The Angel Levine (1970) – directed by Ján Kadár
  • The Hot Rock (1972) – directed by Peter Yates
  • Once Upon a Scoundrel (1973) – directed by George Schaefer
  • Marco (1973) – directed by Seymour Robbie
  • Rhinoceros (1974) – directed by Tom O’Horgan
  • Foreplay (1975) – directed by Bruce Malmuth, Robert McCarty, Ralph Rosenblum, & John G. Avildsen – anthology
  • Journey Into Fear (1975) – directed by Daniel Mann
  • Mastermind (1976) – directed by Alex March
  • The Front (1976) – direcyed by Martin Ritt
  • Hollywood on Trial (1976) – directed by David Helpern – documentary
  • Watership Down (1977) – directed by Martin Rosen – posthumously released
  • Best Boy (1979) – directed by Ira Wohl – documentary – posthumously released


  • Off the Record (1948) – 2 episodes, main role
  • The Ford Theatre Hour (1948-1953) – anthology, 1 episode (1949)
  • Zero Mostel (1959) – TV movie
  • The World According to Sholom Aleichem (1959) – directed by Donald Richardson – TV movie
  • Play of the Week (1959-1961) – anthology, 2 episodes (1959, 1961)
  • Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1967-1973) – variety show, 2 episodes (1970)
  • Old Faithful (1973) – directed by Jorn H. Winther – TV movie
  • Saga of Sonora (1973) – directed by Marty Pasetta – TV movie
  • The CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People (1973-1981) – anthology, 1 episode (1975)
  • The Little Drummer Boy Book II (1976) – directed by Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr. – TV short
  • The Electric Company (1972-1978) – 650 episodes, recurring (1972-1977)
  • The Muppet Show (1976-1981) – variety show, special guest, 1 episode, posthumously aired (1977)