Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Zero Mostel's Face, Zero Mostel's Life (1962)

The features of actor Zero Mostel were featured in the
May, 1962 issue of Theatre Arts magazine, just as he was about to hit the Broadway stage in 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'.

Ten years earlier, Mostel's stage and film career had come to an abrupt stop when he was blacklisted for alleged ties to the Communist party.
He found very little work until 1957, when he was able to return to the stage.

His return brought awards and new acclaim, but the success of 'A Funny Thing Happened...' brought Zero Mostel to a level of 'household name' celebrity he'd never achieved before.
The show ran for 964 performances over the course of two years.

Mostel's performance earned him his second Tony award (the first being for Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros' in 1961).
He would reprise his role in the 1966 film version* - - after further establishing himself on Broadway in the role of Tevye in 'Fiddler on the Roof' (and bagging a further Tony).

(Click on images ▼ to ENLARGE in a new window)

(Photography ▲ by Max Waldman)

Zero Mostel's portrayal of Max Bialystock in the original 1968 film version of Mel Brooks' 'The Producers' is likely the role for which he is best remembered today - - but Mostel had to be cajoled into taking the part, and though the movie would achieve a legendary cult status, it did very little business at first and received many bad reviews.

Heading into the 1970's, Mostel's film work became a bit uneven, despite a few gems.
He continued to do stage work, mostly in revivals of previous roles.
Zero Mostel passed away in 1977, at the age of 62.

Mostel thought of himself primarily as a painter, reportedly feeling that acting came second on his list of priorities. He'd said that he cherished the years when he was unable to work in the 1950's, as it gave him time to paint in his studio and do what he loved the most.

- Follow link to a 2001 article from The New York Times: 'A Clown Harboring an Inner Artist'

- As of this writing, you can catch small glimpses of some of Zero Mostel's artwork at Barridoff Galleries, at AskArt.Com, at Barbara's Paintings, and at artnet

- Mostel's painting style is also mentioned in
'le violin d'ingres', an article about celebrity painters, at Artnet.

- A couple of Zero quotes:

“Humor is a sense of proportion and a power of seeing yourself from the outside.”

“The freedom of any society varies proportionately with the volume of its laughter.”

(Photo at right lovingly ganked from If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats) ▶

- Follow link to view a selection of
Robert Frank's photographs from
'Zero Mostel Reads a Book'.

- Zero Mostel's larger-than-life personality engendered many anecdotes and much storytelling.
Follow links below for a couple of examples:

'The Man Who Was More Than Zero', a tribute page at the site for Jim Brochu's one-man show, 'Zero Hour'.

'Zero: A Memory', at Connecting.the.Dots, and a corroborating story, 'What Was Hawaii Doing In The Pacific?'

'Off the Record' - - Reminiscences about Zero Mostel, Salvador Dali, and an old record collection at Charles Atkins.Com.

*(A personal note; 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' was the first film I ever saw, at the age of 3, in my first visit to a movie theater. What were my parents thinking? I have vivid memories of the experience, though I'm certain I didn't understand what was going on in the movie.)

- For related facial studies on this blog, follow links to:
'Victor Borge mugs in Smörgås Borge' and
'Two Special Faces Photographed: Fernandel reacts for Philippe Halsman, Anna Russell on Positive Stinking'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Astonishing how much he looks like Roger C. Carmel in these photos!

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