Tuesday, June 04, 2013

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Zero Mostel

Artist:Zero Mostel
Song:Comedy Tonight
Album:A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum: Original Broadway Cast

Zero Mostel was a comic actor best known for his performances on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Fiddler On The Roof. He won Tony Awards for both shows. He also appeared in the film version of Forum and the 1967 film The Producers. He was born Samuel Joel Mostel Feb. 28, 1915 in Brooklyn, NY. The nickname Zero was because his parents told him he would never amount to gornisht. That's Yiddish for zero. His father wanted him to be a rabbi. But Mostel preferred painting and art. So while he is trying to get his artwork exhibited, he started performing comedy at parties. He was approached by the club Cafe Society in 1941 to become a professional comedian. It was then that he adopted the nickname Zero. From there he appeared in two Broadway shows, the 1943 film DuBarry Was A Lady and he performed comedy at New York's famed Paramount Theater. He was briefly in The Army in 1943 but was discharged due to colitis. He married his wife Kate in 1944 and as many folks know his actor son Josh was born in 1946. Mostel had his own TV show in New York a couple of times in the late 40s. After appearing in Elia Kazan's 1950 film Panic In The Streets, Mostel was blacklisted for communism. When he testified before HUAC in 1955, he pled the fifth amendment and turned his testimony into a comedy routine. But he wasn't able to perform and was finally able to revive his career playing Pseudolus in the 1962 Broadway show A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum written by Stephen Sondheim. The producers wanted Phil Silvers for Pseudolus because he was a big star as Sgt. Bilko. But Silvers was blind without his glasses and didn't want to risk tripping on stage. It was a good break for Mostel as the show was very successful and Mostel won a Tony. The original cast album is available as a budget CD. His next role was as Tevye in the 1964 show Fiddler On The Roof and that got him another Tony. Mostel also appeared in the 1966 film version of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. And he was hilarious as Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' 1967 film The Producers. In the 70s, Mostel turned to taking roles for the money. He didn't care if they were good roles. There were exceptions like Woody Allen's 1976 film The Front which was about the blacklist. Mostel was always heavy and he lost 100 pounds on a starvation diet. But it led to respiratory problems and Zero Mostel died on Sept. 8, 1977 at age 62. Here's Zero Mostel performing Comedy Tonight on the 25th Anniversary of the Tony Awards broadcast 1971.

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