Actor. Born Samuel Joel Mostel in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, as a child he attended the Educational Alliance, an institution serving Jewish immigrants and their children, where he took drawing classes. He was graduated from City College of New York in 1935 and then entered a master's program in art at New York University. He dropped out after a year taking a position with the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project to teach drawing and painting. He auditioned as a comedian at the nightclub Cafe Society in late 1941 and debuted on February 16, 1942 adopting the stage name of Zero. He first appeared uncredited on Broadway in ‘Cafe Crown', but made his official debut in ‘Keep 'em Laughing' on April 24, 1942. The show ran for 77 performances. In March of 1943, Mostel was drafted into Army but was quickly given a medical discharge. His feature film bow in ‘DuBarry was a Lady' was released that same year. He spent the remaining war years performing in USO shows. He married former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, Kathryn Harkin, in 1944 and they had two sons. He made his television debut in the series "Off the Record' in 1948. He was named before the House Un-American Activities Committee as being a communist. He was then subpoenaed to testify before HUAC. After a twenty minute comedy testimony, Mostel plead the fifth and refused to name names and was therefore blacklisted. For the rest of the 1950s he was limited to nightclub and stage venues as a result. In 1958 he starred in the Off-Broadway production of ‘Ulysses in Nighttown,' and he won an Obie award for his performance, the Off-Broadway equivalent of a Tony. In 1961, he appeared in Broadway's ‘Rhinoceros' and took home a Tony Award for best actor. In 1962 he originated the role of Pseudolus in the Broadway musical ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' and garnered another Tony Award. A third Tony Award came with ‘Fiddler on the Roof' which opened at the Imperial Theatre on September 22, 1964 with Mostel in the roll of Tevya. In 1966 he reprised the role of Pseudolus in the film version of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' and in 1968 he appeared as Max Bialystock in the cult favorite, ‘The Producers.' In 1976 he appeared in ‘The Front.' He was in rehearsals for ‘The Merchant,' when he collapsed and was taken to hospital. He succumbed to a suspected aortic aneurysm at the age of sixty-two. Released posthumously were his classic appearance on the ‘Muppet Show' and his voice performance for the animated ‘Watership Down' in 1978.
Bio by: Iola