Sunday, October 07, 2007

Watching Mostel on TCM

Regular readers know my familiarity with Broadway shows. There are some actors who perform their role so well they become linked with the role for ever Anthony Quinn is forever linked to Zorba and Yul is linked to the King in the King and I. Zero Mostel is unique in the he is linked to two such roles as the lead in Fidler on the Roof (which I saw him perform on stage) and in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Amazingly, I had not bothered to sit and watch his film work. I saw the recent disasterous adaptation on Broadway with the untalented Alfred Molina who botched the role. The producer also toned down the despicable Communist son in law. I was spared the even more disasterous casting of Harvey Firestein and Rosie O"Donnel in the leads.

I want to point out that he was an amazing talent who often made his material better than it was with his skill. The Producers is largely remembered for his performance and to a far lesser degree Gene Wilder. I did fall out of my chair laughing when he attempts to bully Wilder by using a classic commie phrase "enemy of the people". Many people died with that very charge and my laugh was how clueless the recently blacklisted Mostel was.

Mostel was a communist sympathiser whose career benefited from the myth. I want to address
the disasterous film the Front. Woody Allen playing an inept bookie is a stretch. How is this dolt going to get someone to pay the interest (vig) by thumb wresting or bad satire? The movie presents the victims of the Blacklist without addressing who and what Communists were.

The movie starts with a shot of the Rosenberg traitors. Commie's have elevated them to among other things martyrs to US government anti-semitism. In fact Radosh and Venona have proven beyond any doubt they were guilty as charged. Had they co-operated, they were given several chances, they would have been spared. They decided the "cause" (Stalinism) was more important than their own children and chose to become martyr. Amazingly the Rosenberg's master (Stalin) was murdering Jews on the most imbecilic charges of Zionist or Titoist conspiracies. The usual suspects claim to be Trotskyites but seem to forget this anti-zionist mania preceeded Stalin.

The movie never addresses that Communists did spy and commit espionage in the USA for a hostile power. The move also never deals with the fact that these idiots were agents for a hostile foreign power whose totalitarian governance resulted in genocide. Nor does the movie mention CSPA was funded and subservient to Moscow.

The movie also does not present the fact that these people went through great lengths to disguise their affiliations. They often formed front groups without explicitly stating who they were to get others to serve their goals. This tactic is repeated today as the leaders of ANSWER, UPJ and Code Pink do not tell their members about Communist afiliations of their leaders.

Mostel gives an excellent performance in a blatantly dishonest film. The best part is when Mostel jumps out the window. Sadly he does not take his fellow communists with him. Allen is presented as an apolitical nebbish, but the reality is that the rest of America loathed Commies.The thought of an apolitical type being outraged by the blacklist, much less telling them F-you is far fetched. Moreover, the movie perpetuates the myth that the goverment persecuted apolitical innocent people like Allen's charachter.

Mostel does a great job in a Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum. The play is far better than the movie. If you have the ability to listen to the original cast on CD it is worth while.
The movie does star Buster Keaton in one of his last roles. Phil Silvers and Jack Gilford are also in the film as well. Gilford's role as Hysterium is underated with all the larger names around him.

Many of us seem to think that artistic skill confers wisdom or insight into other areas. The fact is it does not. Paul Robeson was an outspoken advocate of Communism even as the movement restricted artistic freedom of his peers and killed a friend or two. Mostel and the other Stalinists were at best indifferent to the genuine suffering caused by Stalin and others.

Mostel was a great performer with disasterous ideas.The usual suspects wail about blacklists and forget that Mostel would have found himself in a gulag or dead like his peers in the Soviet Union.

Beamish in 08


kevin said...

Mostel a zero? Wasn't he in The Producers as well?

Speaking of commies...

Che is Dead Day!

Celebrate good times, come on!

beakerkin said...

Mostel was the original actor in the Producers. His ability as a comedic actor is shown clearly. He was the original Tevye in Fidler on the Roof on Broadway. Mostel knew people who could have been Tevye and had a profound understandig of the authors work. The movie version was played by Topol who was a lesser talent but very capable. Mostel was bitter about not being cast in the role on film and it is future generations loss.

I will have to do a satire of the Producers. I could play Max Bloom and Farmer John could play the Mostel Role. The role of the clueless writer should be played by Troutsky.

We will call it Springtime For Renegade Eye.

Elmer's Brother said...

I recorded on DVD "Something Happened on the Way....." and The Producers.


ScottM said...

Amazing how few people get it about Communism, even now.

I just watched this movie tonight and posted a similar comment at IMDb:

I even made the same point about Mostel's excellent performance. I just wish I could have appreciated it more.

Incidentally, I think Jewison made the right decision in casting Topol in *Fiddler*, not because of politics, and not because of any lack of talent on Mostel's part--I have the Broadway cast album and listen to it frequently, and I also love Mostel's performances in *Forum*, *The Producers*, and even *Panic in the Streets*.

Topol, though, brought a certain gravitas to the role that was not in Mostel's line. It would have been a lesser film with Mostel as Tevye.