Zero Mostel does something with his hand

Seriously, I have no idea what this gesture is. Is he thinking about biting his nails, staunching a nervous belch, or just attempting to cover his mouth in horror, only not quite making it? The hand hovers there, near the mouth but apparently fearful of touching it. Despite the meaning of the movement being amorphous, the gesture is still somehow redolent of terror and shame. It WORKS, mate, it WORKS!

From Bretaigne Windust’s THE ENFORCER (with bits by Raoul Walsh, but probably not this bit.)

2 Responses to “Zero Mostel does something with his hand”

  1. Actually this is a classic Zero gesture that you’ll find in all his work. See A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Front.

    A very great man. When the producers of A Funny Thing decided they needed Jerome Robbons to choreograph and stage the show their next thought was “But what about Zero?” for Jerry Robbins had named him at the HUAC hearings. So the producers went to Zero and he said “Do I have to have lunch with him?” They said no, and the show went on.

    As you might expect, Jerry Robbins didn’t give Zero a single piece of direction.

    Not that anyone needed to.

  2. Reminds me of his line in The Producers, when he suggests killing the actors, and Gene Wilder protests that actors are not animals: “Oh no? Ever try eating with one?”

    I couldn’t recall that gesture in AFTHOTWTTF, but now that you mention it, I think I do…

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