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Book cover for Robert Frank"Zero Mostel Reads a Book" (Steidl, 2008)
When Robert Frank had completed his first two films, he accepted a commission for a photo-book from the New York Times, which became Zero Mostel Reads a Book. In it Frank takes the comic actor Zero Mostel (1915-1977) for his subject, and depicts him in cartoonish dimensions-bemused, baffled and apoplectic, as he makes his way through an unidentified hardback volume, seated at a table or on a sofa in a large lounge area.
Originally published "for the fun of it" in 1963 and dedicated to the American bookseller, the book was intended as a present for customers yet it never reached the book market. It has been a collector's item since. Zero Mostel Reads a Book references a series of theatrical and playful vignettes in which Mostel's most famous roles-Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in The Producers-are clearly signaled. It is a delightful moment of slapstick in Frank's oeuvre, and directly reflects his emphasis on the moving image at the time.