Zero Mostel did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, portraying Max Bialystock in The Producers.
Mostel certainly puts a lot of energy and expression into his performance. This usually fits the various absurd situations he is in whether it is is trying to get finances by wooing old women, or going through the process of making the worst musical imaginable in the form of Springtime For Hitler. Mostel reactions are usually quite enjoyable in his manic delivery. Whether it is the face of surprise or the face of disgust he plays them well deriving the appropriate humor from each and every moment. In fact he even manages to amplify some of the performances in the film through his portrayal of Max's false supportive grins, as well Max's more honest moments of disbelief.
Mostel has a lot of fun with his portrayal of all the scheming that he participate in. He puts a lot of joy and enthusiasm of his performance that makes it pretty easy to follow old Max and Leo through their scheme that is cheating old ladies out of their money. With his flint in his eye and his endearing smile Mostel makes Max an appropriately likable schemer. A schemer that despite the nature of his scheme being quite despicable to say the least we as the audience can go along with quite easily, than we can somehow even feel sorry for when his scheme ends up failing in the end. He handles both the happy and the sad with the appropriate humor for Max.
Throughout the film he has excellent chemistry with Gene Wilder as Bloom. Mostel does well actually though by toning down his performance ever so slightly when going toe to toe with Wilder, as it is impossible to out manic the master of manic, Gene Wilder. They play well off of each other in both the scenes where they are working together as they create a fairly genuine friendship between the two, and the scenes where they fight. These scenes are particularly hilarious as each insults each with Wilder doing his insanity like a master, and Mostel going against him with somewhat downplayed insanity quite well as well.
Mostel gives an entertaining lead performance here I will say though he is not my very favorite part of the film just one of the aspects within it that I quite enjoy. Wilder really does hold a better command of film as a medium and I will say that he does get a little more comedy out of his role. Nevertheless this should not suggest that I have any problems with Mostel at all, he really is very good in his role that is fitting for the sort of comedy that the Producers is. To be up shown a by Wilder is not really a criticism against Mostel, as Mostel definitely gives a very enjoyable performance on his own, and not being quite the funniest in this film isn't a problem.