Chaim Topol, 'Fiddler on the Roof' Star, Dead at 87
Chaim Topol, the Israeli actor and singer best known for his performance as Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler on the Roof on stage as well as in Norman Jewison's Oscar-nominated 1971 film adaptation, has died. Topol passed away Thursday in Tel Aviv after a battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 87 years old.
Topol's death was confirmed by Israel's president Isaac Herzog, who remembered Topol as a "gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and especially entered deep into our hearts," per Reuters. On Wednesday, the actor's son told Mako that family had gathered "at home with him, he is surrounded and loved." 7 Israeli National News reported that Omer added, "He is still with us in his final hours, so it seems. He is here at home, the children are here, the grandchildren are here around him. All his loved ones and lovers are around him. May he pass quickly and easily."
Tradition!— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) March 9, 2023
So sad, 'Tevye' is gone, as legendary Israeli performer Chaim Topol, dies age 87. May his memory be always blessed and his films & performances continue to entertain and inspire us! pic.twitter.com/8nPAZhlMPN
Born in Tel Aviv in 1935, Topol started acting during his Israeli army service, when he began performing in the Nahal entertainment troupe. He went on to tour Israel with kibbutz theatre and satirical theatre companies. His breakthrough came in 1964 when he was cast as a Middle Eastern immigrant struggling to fend for his family in Israel in Sallah Shabati. The film was a massive hit and was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign-language film, with Topol taking home a Golden Globe for most promising male newcomer. He went on to make his English-language film debut alongside Kirk Douglas in Cast a Giant Shadow just two years later, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Topol, however, was best known for his role as Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, a role he landed after making the move to New York. He began appearing in the role in 1967, appearing in the West End production, which ran for 2,030 performances. He reprised the role in Jewison's 1971 film version, which was nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture and best actor for Topol. The film ultimately won for cinematography, sound, and music. He continued to play the role in various productions of Fiddler on the Roof around the US, London, Israel and Australia, with his last appearance as the character coming on a Boston stage in 2009. Topol was nominated for a Tony award in 1991 for the 1991 Broadway revival.
Topol's other credits include an Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in Galileo (1975), an American scientist, Dr. Hans Zarkov, in the cult sci-fi classic Flash Gordon (1980), and Greek smuggler Milos Columbo in For Your Eyes Only (1981). He also had roles in Before Winter Comes (1968) and The Public Eye (1972). Topol is survived by his wife, Galia, and their three children – Omer, Adi, and Anat.