Home Pop Culture Star of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, Topol, has passed away at the...

Star of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, Topol, has passed away at the age of 87—May he rest in peace

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Israeli actor Topol, who gained global recognition for his portrayal of Tevye in the iconic musical Fiddler on the Roof, passed away at the age of 87.

The announcement was made by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, who praised Topol as a talented performer who left an indelible mark on stages and screens worldwide and won the affection of many audiences. Fans and fellow actors alike have widely mourned Topol’s death.

Chaim Topol was born on September 9, 1935, and began his acting career while serving in the Israeli army. He rose to fame after his breakout role in the 1964 Israeli film Sallah Shabati, for which he won a Golden Globe award for Most Promising Newcomer – Male.

 

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Topol’s son, Omer, disclosed last year that his father had Alzheimer’s, and his family recently announced that he was in his final hours.

In his career, Topol’s most notable performance was playing Tevye in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. The character was originally played by Zero Mostel on Broadway, but Topol is now strongly associated with the role.

Topol first played Tevye in the Israeli production in 1966 and was later asked to audition for the West End production in London, despite not being fluent in English at the time. He received excellent reviews for his performance, with one review from News of the World stating that “A bearded man in patched pants becomes king of London’s musical stage, a star overnight,” according to the book Tradition!.

 

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When adapting the show into a film in 1971, Norman Jewison decided to cast a relatively unknown actor for the lead role instead of Zero Mostel. Jewison believed that Chaim Topol brought the character of Tevye to life.

Topol’s performance in the film immortalized some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre, such as “Tradition,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “To Life,” and “If I Were a Rich Man.” The film went on to become the highest-grossing film of that year and received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Topol. Additionally, Topol won a Golden Globe for his performance.

In the 1980s, Topol appeared in Hollywood movies such as Flash Gordon and For Your Eyes Only. However, his most successful role was in Fiddler on the Roof. Despite being 30 years old when he first played the character, much younger than his character’s supposed age, he continued to play the part until 2009 with an estimated 3,500 performances.

 

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He even led the 1991 Broadway revival and received a Tony nomination for his performance. Topol embraced his association with the character and the worldwide fame it brought him.

“How many people are known for one part? How many people in my profession are known worldwide? So I am not complaining,” he told Times of Israel in a 2015 interview. “Sometimes I am surprised when I come to China or when I come to Tokyo or when I come to France or when I come wherever and the clerk at the immigration says ‘Topol, Topol, are you Topol?’ So yes, many people saw [Fiddler], and it is not a bad thing.”

Topol, a renowned Israeli actor, was not only successful in acting but also excelled as an illustrator. He was widely recognized for his philanthropic efforts, including founding an organization catering to children with special needs, and co-founding and chairing Jordan River Village, a camp that provided support for Arab and Jewish children with life-threatening illnesses.

Topol gained popularity for his outstanding performance as Tevye in the classic musical film, Fiddler on the Roof, which also earned him several accolades in his home country, including the prestigious Israel Prize in 2015. He was highly regarded by audiences worldwide for his exceptional talent both on stage and screen.

May He Rest in Peace!