Chaim Topol, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ actor, dead at 87
Chaim Topol, the Academy Award-nominated actor who notably portrayed “Tevye” in the 1971 film “Fiddler on the Roof,” died at 87 years old.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog announced Topol’s death on Wednesday.
“One of the most outstanding Israeli stage artists,” Herzog said.
“A gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and above all entered deep into our hearts.”
“Topol was one of the giants of Israeli culture and he will be greatly missed. Condolences to his dear family and all his loved ones,” he added.
Alzheimer’s was given as the cause, according to reports.
His son Omer told Israeli news outlet Ynet earlier in the week that the actor was diagnosed with the disease several years ago.
He first took on the role of Tevye the Dairyman in “Fiddler on the Roof” on stage in Israel and London in the late 1960s.
The musical focuses on a man who attempts to maintain his Jewish traditions while three daughters look to be married.
For the 1971 movie, Topol was selected to play Tevye over Zero Mostel, who had starred in the Broadway production.
Despite being in his mid-30s and playing a man about 20 years older, Topol was critically acclaimed.
He won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy in 1972, beating out four other candidates including Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka.
His renditions of “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Tradition” are two of the most memorable songs in movie history.
He was also nominated for an Oscar, one of eight nominations the film received, though he lost to Gene Hackman for “The French Connection.”
In 1991, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in a Broadway revival of the show.
In the role he would be best remembered for, Topol played Tevye on and off through 2009.
“Fiddler on the Roof” was not his only highlight.
He won the Golden Globe for Best Newcomer — Male in 1965 for his work in “Sallah Shabati,” an Israeli comedy.
For his work in the 1972 comedy-drama “Follow Me!” Topol was named Best Actor by the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
Topol played Dr. Hans Zarkov in the 1980 cult classic superhero film “Flash Gordon.”
He also acted in the 1981 James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only,” as a smuggler who helps 007, played by Roger Moore.
More than just an actor, Topol’s sketches of Israeli presidents were produced as part of a stamp series. He illustrated more than 20 books in Hebrew and English.
In 2015, he received the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.
Topol married Galia Finkelstein and they had three children, Anat, Ady and Omer.