Farewell to Topol, the great protagonist nominated for an Oscar for Fiddler on the Roof

Israeli actor Chaim Topol, better known by his last name, has died at the age of 87. He won an Oscar for his lead role in Norman Jewison’s Fiddler on the Roof but he also played Dr. Zarkov in Flash Gordon.

He was called Chaim Topolbut had become famous all over the world with only his surname, Topol, the great Israeli actor and singer who died in Tel Aviv on March 8 at the age of 87. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for some time. His face and voice will forever be linked to the character of Tevye the Milkman, which he played in The Fiddler on the Roofthe movie of Norman Jewison of 1971, taken from the 1964 stage musical, for which it was Oscar nominee, and which has been performed around 3,500 times on world stages. But while this is the role he is best known and loved for, it wasn’t his only contribution to cinema.

Topol: the role “leaned” from Zero Mostel and fortune in the West

If you have never seen The Fiddler on the Roofthe movie of Norman Jewison taken from the musical by Joseph Stein based on the tales of the Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem on the figure of Tevye the milkman, you really should. Or at least go to youtube to listen to some of the songs performed by Topol. The film, nominated for 8 Oscars, won three, for cinematography, the soundtrack of John Williams and the photograph of Oswald Morris. Topol was only 35 at the time he was chosen to play the film’s lead, but he was artfully aged (legend has it that gray hairs from Norman Jewison’s beard were applied to gray his eyebrows). The Broadway musical from which the film was adapted dated from 1964 and the first performer had been Zero Mostel, which had brought him success, so he caused a stir when Topol was chosen as the protagonist. Jewison justified the choice by saying that he was afraid that Mostel, well known in America, would engulf the film, but betting on the Israeli actor, a stage performer who was almost unknown in the cinema, proved successful. His physical prowess and his wonderful voice conquered the world. At the time of the film, the actor had already played Tevye on the Israeli and London stages and was still a veteran of the role. After The Fiddler on the RoofTopol played other roles in Western cinema: we remember him as Doctor Zarkov in Flash Gordonin Galileo of Joseph Losey e in For your eyes only, the James Bond film with Roger Moore. In Israel Topol, ex-military, theater actor, cabaret artist and even illustrator was a true legend. President Isaac Herzogwhich confirmed the news of his death, called him “a giant of Israeli culture.”

The plot of Fiddler on the Roof

The story of Tevye takes place in 1905 and tells the tribulations of a milkman from Anatevka, a fictional shtetl in Ukraine under Russian rule, a typical Jewish village where Christians and Jews live in apparent peace but are under the growing threat of anti-Semitic pogroms. The man has five daughters and would like to marry the older ones with the help of a matchmaker, but the girls have their own mentality, which puts them at odds with him and with the traditions of which he is a staunch defender: a poor tailor marries the other joins a Russian Orthodox Christian and the youngest marries a young Communist and follows him to Siberia when he is arrested. Tevye speaks and complains directly to God, but deep down he is a good man, unable to bear a grudge, even if he seems to cut his youngest and favorite daughter out of his life. Eventually, all the villagers will be forced to leave for various destinations, in an exile from which they will never return to their homeland. In the movie, Norma Crane is Tevye’s wife, while Paul Michael Glaser e Ray Lovelock they are the daughters’ non-Jewish husbands.

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