Fiddler on the Roof icon Chaim Topol dead at 87

Israeli actor Chaim Topol has died at the age of 87.

Topol is best known for his performance as Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof, a role he played on stage from 1966 until 2009. The actor said in 2014 on the 50th anniversary of the stage play in he had portrayed the character more than 4000 times.

Topol also played the 50-something Teyve on screen in the 1971 screen adaptation, for which he was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe.

According to The Times of Israel, Topol died in Tel Aviv after a years-long battle with Alzherimer’s.

The actor was intrinsically tied to the role of Teyve and he said in a 2015 interview, “How many people are known for one part? How many people in my profession are known worldwide? So, I am not complaining.

“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 immigration says, ‘Topol, Topol, are you Topol?’. Many people saw [Fiddler on the Roof], and it is not a bad thing.”

Topol toured around the World in productions of Fiddler on the Roof, including in Australia, the UK and Israel.

Topol’s fame was so enduring, especially in his homeland, the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, announced his death. Mr Herzog said he was “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”.

The actor first gained international notice with his breakout role in 1964 movie Sallah Shabati, a story about a Sephardic family in an immigrant absorption camp. He has credited his work on Sallah Shabati for nabbing him his role in the London production of Fiddler on the Roof, even though he also played Tevye in Israel.

When he turned up to the audition for the London production, they couldn’t believe he was only 30 years old.

He told Play to See in 2015, “They could not believe it was me when I went to the audition, because I was too young! They expected Sallah, who was old. Not me! I knew no English. I studied the songs. I sang, ‘If I was a Rich Man’ and then another song from Fiddler.

“It was the first audition in my life, in 1966. I must have sang four or five songs for them. They asked how many times I had seen the show. I said maybe four times. They couldn’t understand how I knew all the movements, all the songs from the show.

“I said, ‘No, you don’t understand… I’m currently performing Fiddler in Tel Aviv!’”

He also had a memorable role as James Bond ally in For Your Eyes Only, which starred Roger Moore as the famous British spy, and was also in Galileo and Flash Gordon.

Topol is survived by a wife and three children.

Originally published at

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