Fiddler on the Roof icon Topol dies at 87

Chaim Topol, a prominent Israeli actor who charmed generations of theater-goers and moviegoers with his portrayal of the long-suffering and charismatic milkman Teve. Fiddler on the Roof, has died in Tel Aviv, Israeli leaders said on Thursday. He was 87 years old.

The reason was not immediately released.

Israeli leaders tweeted their memories and condolences to Topol’s family on Thursday.

Israel’s formal president, Isaac Herzog, hailed Topol as “one of the most outstanding Israeli actors” who “filled movie screens with his presence and, above all, entered deeply into our hearts.”

Israeli actor Chaim Topol is shown during an interview in Tel Aviv on April 8, 2015. The country’s leaders praised Topol’s artistic and humanitarian contributions. (Ariel Shalit/Associated Press)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Topol’s “contributions to Israeli culture will last for generations.”

Yair Lapid, the head of Israel’s opposition, said Topol taught Israelis “love for culture and love for the land”.

Topol’s charity, Jordan River Village, also announced his death, paying tribute to him as an “inspiration” whose “legacy will live on for generations to come.”

Estimated 3,500 performances as Tevye

Recipient of two Golden Globe Awards and nominated for both an Academy Award and a Tony Award, Topol Long is ranked among Israel’s most decorated actors. Most recently in 2015, he was celebrated for his contributions to film and culture with his country’s most prestigious honor, the Israel Award for Lifetime Achievement. Until a few years ago, he remained involved with theater and said he still fielded requests to play Tevye.

Topol began acting in the 1950s in a drama troupe in the Israeli army, where he met his future wife, Galia. His first major success was the lead role in the 1964 hit Israeli film sallallahu shabti, about the difficulties of Middle Eastern immigrants to Israel. The film made history as the first Israeli film to earn an Academy Award nomination and also earned Topol his first Golden Globe Award.

A black and white photograph shows a close-up of a bearded man
Topol is shown as Tevye in a Fiddler on the Roof production in London’s West End on January 30, 1968. (Keystone/Holton Archive/Getty Images)

Two years later, she made her English-language film debut opposite Kirk Douglas in cast a huge shadow, But the role of his life came in the long-running musical Fiddler on the RoofIn which he played the dairyman protagonist, Teve, a Jewish father trying to maintain his family’s cultural traditions despite the upheavals in his Russian shtetl.

With his rich voice, folkloric sarcasm and commanding stage presence, Topol’s Tevye became a popular hero in Israel and around the world, driving his horse-drawn wagon and delivering milk, butter and eggs to the rich.

While stage actor Zero Mostel played Tevye in the 1964 Broadway run, Topol took on the role in London’s West End and in a Broadway revival later in the decade.

He played the lead role in the 1971 film version directed by Canadian Norman Jewison, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. I lost to Gene Hackman french connection,

Topol has performed the role over 3,500 times on stage, most recently in 2009. With the help of heavy make-up and costume work, he first portrayed a much older, overbearing dairyman in his 30s and aged considerably in the role.

Topol has said that his personal experience as a descendant of Russian Jews helped him relate to Tevye and deepen his performance.

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In an interview with The Associated Press from his Tel Aviv home in 2015, on the occasion of accepting the Israel Award for Lifetime Achievement, Topol traced his meteoric rise from modest beginnings to worldwide fame.

He said, “I wasn’t raised in Hollywood. I grew up in a kibbutz.” “Sometimes I wonder when I come to China or when I come to Tokyo or when I come to France or wherever and the clerk at immigration says ‘Topol, Topol, are you Topol?’

Topol also starred in over 30 other films, including the lead role in GalileoIn Dr. Hans Zarkov Flash Gordon And Milos Columbo turns James Bond’s foil to ally for your Eyes Only With Roger Moore as Bond.

But he became synonymous with just one role – Tevye. Pouring his heart out about his impoverished Jewish community over the years, Topol made audiences laugh and cry from Broadway and West End stages.

“How many people are known for one part? How many people in my profession are known worldwide?” he told the Associated Press. “I’m not complaining.”

Yet Topol said she sometimes needed to look outside of acting to find meaning in her life. He devoted his later years to charity as chairman of the board of Jordan River Village, a camp serving Middle Eastern children with life-threatening diseases.

“I am interested in charity and want to accomplish more than just running a [acting] In the second part,” he said. “When you’re successful in a film and the money flows in, yes, obviously, it’s great. But to tell you it’s the most important thing, I’m not sure.”

Topol is survived by his wife and three children.

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