Chaim Topol, who passed away in Israel on Wednesday, was a beloved, acclaimed Israeli actor, best known around the world for his portrayal of Tevye in the film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. He was 87.
A few days ago, On the 9th of March, to be precise, the BBC carried the news that The actor Chaim Topol, had died at the age of 87.
His death was announced by no less than Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who described Topol as “one of the giants of Israeli culture”.
Topol is best known for his portrayal of milkman Tevye in the musical ‘Fiddler On The Roof,’
Topol was an actor, a singer and an illustrator. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his all-singing performance in the 1971 film adaptation of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.
He also appeared in films such as Flash Gordon, Follow Me, and the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
Topol, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago, was “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, said Herzog.
British actor and comedian Omid Djalili, who also played Tevye in a production run at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2017, : “Anyone who plays Tevye knows he can never top Topol. God rest his soul.”
Meanwhile, ‘Frozen’ actor Josh Gad offered: “There is no way to overstate how much this man and this performance meant to me. Topol is a large reason why I became an actor. In fact, his performance of Tevye in Fiddler was the very first performance I ever saw on a Broadway stage. RIP to a great.”
Topol was born in Tel Aviv in 1935, and began his acting career in an entertainment troupe during his Israeli army service. He rose to prominence in the Israeli comedy Sallah Shabati, about the hardships of a Mizrachi Jewish immigrant family in Israel in the early 1960s, which won him a Golden Globe award for most promising male newcomer.
More film roles followed in both Israel and the US, including the titular part in the 1975 adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, as Dr Hans Zarkov in the 1980 sci-fi adventure Flash Gordon, alongside Brian Blessed, and opposite Sir Roger Moore as the smuggler Milos Columbo in the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.
But he will be most remembered for playing Tevye, a troubled milkman in the village of Anatevka who attempts to maintain his Jewish traditions by marrying off his five daughters.
The role, which saw him perform songs such as If I Were a Rich Man, scored him a second Golden Globe, this time for best actor.
He was on active duty with the Israeli army when he was received his Academy Award nomination – becoming the first Israeli actor to do so – in 1972. But he was granted leave so he could attend the ceremony in Los Angeles.
Topol founded ‘Variety Israel’, an organisation that provides support for children living with disabilities and their families.
He also served as the president of Jordan River Village, a free overnight camp for sick Israeli children.
In 2005, Topol was voted the 90th-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet. And 10 years later, he was awarded the Israel Prize – the country’s most prestigious award – for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the state.
He is survived by his wife Galia and their three children.