Topol, Famed for His Performances as Tevye, Dies @ 87

March 9, 2023

Chaim Topol, known as Topol professionally, died March 9, 2023, in Tel Aviv. He was 87.

Fiddler's father (GIF via GIPHY)

Last year, the entertainer's family announced he was in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease, requesting privacy from fans.

Topol was born September 9, 1935, in what is now Israel. He entertained while in army service, touring Israel and building name recognition.

His performance in the film Sallah Shabati (1964) garnered a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer — Male, but it was his interpretation of the role of Tevye in the stage musical Fiddler on the Roof that made him Israel's first internationally recognized star.

Singing "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man," and "Sunrise, Sunset," songs that would become modern classics, Topol played Tevye for 40 years on the stage. His performance in the 1971 movie version led to an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win.

Topol's final bow as Tevye came in 2009 in Boston. A shoulder injury led to his early departure from that production, and he thereafter retired from the stage.

Topol in space (GIF via GIPHY)

Though Topol's gifts were less frequently captured on TV and in film, he made huge impressions in the titular role of Galileo (1975), as Dr. Hans Zarkov in the campfest Flash Gordon (1980), as pistachio-eating Columbo in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and in the miniseries The Winds of War (1983) and War and Remembrance (1988-1989), among others.

His last appearance on TV was in a 1993 episode of SeaQuest 2032, while his movie swan song was Left Luggage (1998), a Holocaust-themed film directed by Jeroen Krabbé (b. 1944) and co-starring Isabella Rossellini (b. 1952).

He never shied away from depicting his heritage. (Image via Trident)

Topol is survived by his wife of over 60 years and their three children.

1 Response

  1. What a wonderful actor he was. I saw him perform live in Toledo in 83; my first attendance to a live stage performance, I not only fell in love with the story of Fiddler, but also felt like a friend to Tevye.

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