- Chaim Topol was born on Sept. 9, 1935.
- Best known for Fiddler On The Roof, he also appeared in numerous films, including Flash Gordon and For Your Eyes Only.
- Topol passed away on Mar. 9, 2023, at age 87.
“Sadly, the fiddler on the roof is no longer with us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday (Mar. 9) in reaction to the news that beloved Israeli actor Chaim Topol had passed away. Topol portrayed Tevye the milkman in the 1971 cinematic adaptation of the play Fiddler on the Roof. The exact cause of Topol’s death wasn’t initially released as Netanyahu praised his countryman’s legacy of art and music. “The strings of the fiddle have fallen silent. The story of Haim Topol’s life has been sealed, but I am certain that his contribution to Israeli culture will live on for generations,” Netanyahu said in his statement, per CNN. “He greatly loved the land of Israel, and the people of Israel loved him in return.”
Israeli president Issac Herzog also released a statement on Twitter. “From fiddler on the roof to the roof of the world, Haim Topol, who has passed away from us, was one of the most outstanding Israeli stage artists, 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,” he wrote.
As the world mourns the loss of this dynamic actor, here’s what you need to know about Chaim Topol.
Chaim Topol Was An Actor And Singer
Chaim Topol was born in Tel Aviv and got his start in acting with theatrical troupe in the Israeli army in the 1950s. “I wasn’t brought up in Hollywood. I was brought up in a kibbutz here, and I started to work at the age of 14 in a printing house,” he told the Associated Press in 2015. “Obviously, when you are successful in a film, and the money flows, yes, obviously, it is very nice. But to tell you that is the most important thing, I m not sure.”
Topol’s breakout came in 1964, when he appeared in the lead role in the Israeli film, Sallah Shabati. Two years later, he made his English-language film debut alongside Kirk Douglas in Cast a Giant Shadow. He would star in a few more English-language films in the late 1960s, before achieving his greatest success with Fiddler On The Roof. Afterward, he would appear in movies like 1975’s Galileo, 1980’s Flash Gordon, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, and 1998’s Left Luggage.
With his rich voice, Topol would find success in musicals and have an extensive recording career. “I actually was deprived of music until the age of 12,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 1983, per CNN. “We didn’t have a radio in the house.”
He Was A Golden Globe Winner
Topol won the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Male for his role in Sallah Shabati. He would win the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his part in Fiddler On The Roof, a performance that would also net him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1991, when Topol appeared in a Bwasrevival of Fiddler on the Roof, he would be nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor.
His Most Noted Role Was In Fiddler On The Roof
Topol is best known as Tevye, the lead role in Fiddler On The Roof. In the play and film, Topol portrays a Jewish father of five girls, trying to maintain his people’s cultural traditions in imperial Russia of the 1900s. He first played the part in a stage production in Tel Aviv, before being asked to bring his Tevye to London’s West End.
“They were very brave to let me have that part … Considering that my English was so limited,” with a “vocabulary of 50 words,” he said, per CNN. “I still don’t understand how they let me have the part.”
Since then, he’s become synonymous with the role. “How many people are known for one part? How many people in my profession are known worldwide? So I am not complaining,” he said. “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 the immigration says ‘Topol, Topol, are you Topol?’ So yes many people saw it (Fiddler) and it is not a bad thing.”
He Was Married For Over 60 Years
While performing in that army theatrical troupe, Topol met Galia, the woman who would become his wife for over six decades. The two had three children – Anat, Ady, and Omer Topol – before his death in 2023.
He Was Involved With Charity At The Time Of His Death
Topol resided in his wife’s childhood home in Tel Aviv. In 2009, he began a farewell tour of Fiddler on the Roof and enjoyed his golden years. In 2015, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
In his later years, he worked as the chairman of the board of Jordan River Village, a camp serving Middle Eastern children with life-threatening diseases, per AP. He said he joined the project thanks to Paul Newman, who founded the Hole in the Wall camps in which the champ be,longs.
“I can tell you that in our village Jews and Arabs and Christians an,d Muslims and Jewish are hugging each other and it works very well when politicians are not involved,” he told the AP. “I admit that I never went from part to part like actors usually do. I have other interests, and I draw, and I am interested in charities, and I find it more fulfilling than running from one part to another.”