Chaim Topol Dies: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Actor Was 87

Chaim Topol in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Topol, 1971
Courtesy Everett Collection

Fiddler on the Roof star Chaim Topol, who became professionally known solely by his last name, died Thursday, March 9, in Tel Aviv. He was 87. The Israeli actor had been battling Alzheimer’s.

For generations of movie fans and theatergoers he will forever be remembered as Tevye, the hugely charming, but long-suffering milkman in the classic film Fiddler on the Roof in which he performed the song “If I Were a Rich Man.”

He also appeared as a Greek smuggler in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Onlyand in the sci-fi film Flash GordonOn television he starred in the 1983 ABC miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance (1988)He starred in another ABC miniseries Queenie (1987), the 1973 NBC TV movie The Going Up of David Lev and the 1979 ABC TV movie The House on Garibaldi Street.

FLASH GORDON, from left, Topol, Melody Anderson, Sam J. Jones

Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Israel’s president Isaac Herzog said Topol “filled the cinema screens with his presence and above all entered deep into our hearts.”

During his long career Topol won two Golden Globes and was nominated for an Oscar and Tony Award.

He began acting in the 1950s as part of a theatrical troupe in the Israeli army. His staring role in the 1964 Israeli film Sallah Shabati won him a Golden Globe and earned him an Oscar nomination.

In 1966 he made his English-language film debut opposite Kirk Douglas and John Wayne in Cast a Giant Shadow.