The showmanship behind Topol’s larger-than-life musical phenomenonFiddler on the Roofwas matched only by the publicity for it. An opportunistic campaign launched by the Premium Bonds centred on the show-stopping number If I Were a Rich Man was typical, using the story’s success on the London stage to create a film nominated for eight Oscars (and eventual winner of three).
Living in Ukrainia, Tevye (Topol) is a Jewish milkman with five daughters, and vows to see them all married. He uses a local marriage broker and even enlists God, via Tevye’s regular one-way conversations (‘I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?’) His eldest daughters Tzeitel and Hodel (Rosalind Harris and Michele Marsh) defy tradition and select their own husbands, asking their father to put their happiness before local custom. He agrees and at Tzeitel’s wedding men and women from the village dance together, breaking another taboo. Incited by an anti-Semitic government, Russian demonstrators disrupt the celebrations and ransack homes. It is the beginning of a period that will see the family split apart and the Jewish people exiled in a search for new homes and new life. Behind them all stands the lonely figure of the irrepressible Tevye.
With its combination of chutzpah and melodies (and the four years of honing whilst playing in the West End), Fiddler on the Roof was a certain hit. Against the tide of popular movies which favoured a brutal realism, Norman Jewison used its infectious sentimentality to guide his story – a formula he would repeat in Moonstruck and Only You. The film’s political message – intolerance has a consequence – remains wholly relevant.
Famespotters should look for early appearances by future TV favourites Ruth Madoc (Hi-De-Hi) and Roger Lloyd-Pack (Only Fools and Horses) from the UK, and American actor Paul Michael Glaser, who would break through as one half of the immortal cop duo Starsky and Hutch.
USA / 181 minutes / 1971
Writers:Joseph Stein (from his own play, based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem),
Chaim Topol as Tevye
Norma Crane as Golde
Leonard Frey as Motel
Molly Picon as Yente
Paul Mann as Lazar Wolf
Rosalind Harris as Tzeitel
Michele Marsh as Hodel
Neva Small as Chava
Paul Michael Glaser as Perchik
Ray Lovelock as Fyedka
Elaine Edwards as Shprintze
Candy Bonstein as Bielke
Shimen Ruskin as Mordcha
Zvee Scooler as Rabbi
Louis Zorich as Constable
Alfie Scopp as Avram
Howard Goorney as Nachum
Barry Dennen as Mendel
Vernon Dobtcheff as Russian Official
Ruth Madoc as Fruma Sarah
Patience Collier as Grandma Tzeitel
Tutte Lemkow as Fiddler
Brian Coburn as Berl
George Little as Hone
Arnold Diamond as Moishe
Marika Rivera as Rifka
Mark Malicz as Ezekial
Aharon Ipalé as Sheftel
Roger Lloyd Pack as Sexton
Vladimir Medar as Priest
Walter Cartier as Russian Dancer
Otto Diamant as Yussel (uncredited)
Harry Ditson as Leibesh (uncredited)
Harry Fielder as Russian (uncredited)
Judith Harte as Gnessi (uncredited)
Miki Iveria as Bess (uncredited)
Carl Jaffe as Isaac (uncredited)
Danny Mann as One of Rabbi’s students (uncredited)
Alfred Maron as Previous Rabbi (uncredited)
Albin Pahernik as Dancer (uncredited)
Kenneth Waller as (uncredited)
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