Fiddler on the Roof (film)
|Fiddler on the Roof|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Norman Jewison|
|Produced by||Norman Jewison|
|Screenplay by||Joseph Stein|
|Based on||Tevye and His Daughters
by Sholem Aleichem
|Music by||John Williams
|Editing by||Antony Gibbs
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||179 minutes|
Fiddler on the Roof is the 1971 musical drama film produced and directed by Norman Jewison. It is an adaptation of the 1964 Broadway musical of the same name, with music composed by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and screenplay by Joseph Stein. The film won three Academy Awards, including one for arranger-conductor John Williams. It was nominated for several more, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Chaim Topol as Tevye, and Best Supporting Actor for Leonard Frey, who played Motel Kamzoil the Tailor (both had originally acted in the musical; Topol as Tevye in the London production and Frey in a minor part as Mendel, the rabbi's son). The decision to cast Topol, instead of Zero Mostel, as Tevye was a somewhat controversial one, as the role had originated with Mostel and he had made it famous. Years later, Jewison explained that he felt Mostel's larger-than-life personality, while fine on stage, would cause film audiences to see him (i.e., Zero Mostel the actor) rather than the character of Tevye.
The film centers on the family of Tevye, a Jewish family living in the town of Anatevka, in Tsarist Russia, in 1905. Anatevka is broken into two sections: a small Orthodox Jewish section; and a larger Russian Orthodox Christian section. Tevye notes that, "We don't bother them, and so far, they don't bother us." Throughout the film, Tevye breaks the fourth wall by talking at times, directly to the audience or to the heavens (to God), for the audience's benefit. Much of the story is also told in musical form.
Tevye is not wealthy, despite working hard, like most Jews in Anatevka, also having many children. He and his wife, Golde, have five daughters and cannot afford to give them much in the way of dowries. According to their tradition, they have to rely on the village matchmaker, Yente, to find them husbands. Life in the little town of Anatevka is very hard and Tevye speaks not only of the difficulties of being poor but also of the Jewish community's constant fear of harassment from their non-Jewish neighbors. In addition, Tevye has a lame horse, that adds to the misery of being poor, and has to pull the wagon by himself.
Act 1 
The film opens with Tevye explaining to the audience that what keeps the Jews of Anatevka going is the balance they achieve through following their ancient traditions. He also explains that the lot of the Jews in Russia is as precarious as a fiddler on a roof: trying to scratch out a pleasant tune, while not breaking their necks. The fiddler appears throughout the film as a metaphoric reminder of the Jews' ever-present fears and danger, and also as a symbol of the traditions Tevye is trying to hold onto as his world changes around him. While in town, Tevye meets Perchik, a radical Marxist from Kiev. Tevye invites Perchik to stay with him and his family, and as a deal, offers him food, in exchange for Perchik tutoring his daughters.
Through Yente, Tevye arranges a marriage for his oldest daughter, Tzeitel, to Lazar Wolf, a wealthy butcher. However, Tzeitel is in love with her childhood sweetheart, Motel (pronounced "mottle") Kamzoil the tailor, and begs her father not to make her marry the much older butcher. Initially angry because he has already made an "agreement" with Wolf, Tevye realizes that Tzeitel loves Motel and yields to his daughter's demands. To get Tzeitel and Tevye out of the agreement with Lazar, Tevye claims to have a nightmare, which he repeats to Golde. In the nightmare, he says that Golde's deceased Grandmother Tzeitel (Patience Collier) told him that Tzeitel is supposed to marry Motel, as it was decided in heaven. Also in the nightmare, Lazar Wolf's late wife, Fruma-Sarah, warns Tevye that if Tzeitel marries Lazar, she will kill Tzeitel after three weeks of marriage. Golde concludes that the dream was a message to be followed from their ancestors, and Tzeitel and Motel arrange to be married.
Meanwhile, after one of Perchik's lessons with Bielke and Shprintze (the youngest of Tevye's daughters), Tevye's second daughter, Hodel mocks Perchik's interpretation of the story of Leah he told her sisters. He, in turn, criticizes her for hanging on to the old traditions of her religion and tells her that the world is changing. To illustrate this, he dances with her, because the opposite sexes dancing together is considered forbidden to Orthodox Jews. The two are shown to be falling in love, and Perchik tells Hodel that they just changed an old tradition.
The constable is basically sympathetic to the Jewish villagers, though not enough to give up his job in their defense. He resists when ordered to put on a "spontaneous" anti-Jewish demonstration but gives in to keep his job. Before Tzeitel's wedding, he warns Tevye of the impending demonstration.
Later, at Tzeitel and Motel's wedding, an argument breaks out over whether a girl should be able to choose her own husband. Perchik addresses the crowd and says that, since they love each other, it should be left for the couple to decide and creates further controversy by asking Hodel to dance with him. The two begin to dance, and gradually, the crowd warms to the idea — with Tevye and Golde joining, then Motel and Tzeitel. The wedding then proceeds with great joy. Suddenly, the military presence in the town and the constable arrive and begin a pogrom, attacking the Jews and their property. The constable stops the attack on the wedding celebration after the "radical" Perchik is wounded in the scuffle with the tsar's men; however, he allows the pogrom to continue in the form of massive property damage to the village of Anatevka.
Act 2 
A few months later, as Perchik prepares to leave Anatevka to work for the revolution, he proposes to Hodel and she accepts. When they tell Tevye, he is furious that they have decided to marry without his permission, and with Perchik leaving Anatevka, but, again, he relents because they love each other. This time, Tevye tells Golde the truth — and as a side effect, is prompted to re-evaluate their own arranged marriage and relationship. Weeks later, when Perchik is arrested in Kiev and is exiled to Siberia, Hodel decides to join him there. She promises Tevye that she and Perchik will be married under a canopy there.
Not too long afterwards, Tzeitel and Motel become parents, and Motel finally buys the sewing machine for which he has long scrimped and saved. By now they are becoming, in their own right, respected members of the community, and a close, almost father-son relationship is developing between Motel and Tevye — who, not so long ago, had scorned Motel as a nobody.
Meanwhile, Tevye's third daughter, Chava, has fallen in love with a young Russian — a Russian Orthodox Christian — man, Fyedka. She eventually works up the courage to ask Tevye to allow her to marry him. Horrified, Tevye forbids her to see him again, but they elope and are married in a Russian Orthodox church. In a soliloquy reminiscent of those spoken by Tevye concerning his other daughters but with a radically different conclusion, Tevye concludes that he cannot accept Chava marrying a non-Jew, in effect abandoning the Jewish faith, so he disowns her.
Finally, the Jews of Anatevka are notified that they have to leave the village or be forced out by the government; they have three days. Tevye, his family and friends begin packing up to leave, heading for various parts of The United States and other places. Chava and her husband, Fyedka, come to Tevye's house and tell her family that they are leaving too — unable to stay in a place that would force innocent people out. Tevye shows signs of forgiving Chava for marrying outside her faith by telling Tzeitel to tell them, "God be with them," pleasing his wife and daughters, who also tell them where they will be living in New York, United States.
Just before the closing credits, Tevye spots the fiddler and motions to him to come along, symbolizing that even though he must leave his town, his traditions will always be with him. The film ends with the fiddler following Tevye down the road, playing the "Tradition" theme.
- Chaim Topol as Tevye
- Norma Crane as Golde
- Leonard Frey as Motel Kamzoil
- Molly Picon as Yente
- Paul Mann as Lazar Wolf
- Rosalind Harris as Tzeitel
- Michele Marsh as Hodel
- Neva Small as Chava
- Michael Glaser as Perchik
- Raymond Lovelock as Fyedka
- Elaine Edwards as Shprintze
- Candy Bonstein as Bielke
- Shimen Rushkin as Mordcha
- Zvee Scooler as Rabbi
- Louis Zorich as Constable
- Alfie Scopp as Avram
- Howard Goorney as Nachum
- Barry Dennen as Mendel
- Ruth Madoc as Fruma-Sarah
- Patience Collier as Grandmother Tzeitel
- Tutte Lemkow as Fiddler
- Marika Rivera as Rifka
Musical numbers 
- "Prologue / Tradition" - Tevye, Company
- "Main Title"
- "Matchmaker" - Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, Bielke
- "If I Were a Rich Man" - Tevye
- "Sabbath Prayer" - Tevye, Golde, Chorus
- "To Life" - Tevye, Lazar Wolf, Male Company
- "Tevye's Monologue (Tzeitel and Motel)" - Tevye
- "Miracle of Miracles" - Motel
- "Tevye's Dream" - Tevye, Golde, Grandmother Tzeitel, Rabbi, Fruma-Sarah, Chorus
- "Sunrise, Sunset" - Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel, Chorus
- "Wedding Celebration / The Bottle Dance"
- "Tevye's Monologue (Hodel and Perchik)" - Tevye
- "Do You Love Me?" - Tevye, Golde
- "Far from the Home I Love" - Hodel
- "Tevye's Monologue (Chava and Fyedka)" - Tevye
- "Chava Ballet Sequence (Little Bird, Little Chavaleh)" - Tevye
- "Anatevka" - Tevye, Golde, Lazar Wolf, Yente, Mendel, Mordcha, Company
Principal photography was done at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Most of the exterior shots were done in SFR Yugoslavia - specifically in Mala Gorica, Lekenik, and Zagreb within the Yugoslav constituent republic of Croatia. Isaac Stern provided the violin solos.
Differences from the Broadway musical 
The film follows the plot of the stage play very closely, retaining nearly all of the play's dialogue while adding a new scene showing Perchik being arrested, although it omits the songs Now I Have Everything and The Rumor (I Just Heard). It takes place in the Jewish village of Anatevka, within the Pale of Settlement in westernmost Tsarist Russia in 1905 and centers on the character of Tevye, a poor milkman, and his daughters' marriages. As Tevye says in the introductory narration, the Jews have relied upon their traditions to maintain the stability of their way of life for centuries; but as times change, that stability is threatened on the small scale by Tevye's daughters' wishes to marry men not chosen in the traditional way by the matchmaker, and on the large scale by pogroms and revolution in Russia. Lyrical portions of Tevye's Dream (Tailor Motel Kemzoil), were omitted to avoid repetition or anything that was considered obvious. Also, in the song Tradition Reb Nachum the beggar is mute, making wordless noises, omitting the dialogue between the beggar and Lazar Wolf, and the dialogue of Yente attempting to match Avram's son, with a blind daughter, was omitted. In the song Tradition, the dialogue between the two men, arguing about whether a sold horse is actually a mule was changed to whether a horse claimed to be six years old was actually twelve. Tevye whispers to one of the men that "it was really twelve years old", thus starting the heated argument again.
A new song intended to be sung by Perchik was recorded (Any Day Now), however, it was omitted from the final print and is included in the 2004 re-released soundtrack. When the film was re-released in 1979, several minutes were omitted, including the songs Far from the Home I Love and Anatevka.
Roadshow presentation 
Because the film follows the play so closely, and the play did not have an overture, the filmmakers chose to eliminate the customary film overture played before the beginning of most motion pictures shown in a roadshow-style presentation. However, there is an intermission featuring entr'acte music, and exit music is played at the end after the closing credits.
The film was a big hit earning United Artists profits of $6.1 million plus distribution profits of $8 million.
It also won the Golden Globe for Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Topol's acting.
- "FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 1971-08-19. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
- Movie Box Office Figures. LDS Film. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 194
- "Fiddler on the Roof – Cast, Crew, Director and Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
- "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- Official website
- Fiddler on the Roof at the Internet Movie Database
- Fiddler on the Roof at the TCM Movie Database
- Fiddler on the Roof at Box Office Mojo
- Fiddler on the Roof at Rotten Tomatoes