December 3, 1971



Fiddler on the Roof
, the longest-running musical in Broadway history, opened on screen last month--a huge, expensive ($9 million) repast of sentiment and song that might revive the institution of the big Sunday afternoon family musical, a form not much seen since 1965's Sound of Music. The film stars the Israeli actor Topol as Tevye the milkman in the Jewish community of Anatevka, somewhere in Russia in the first years of the century. The story is marvelously simple and tender: while his people's traditions are crumbling around him, Tevye must cope with the marriages of his three strong-willed daughters. The movie may miss something of the comedic genius of Zero Mostel, the original Tevye, but a richer atmosphere makes up for it. "Zero created the role for all the rest of us," Topol says. Nevertheless, it will be Topol, with his appealing warmth, who will henceforth be Fiddler for people all over the world. The play, which might seem to have a limited ethnic appeal, has been produced with great success in 31 other countries, including such unlikely places as Japan and Iceland. The movie will take Tevye even farther.

Marrying off even one daughter is a headache for Tevye.

To frighten his wife Golde into letting their eldest daughter marry the poor tailor she really loves instead of the rich butcher with whom she has been matched, Tevye invents an elaborate graveyard nightmare (left). Many of the family's ancestors appear, as does the looming figure of the butcher's dead wife.

In an earlier scene before his daughter changes his mind, Tevye celebrates the match with the butcher in the town tavern, bursting with local peasant color.