Fiddler on the Roof (film)

Fiddler on the Roof

Theatrical release poster by Ted CoConis
Directed by Norman Jewison
Produced by
Screenplay by Joseph Stein
Based on Tevye and His Daughters
by Sholem Aleichem
Music by
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Edited by
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • November 3, 1971 (1971-11-03)
Running time
179 minutes[1]
Country United States
  • English
  • Hebrew
  • Russian
Budget $9 million
Box office $83.3 million[2]

Fiddler on the Roof is a 1971 American musical comedy-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. Starring Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, and Paul Mann, the film centers on the Tevye family, a Jewish family living in the town of Anatevka, in the Russian Empire, in 1905. Anatevka is broken into two sections: a small Orthodox Jewish section and a larger Russian Orthodox Christian section. Tevye (Topol) 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 directly to the audience or to the heavens. Tevye is not wealthy despite hard work, partly because he has a large family. He and his sharp-tongued wife, Golde (Crane), 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. In addition to the difficulties of being poor, Tevye speaks of the Jewish community's constant fear of harassment from their non-Jewish neighbors.

The film was released to critical acclaim and won three Academy Awards, including Best Original Score for arranger-conductor John Williams. It was nominated for several more, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Topol as Tevye, and Best Supporting Actor for 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 film's plot largely follows that of the musical from which it is adapted.

Act 1

In 1905, Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman living in the Ukrainian village of Anatevka, compares the lives of the Jews of Anatevka to a fiddler on the roof, using tradition to "scratch out a pleasant, simple tune" without breaking their necks. In town, Tevye meets Perchik, a radical Marxist from Kiev. Tevye invites Perchik to stay with his family, and offers him food in exchange for Perchik tutoring his daughters.

Tevye arranges for his oldest daughter, Tzeitel, to marry Lazar Wolf, a wealthy butcher. Tzeitel is in love with her childhood sweetheart, Motel Kamzoil, and begs her father not to make her marry Lazar Wolf. Although he is initially angry, Tevye realizes that Tzeitel loves Motel and yields to his daughter's demands. In order to convince his wife Golde that Tzeitel should not be married to Lazar Wolfe, Tevye claims to have had a nightmare. He says that Golde's deceased grandmother told him Tzeitel is supposed to marry Motel, and that Lazar Wolf's late wife, Fruma-Sarah, threatened to kill Tzeitel if the two are married. Golde concludes that the dream was a message from their ancestors, and Tzeitel and Motel arrange to be married.

Meanwhile, Tevye's second daughter, Hodel, and Perchik begin to fall in love. They argue over the story of Leah and the place of old religious traditions in a changing world. The two dance together, which is considered forbidden by Orthodox Jewish tradition. Perchik tells Hodel that they just changed an old tradition.

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. He creates further controversy by asking Hodel to dance with him. The crowd gradually warms to the idea and Tevye and Golde, then Motel and Tzeitel, join in dancing. The wedding proceeds with great joy. Suddenly, the military presence in the town and the constable arrive and begin a pogrom. The constable stops the attack on the wedding celebration after Perchik is wounded in the scuffle with the Tsar's men; however, he allows the men to continue destroying property in the village. Tevye and the immediate family stand still, until Tevye angrily orders them to clean up instead of standing around. Tevye silently asks why God allowed this to happen to them.


In its original theatrical release, the film was shown with an intermission and entr'acte music. [3]

Act 2

Months later, Perchik prepares to leave Anatevka 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, but he again relents because they love each other. Tevye tells Golde his reasons for consenting to their daughter's marriage, which leads them to re-evaluate their own arranged marriage. Tevye and Golde ultimately realize that, despite being paired by a matchmaker, they do love each other.

Weeks later, 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. Meanwhile, Tzeitel and Motel become parents, and Motel finally buys the sewing machine for which he has long scrimped and saved.

Tevye's third daughter Chava falls in love with a Russian Orthodox Christian named Fyedka. Tevye tells Chava to be distant friends with Fyedka, because of the difference in their religions. When Chava eventually works up the courage to ask Tevye's permission to marry Fyedka, Tevye tells her that marrying outside the family's faith is against tradition. He forbids her to have any contact with Fyedka or to even mention his name. The next morning, Fyedka and Chava elope and are married in a Russian Orthodox church. Golde learns of the marriage when she meets up with the priest. When a grief-stricken Golde tells Tevye about the marriage, he tells her that Chava is dead to the family and that they shall forget her altogether. Chava asks Tevye to accept her marriage. In a soliloquy, Tevye concludes that he cannot accept Chava marrying a non-Jew. He accuses her of abandoning the Jewish faith and disowns her.

One winter day, the Jews of Anatevka are notified that they have three days to leave the village or be forced out by the government. Tevye, his family and friends begin packing up to leave, heading for various parts of Europe and the United States. Tevye receives letters from Hodel mentioning that she is working hard while Perchik stays in the Siberian prison. It is hoped that when Perchik is released, they will join the others in the United States. Chava and her husband Fyedka come to Tevye's house and tell the family that they are leaving, being unable to stay in a place that would force innocent people out. They head to Kraków, Poland. Tevye shows signs of forgiving Chava by murmuring under his breath "And God be with you," silently urging Tzeitel to repeat his words to Chava. Golde calls out to Chava and Fyedka, telling them where they will be living in New York.

The Constable silently watches as the mass evacuation of Anatevka takes place. The community forms their circle at a crossroad one last time before scattering in different directions. 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.


Musical numbers

  1. "Prologue / Tradition" – Tevye and Company
  2. "Matchmaker" – Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, and Bielke
  3. "If I Were a Rich Man" – Tevye
  4. "Sabbath Prayer" – Tevye, Golde, and Chorus
  5. "To Life" – Tevye, Lazar Wolf, and Male Company
  6. "Tevye's Monologue (Tzeitel and Motel)" – Tevye
  7. "Miracle of Miracles" – Motel
  8. "Tevye's Dream" – Tevye, Golde, Grandmother Tzeitel, Rabbi, Fruma-Sarah, and Chorus
  9. "Sunrise, Sunset" – Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel, and Chorus
  10. "Wedding Celebration / The Bottle Dance"
  11. "Entr'acte" – Orchestra
  12. "Tevye's Monologue (Hodel and Perchik)" – Tevye
  13. "Do You Love Me?" – Tevye and Golde
  14. "Far from the Home I Love" – Hodel
  15. "Chava Ballet Sequence (Little Bird, Little Chavaleh)" – Tevye
  16. "Tevye's Monologue (Chava and Fyedka)" – Tevye
  17. "Anatevka" – Tevye, Golde, Lazar Wolf, Yente, Mendel, Mordcha, and Company


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 as Mostel, rather than the character of Tevye.

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, although it omits the songs "Now I Have Everything" and "The Rumor (I Just Heard)".[5][6] Lyrical portions of "Tevye's Dream (Tailor Motel Kemzoil)", were omitted to avoid repetition. Changes were also made in the song "Tradition," with the film omitting the dialogue between Reb Nachum the beggar (who, in the film, cannot speak) and Lazar Wolf as well as dialogue spoken by Yente. In addition, in the film, two men argue about whether a horse claimed to be six years old was actually twelve, rather than whether the horse was actually a mule.

Seven additional scenes were added to the film:

  1. The Constable gets orders from his superior for a "demonstration" against the Jews (referred to by the superior as "Christ-killers") in Anatevka.
  2. Perchik is arrested at a workers' rally in Kiev.
  3. Golde goes to the priest to look for Chava (described by her in the stage production).
  4. Motel gets dressed for his upcoming wedding to Tzeitel.
  5. The Rabbi and his students inside the synagogue receive news of the arrival of Motel's new sewing machine.
  6. The Rabbi takes the Torah out of the ark inside the synagogue for the last time. He weeps and chants quietly about having to abandon the synagogue.
  7. Tevye feeds his animals in the barn for the final time. He tells his lame horse to take care of his leg and to treat his new owner and master well.

The scene with Hodel and Perchik, where he plans to leave to start a revolution, was extended in the film. A new song intended to be sung by Perchik was recorded ("Any Day Now"), but was omitted from the final print; however, it was included in the 2004 re-released soundtrack. When the film was re-released in 1979, 32 minutes were cut, including the songs "Far from the Home I Love" and "Anatevka".

In the film, Tevye and Lazar Wolf discuss Wolf's proposed marriage to Tzeitel in Wolf's home, while in the stage version, the two meet in a tavern. The film shows Wolf's home as filled with golden artifacts. Prior to Wolf entering the scene, Tevye speaks to a female servant, who tells him not to touch anything.

Although a faithful adaptation of the original stage version, Fiddler scholar Jan Lisa Huttner has noted several differences between stage and screen.[5][7] She argues that changes in American culture and politics and developments in Israel led the filmmakers to portray certain characters differently and to offer a different version of Anatevka.[5] For example, the Broadway production cast Bea Arthur as a tall, booming Yente, while the film portrays Yente as tiny and timid. Huttner also notes that the "Chagall color palette" of the original Broadway production was exchanged for a grittier, more realistic depiction of the village of Anatevka.[5]


Roadshow presentation

Because the film follows the stage musical so closely, and the musical 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 a solo by the Fiddler played over the opening credits (after the conclusion of "Tradition"), there is an intermission featuring entr'acte music, and exit music is played at the end after the closing credits.


The film was a success, earning United Artists profits of $6.1 million, plus distribution profits of $8 million.[8]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 81% rating based on 37 reviews, with an average of 7.7/10.[9]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
1972 Academy Awards Best Picture Norman Jewison Nominated
Best Actor Topol Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Leonard Frey Nominated
Best Director Norman Jewison Nominated
Best Art Direction Robert F. Boyle, Michael Stringer, Peter Lamont Nominated
Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score John Williams Won
Best Cinematography Oswald Morris Won
Best Sound Gordon K. McCallum, David Hildyard Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Topol Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Paul Mann Nominated
Best Director Norman Jewison Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Cinematography Oswald Morris Nominated
Best Editing Antony Gibbs, Robert Lawrence Nominated
Best Sound Track Les Wiggins, David Hildyard, Gordon K. McCallum Nominated
American Cinema Editors Best Edited Feature Film Antony Gibbs, Robert Lawrence Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Oswald Morris Won
David di Donatello Best Foreign Actor Topol Won
Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Sound Editor - Dialogue Won
Sant Jordi Best Performance in a Foreign Film Topol Won
Writers Guild of America Award Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium Joseph Stein Nominated
2007 Satellite Awards Best DVD Extras (for the collector's edition) Nominated

American Film Institute recognition

See also


  1. "Fiddler on the Roof (U)". British Board of Film Classification. August 19, 1971. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  2. Movie Box Office Figures. LDS Film. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
  3.,, accessed October 17, 2016
  4. Walker, Craig (2011). On The Buses: The Complete Story. Andrews UK Limited. ISBN 9781908382849.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Huttner, Jan Lisa. "Fiddler: Stage versus Screen",, November 14, 2011, accessed September 7, 2015
  6. Fiddler on the Roof,, accessed September 7, 2015
  7. "My Kinda Town - Second City Tzivi". September 11, 2014.
  8. Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, p. 194.
  9. "Fiddler on the Roof (1971)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved November 29, 2016.

External links

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