SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!
This adaptation of the hit Broadway musical (based on short stories by Sholem Aleichem) emphasizes the cold and harsh reality for Jews living in a small community in turn-of-the-century Russia, persecuted by the Czar’s men, but still able to find joy in life, continuing their rich traditions. Even though the story deals with clashes between conservative and radical forces, there’s a lot of warmth, complete with feasts, romances and fantasy. Long, but touching sometimes and impressively staged, with engaging music. Grounded by a big-hearted Topol performance as Tevye, the milkman who has constant conversations with fellow villagers, us in the audience, and God.
1971-U.S. 181 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced and directed by Norman Jewison. Screenplay, Book: Joseph Stein. Cinematography: Oswald Morris. Songs: Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick (”Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, ”If I Were a Rich Man”, ”Sunrise, Sunset”). Cast: Topol (Tevye), Norma Crane (Golde), Leonard Frey (Motel Kamzoil), Molly Picon, Paul Mann, Rosalind Harris.
Trivia: On the soundtrack, Isaac Stern plays the violin. Also released in a 150-min. version. Aleichem’s stories have been filmed several times as straight dramas, most notably as Tevye (1939).
Oscars: Best Cinematography, Scoring Adaptation (John Williams), Sound. Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical), Actor (Topol).
Quote: “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” (Topol to God)
Last word: “I grew up with people calling me ‘Jewie’ and ‘Jewboy’ and found out I wasn’t Jewish! (laughs) But I’ve been searching for my own Jewishness all my life, and wound up in Yeshivas in Israel, and interpreting ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, trying to explain to the rest of the world what it’s like to be Jewish! (laughs) Like Topol said, I know more about Judaism than most Jews. We’re all products of our own history, as people. When you’re attacked, or you’re pushed, you push back, and you start studying why, and how.” (Jewison, The Hollywood Interview)