Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Music and culture come together in Norman Jewison’s classic 1971 musical Fiddler on the Roof.

At the turn of the century, the Ukrainian village of Anatevka “has traditions for everything,” according to Tevye (Topol), making life and everyone’s roles clearcut for most. Mamas, papas, daughters and sons—everyone knows where they stand in the lively Jewish community living in joyful harmony. Tevye has the task of marrying off three of his five daughters and laments that he’s a poor villager even though he’s grateful for what he has. Despite matchmaker Yente’s efforts, the young women want to be in charge of their lives. His daughter Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris) loves the tailor Motel (Lenoard Frey), but the wealthy butcher wants her as a wife. There’s Perchik (Paul Michael Glaser), who is a poor scholar and is interested in Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small), who meets a Christian peasant. It’s the start of a break from tradition that Tevye must come to terms with, as well as the rising threat of anti-Semitic activity coming from the Russian military. It’s a 3-hour epic portrayal of rural Jewish life amidst prejudice and tradition represented by a cheerful fiddler, despite the challenges and heartbreak swirling around the Tevye and his community.

Fiddler on the Roof was directed by Canadian legend Norman Jewison, adapted for the screen by the original playwright Joseph Stein, and based on the stories of Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem. With iconic songs like “Tradition”, “Matchmaker”, “Sunrise, Sunset”, and “If I Were a Rich Man”, the production was a feat, costing 9 million to make and went home with three academy awards in 1972—Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original song Score— after being recognized for eight nominations in total.

Review by Carolyn Mauricette

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Film

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Oscars

Canadian connection

Directed by Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison also directed Moonstruck, secured Cher a Best Actress award, Olympia Dukakis the Best-Supporting Actress award, and Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for John Patrick Shanley in 1987. Moonstruck was also partially filmed in Toronto.