A Jewish father in Imperial Russia deals with growing anti-Semitic feelings
in his village while also trying to marry off his three eldest daughters.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Directed by Norman Jewison
Written by Joseph Stein
Starring Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Paul Mann, Rosalind Harris, Neva Small, Michele Marsh, Paul Michael Glaser, Ray Lovelock, Louis Zorich
Based on the stage play by Joseph Stein
Oscar Wins - Best Cinematography, Best Sound,
Best Original Score (John Williams)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Topol),
Best Supporting Actor (Leonard Frey), Best Director,
Best Art Direction
Musicals in the twentieth century were ridiculously, unnecessarily long. I just want to get that out of the way. Very few were under two and a half hours. Most went far beyond that. Fiddler on the Roof, while a fine film, is a drop over three hours, which is just insane. Despite the runtime, this film is an upbeat joy filled with mirth, merriment, and some really catchy songs. If it takes a hundred years, I don't think I'll ever get "If I Was a Rich Man" out of my head. Led by a delightfully charming performance from Topol, it's no wonder this film is considered one of the greatest Broadway adaptations of all time.
Topol is Tevye, a poor Jewish peasant living in Imperial Russia (about 1905). He sees himself as cursed with five daughters, and wants to make sure they are all married off to successful men who can give them bright futures. But of course, all three fall in love with kind, but penniless men. Tevye must also deal with the Russian soldiers who are occupying his village and growing increasingly more hostile and anti-Semitic. Could all of this been told in under three hours? Yeah, probably, but we surely would've missed out on so many delightful musical numbers.
I wasn't expecting the ending of Fiddler on the Roof to be ambiguous. Are things going to work out for Tevye and his family? Knowing historically what comes next for the Jewish people, I'm going to say regrettably no. And yes, the specter of the Holocaust hangs over the entire movie. But the strength of the Jews and their unshakable faith is quite inspiring, and it envelops this movie as well. If you've got three hours to kill, you could do worse.