‘Fiddler On The Roof’ And ‘The Sound Of Music’ Star Theodore Bikel Dies at 91

‘Fiddler On The Roof’ And ‘The Sound Of Music’ Star Theodore Bikel Dies at 91
Theodore Bikel Bev Sykes / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Theodore Bikel, famously known for playing Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” died in Los Angeles. Bikel was 91.


Bikel died of natural causes at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent Robert Malcolm said.

Bikel played the role of Tevye more than 2,000 times on Broadway. He first took the role in 1967.

According to BBC, he received an Academy Award nomination in 1958 for playing Sheriff Max Muller in “The Defiant Ones.”

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He starred on Broadway in the original 1959 production of “The Sound of Music,” which ran until 1963, as Captain Georg von Trapp. His role in the musical earned him a Tony Award nomination. Mary Martin played the role of Maria in the musical. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer took their parts in the film adaptation, released in 1965. The film went on to win the Academy Award for best picture.

Bikel made his Broadway debut in “Tonight in Samarkind” (1955). He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1958 for “The Rope Dancers.”

He has appeared in more than 150 movies, including “The African Queen” and “My Fair Lady.”

Bikel has played a variety of roles – some of his diverse portrayals include that of a Scottish police officer, a Russian submarine skipper (in the 1966 Cold War comedy “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” which also received an Oscar nomination), a Jewish refugee and a Dutch sea captain.

He made appearances on several television shows and opera productions. He also sang in 21 languages.

Born in Vienna on May 2, 1924, he moved to Palestine when he was 13 with his family when the Nazis arrived. Bikel spent his years as a teenager on the kibbutz. He went on to receive his first acting break in a Hebrew production of the Tevye stories, wherein his played the role of a Czarist constable.

Bikel’s contribution also includes founding the Newport Folk Festival in 1959.

Some of most notable feature credits include “I Want to Live!” (1958), “See You in the Morning” (1989), “Crisis in the Kremlin” (1992) and “Shadow Conspiracy” (1996).

He was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago, had been president of the Actors’ Equity Association for nine years from 1973-1982, board member of Amnesty International, member of the National Council on the Arts, and president of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.

According to Fox News, In his autobiography, Theo: The Autobiography of Theodore Bikel, he said that for a long time he battled with the question of whether he should have returned to his homeland in 1948 when Israel had declared its statehood. However, he stayed in London.

He wrote, “A few of my contemporaries regarded what I did as a character flaw, if not a downright act of desertion. In me, there remains a small, still voice that asks whether I can ever fully acquit myself in my own mind.”

Upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in 1997, he said, “In my world, history comes down to language and art. No one cares much about what battles were fought, who won them and who lost them — unless there is a painting, a play, a song or a poem that speaks of the event.”

Bikel’s survivors include his wife, Aimee Ginsburg; sons Rob and Danny Bikel; stepsons Zeev and Noam Ginsburg; and three grandchildren.

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