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Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Poster

Trivia

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Director Norman Jewison was brought into the project by executives at United Artists who thought he was Jewish. His first words to the executives upon meeting them were, "You know I'm not Jewish, right?"
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The "Sunrise, Sunset" scene was not lit by electric light but by hundreds of candles.
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Final film of Norma Crane; she was suffering from breast cancer during production, and died less than 2 years later.
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The title comes from a painting by Russian artist Marc Chagall called "The Dead Man" which depicts a funeral scene and shows a man playing a violin on a rooftop. It is also used by Tevye in the story as a metaphor for trying to survive in a difficult, constantly changing world.
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To get the look he wanted for the film, director Norman Jewison told director of photography Oswald Morris, who was famous for shooting color films in unusual styles, to shoot the film in an earthy tone. Morris saw a woman wearing brown nylon hosiery, and thought; "that's the tone we want," and asked the woman for the stockings on the spot (and shot the entire film with a stocking over the lens). The weave can be detected in some scenes.
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The film was a surprise hit in Japan, where its obvious love for crumbling tradition struck a chord with Japanese audiences.
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Director Norman Jewison eschewed the levity of the stage production, as he felt the material dealt with serious themes. This is why he adopted a more natural, realistic approach to the production.
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Several times during the film, people touch a box on the door frame of a house. This is a Mezuzah; a case which contains a passage from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and and 11:13-21), which Jews traditionally affix to the door frames of their houses as a constant reminder of God's presence.
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Before production, Norma Crane was diagnosed with breast cancer, which would eventually kill her. She told only director Norman Jewison, co-star Topol and associate producer Patrick J. Palmer, all of whom kept her secret.
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Topol was only in his mid-30's when he performed the role of an older Tevye.
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Director of Photography, Oswald Morris was prevented from attending the Academy Awards ceremony by the producers of the film he was currently working on, who would not give him time off to attend. He was woken up in the early hours of the morning in London by a telephone call from the producer to tell him he had just won the Oscar for Best Cinematography.
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The first time this was shown on US TV it garnered 40 million viewers.
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The cart-horse, nicknamed "Shmuel" by the cast, was purchased from a lot destined for a Zagreb glue factory. After production Norman Jewison paid a local farmer to keep him for the rest of his natural life, which was another three years.
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Many devotees of the Broadway show were annoyed that Zero Mostel (who originated the role so famously on the Broadway stage) was not cast as Tevye in this film. The filmmakers decided the film needed to be more realistic, so a more "believeable" actor was hired, with Norman Jewison explaining: "one reason I liked Topol's performance so much on the stage was that he projected his sense of destiny as, and pride in being, a Jew. His Tevye never loses dignity and strength; he is a man who knows who he is and where he's going."
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To make Topol look older, the makeup team clipped 15 white hairs from director Norman Jewison's beard and applied them to Topol's eye brows (seven on the left, eight on the right).
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Every time Topol talks on camera to God, he's talking to a white ball on the end of a stick held out of camera range.
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It was only because President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia was a huge movie fan that he allowed the film to be made in his country. His Russian counterparts were less pleased, as the film is openly critical of the pogroms.
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To create the correct air of authenticity, production designer Robert F. Boyle studied the plans of over 100 turn-of-the-century Ukrainian synagogues before designing the one which appears in the film.
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The production design department scoured Europe for a location which was similar to what pre-Revolution Russia looked like. Because the filmmakers' weren't allowed to shoot in the Soviet Union (specifically in Ukraine, where the story takes place in a pre-Revolution shtetl - village south of Kiev) the producers eventually found what they required in rural Yugoslavia (now Croatia). Most of the villages had been destroyed by 1919, after the Russian civil war, during which hundreds of thousands of Jews were displaced and massacred, thus the end of shtetl life.
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Topol was nominated for the 1991 Tony Award (New York City) for Actor in a Musical for "Fiddler on the Roof" for recreating his film role of Tevye and is still performing the role in regional theater (2009). Rosalind Harris, who plays Tevye's oldest daughter, Tzeitel, in the film, played Tevye's wife, Golde, in the 1991 Broadway revival with Topol.
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"Tevye's Dream" is presented in a desaturated image rather than full color to make it look like a black-and-white dream sequence. There is a full-color version of the song, however, which can be viewed on the Special Edition DVD.
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The Broadway stage production of "Fiddler on the Roof" opened at the Imperial Theater in New York on September 22, 1964, and ran for 3,242 performances, setting a record for the longest-running show on Broadway, passing "Life With Father", which held the record for 25 years. In the original cast as Tevye was Zero Mostel. Bea Arthur, best known to audiences as Maude Findlay from the series Maude (1972) as well as portraying Dorothy on TV's The Golden Girls (1985), played Yente. "Fiddler on the Roof" won the 1965 Tony Awards (New York City) for Best Musical, Best Author, and Best Score. The original Broadway production is the 15th longest running show ever.
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Director Norman Jewison made blue-eyed actor Paul Michael Glaser wear brown-eyed contacts, even though Glaser is in fact Jewish.
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Norman Jewison considered Hanna Maron for the part of Golde but, when she lost a leg in a terrorist attack in Munich, had to give the part to Norma Crane. Other candidates for Golde included Anne Bancroft (who turned it down on the grounds that Golde was too small next to Tevye's), Anne Jackson, Claire Bloom, Geraldine Page, and Colleen Dewhurst.
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Topol had a severe toothache during the filming of the "If I Were a Rich Man" number.
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Marble dust was used to represent snow.
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By the early 1970s Hollywood roadshow presentations (especially musicals) were now no longer popular with critics and audiences. Recent musicals, including Camelot (1967), Doctor Dolittle (1967) were not as captivating, realistic,, as the film adaptations of Broadway musicals, had been. Those successful film adaptations, include; West Side Story (1961), The Music Man (1962), Mary Poppins (1964), were in the 1960s, so Norman Jewison, Walter Mirisch and United Artists were worried how the film would do once it got released. When it was released in 1971 it defied naysayers and received critical acclaim and became the highest-grossing film of the year, besting films like Shaft (1971), Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971), and the Academy Award-winning The French Connection (1971).
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Great care was taken to ensure the Jewish customs were portrayed as accurately as possible.
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Topol had already played the role of Tevye in the original London production of the stage musical.
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While the film's script remained very close to the original stage musical, it also capitalized on the vast possibilities offered by the medium itself. "In the theater, it is easier to accept a stylized, unreal atmosphere; film introduces the real world, with real scenery and real sounds," director Norman Jewison explained. "In film today it is very difficult to use music and poetry and to suspend audiences' disbelief, as The Wizard of Oz (1939) once did so perfectly."
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Zero Mostel, who created the role of Tevye on Broadway, was reportedly bitter he did not play the role in the movie. Years later, when his son Josh Mostel received a phone call offering him the role of Blotto in the TV series Delta House (1979), he reportedly yelled; "tell them to ask Topol's son if he wants the job!"
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Director Norman Jewison had Tutte Lemkow--the actor who plays the fiddler--try seven different instruments until he found the one which fit right.
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Orson Welles, Anthony Quinn and Marlon Brando were among the many actors who turned down the lead role of Tevye. Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye both wanted the role and were passed over.
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Adverse weather in Croatia meant some scenes had to be completed at Pinewood Studio, outside London.
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During the record-setting original Broadway run (3,242 performances) and the need to replace cast members from time to time, those who appeared in the original stage production include Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau, Herschel Bernardi, Bert Convy, Leonard Frey, Maria Karnilova, and Bette Midler.
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The film version omits two songs from the stage production: "Now I Have Everything" and "The Rumor".
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Rosalind Harris, who plays Tzietel, understudied for Tzietel in the original Broadway production in the 1960s for Bette Milder.
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Film debut of Paul Michael Glaser.
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According to the Casting Notes on the special edition DVD, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn and John Ritter all had appointments (probably for auditions, as character names were listed) for various roles including Motel, Perchik, and Fyedka. Also listed for probable auditions are Rob Reiner for Motel; Leland Palmer for Hodel and Tzeitel; Richard Thomas for Fyedka; Katey Sagal for an unspecified role; and Talia Shire (listed on the appointment sheet as Talia Coppola) for Hodel and Tzeitel. As the auditions were held in January 1970, most were very early in their careers.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Assi Dayan was cast in the part of Perchik but couldn't handle the English dialogue and was replaced by Paul Michael Glaser.
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At a cost of $9 million, this was United Artists' most expensive production of 1970.
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Paul Michael Glaser recorded a song called "Any Day Now" which did not appear in the stage version and was written especially for this film. However, it was cut in the interest of time and content.
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Features the only Oscar nominated performances of Topol and Leonard Frey.
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The film originally began with the 1968 United Artists logo, accompanied by a timpani piece, composed by John Williams. It was also seen on early television broadcasts, as well as on the RCA CED VideoDisc version in early 1981. It has been lost to the ravages of time, due to Transamerica Corporation no longer being associated with United Artists.
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According to producer Walter Mirisch, Anne Bancroft declined the role of Golde.
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Leonard Frey, who plays Motel, had previously been in the original Broadway production of the show as Mendel, the Rabbi's son. Similarly, Zvee Scooler, who plays the Rabbi here, was in the original play as Mordcha, the innkeeper.
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Talia Shire auditioned for the role of Hodel.
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Lillian Michelson, an uncredited movie researcher, who on previous projects could track down pictures of historical items needed for recreation in movies, met a challenge because there were no photos of 'Jewish girls' underwear from the 1890s'. She went to a Jewish restaurant and asked some older women from the time if anybody remembered what they looked like, one woman told her to stay right there, she was going to go to her apartment, 'And cut you out a pattern, because we had to sew our underwear back then'.
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Barry Dennen, who played Mendel, the rabbi's son, also worked with director Norman Jewison on Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) two years later, in which Dennen played Pontius Pilate and Josh Mostel, the son of Zero Mostel, who originated the role of Tevye on Broadway, played the psychedelic King Herod.
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You can see the panty hose that was put over the lens while filming during the "Matchmaker" number. Specifically at the 21:03 mark in the film.
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Cameo 

Sammy Bayes: the Assistant Choreographer is one of the Russian dancers.
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Director Cameo 

Norman Jewison: the voice of the rabbi who sings "Mazel tov, mazel tov" in Tevye's dream sequence.
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