best films: #46: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971)

Corny melodrama and silly caricatures aside, 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof is a delightful Russian romp thanks to a fantastic soundtrack from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, a singular vision from director Norman Jewison, and an all-out, committed performance from Topol. And though no one involved could really move on from the film (possibly due to their recognizability in the roles – particularly Topol as Tevye; can you really think of him as anyone else?), it features some delightful, if campy, performances from Norma Crane as the wise wife Golde and Molly Picon as the iconic matchmaker Yente. But the real showcase in this film is the music. From the standards – “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man” – to my personal faves – “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Anatevka,” “Tevye’s Dream” – it’s jam-packed with great individual songs that are unique to basically everything else that Broadway has done in the 20th Century. It’s big, brassy, and great fun – and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that.

Standout Performance: Topol is at the top of his game here, the one true Tevye from the opening monologue to the last verse of “Anatevka.”
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