`Fiddler on Roof` stage actor Theodore Bikel dies at 91

Tony- and Oscar-nominated actor Theodore Bikel, who defined the stage role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway, died in Los Angeles aged 91 Tuesday, his publicist said. 

AFP| Updated: Jul 22, 2015, 06:40 AM IST

Los Angeles: Tony- and Oscar-nominated actor Theodore Bikel, who defined the stage role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway, died in Los Angeles aged 91 Tuesday, his publicist said. 

Bikel, who also originated the role of Captain Georg von Trapp in the stage production of "The Sound of Music," died at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said Harlan Boll. 

The cause of death was not given. Born in Vienna in 1924, Bikel fled the 1938 invasion of Austria by Nazi Germany, heading for the Middle East, where his acting career began a few years later at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv.

He co-founded the Israeli Chamber Theater before leaving in 1946 for London, where he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and took early West End roles, including "A Streetcar Named Desire" with Vivian Leigh. 

Bikel received Tony nominations in 1958 for "The Rope Dancers" and in 1960 for "The Sound of Music." 

On the big screen, his first cinema credit was in the 1951 classic "The African Queen," while he scored a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for the 1958 drama "The Defiant Ones."

Other roles included dialect coach Zoltan Karpathy in the 1964 film version of "My Fair Lady."

But it was his role as Tevye -- played by Topol in the 1971 big screen version -- that dominated Bikel`s career with over 2,000 Broadway performances of "Fiddler on the Roof."

"He was a really lovely, entertaining, caring person," Bikel`s agent Robert Malcolm told Entertainment Weekly. "He was a wonderful storyteller and a deeply caring man."

He is survived by his fourth wife, Aimee Ginsburg-Bikel, two sons and three grandchildren.