Theodore Bikel, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Star, Dead at 91

The actor and folk singer died in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning

Last Updated: July 21, 2015 @ 1:18 PM

Theodore Bikel, the Oscar- and Tony-nominated actor and folk singer, died Tuesday morning in Los Angeles at the age of 91.

Bikel died at UCLA Medical Center, his publicist Harlan Boll announced.

He earned an Oscar nomination in 1960 for his role in “The Defiant Ones,” starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.

He also originated the role of Captain Georg von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” on Broadway and for playing Tevye in thousands of onstage performances of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

He made his first appearance as Tevye in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1967 — all in all, he performed it at least 2,000 times, more than any other actor, including Chaim Topol.

Moreover, when Topol, who starred in the 1971 movie version, had to withdraw from the North American show tour in 2008 because of an injury, Bikel stepped up.

In addition to “The Defiant Ones,” Bikel’s big-screen work included roles in John Huston‘s 1951 classic, “The Africa Queen” and Huston’s “Moulin Rouge.” He also starred in “The Pride and the Passion,” alongside Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren.

Bikel also starred in various TV series, most notably a 1990 appearance on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as CPO Segrey Rozhenko. His credits also include guest roles on “Hawaii Five-O,” “Charlie’s Angels,” Mission: Impossible,” and “Law and Order.”

Born on May 2, 1924 in Vienna, Austria, Bikel’s family fled to Mandatory Palestine following the German union with Austria in 1938. He started acting in his teens and was one of the founding members of the Cameri Theatre. Then, he moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1954, Bikel moved to the United States.

Along with his role in more than 150 films and TV shows, Bikel produced several albums of Jewish folk songs, including “Songs of a Russian Gypsy” in 1958.

Bikel was President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America and was president of Actors’ Equity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which he supported human rights.

He also served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Partners for Progressive Israel. His autobiography, “Theo,” which first published in 1995, has been reprinted and updated three times.

In 1962, Bikel co-founded Actors Federal Credit Union. Moreover, U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to serve on the National Council for the Arts in 1977.

Bikel is survived by his fourth wife, Aimee, and two children from his second wife.