Theodore Bikel was a Jewish film and television actor.
Born Theodore Meir Bikel in May of 1924 in Vienna, Austria, Bikel fled Austria following the Nazi occupation. He was raised in Palestine and acting at the Hebrew
national theatre. In 1945, at the age of 21, he left Palestine to
study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
In 1951, Bikel made his first film debut in The
African Queen. In 1954, he immigrated to the United States, becoming
a naturalized citizen seven years later. Bikel appeared in many
popular television series including, “The Du Pont Show of the
Month.” In 1958, Bikel was nominated for an Academy Award for
his role as the Southern Sheriff in the film, The Defiant Ones.
Bikel was also a successful singer and performed in concerts around the world. A few of his popular albums include Israeli
Folk Songs (1955) and Silent No More (1972).
Eventually, it was Bikel’s singing career which
directed him to Broadway. In 1959, he performed in the original Broadway
cast of The Sound of Music, where he played Captain Georg Von
Trapp. Then in 1969, Bikel starred in the original run of Fiddler
On the Roof, as Tevye. Since then, Bikel has performed the role
of Tevye, more than any other actor. In 1961, Bikel co-founded, with Pete Seeger and George
Wein, the Newport Folk Festival.
Among his many awards are the 1959 Academy Award nomination, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, an honorary doctorate from an American university, and two Viennese distinguished awards.
Bikel was married to Amy Bikel and the couple has two children. He passed away on July 21, 2015 in his home.
Sources: “Theodore Bikel (1924 - ).” American
Jewish Desk Reference. NY: Random
House, 1999. pg. 350, The Theodore Bikel
Web Site, Wikipedia