Topol, star of "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Flash Gordon," RIP

Topol—the mononymous Israeli actor who played Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971), Dr. Hans Zarkov in "Flash Gordon" (1980), and countless other roles—has died at age 87. He's also known for portraying smuggler Milos Columbo in "For Your Eyes Only" and Berel Jastrow in the TV series "The Winds of War" (1983) and "War and Remembrance" (1988). From the New York Times:

Chaim Topol was born in Tel Aviv on Sept. 9, 1935. His parents, Jacob, a plasterer, and Rel Goldman Topol, a seamstress, had fled shtetlach in Eastern Europe to settle in Palestine in the early 1930s. There, Jacob Topol became a member of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization.

As a youth, Chaim studied commercial art and trained for a career as a printer. But in 1953, while he was serving in the Israeli Army, an officer overheard him regaling fellow recruits with jokes. He was placed in an army entertainment unit and found his calling there.

He spent the next few years touring Israel with the group, entertaining soldiers with songs like "Sprinkler Hora," a hit in the fledgling state, where making the desert bloom was a national imperative.