” ” — Marcel Marceau
Marcel Mangel was born on this day in Strasbourg, France in 1923. Today is the 90th anniversary of this birth.
He was the son of Anne Werzber Mangel and Charles Mangel. Charles was a kosher butcher who loved to sing — he was a baritone — and supported art and theatre as well as music. Because Anne was Alsatian Marcel and his brother, Alain, grew up bilingual.
When he was five Marcel’s mother took him to see a Charlie Chaplain movie and Marcel was hooked. He marked seeing that movie as the point where he wanted to become a mime. He also listed: “Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy” [ Marcel Marceau .com ] and the Marx Brothers as inspirations.
He did well in literature, art and English (as a foreign language) in school. So by the time WWII broke out he was trilingual.
As a Jewish family the Mangels suffered under the German occupation in France. They fled to Limoges.
He had to hide his Jewish origin and changed his name to Marceau… His father was deported to Auschwitz, where he was killed in 1944. Both Marceau and his brother, Alain, were in the French underground, helping children to escape to safety in neutral Switzerland… [IMDb.com]
During the dangerous route to Switzerland Marceau used his miming skills to keep the children calm and quiet.
Marcel and Alain served in the underground and then joined French Army. Marcel acted “as interpreter for the Free French Forces under General Charles de Gaulle, acting as liaison officer with the allied armies.” [IMDb.com] “After the war, in 1946, he enrolled as a student in Charles Dullin’s School of Dramatic Art at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris.” [Ibid] The following year he created his most famous character, Bip.
Bip was a mixture of Chaplin and pantomine’s Pierrot. Marceau’s costume for the character was a battered opera hat, a striped pull over shirt and either overalls or a jacket. And he always performed Bip in white face. His one prop was a red rose. He formed the Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau aka ‘Compagnie de Mimodrame’. The group toured internationally. In 1978 he opened École Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris. He was actually an eloquent speaker and a respected teacher.
His “art of silence” filled a remarkable acting career that lasted over 60 years. He was an actor, director, teacher, interpreter, and public figure, and made extensive tours in countries on five continents. Outside of his mime profession, Marcel Marceau was a multilingual speaker and a great communicator, who surprised many with his flowing speeches in several languages. [IMDb.com]
In his later years he was living on a farm at Cahors, near Toulouse, France. He continued his routine practice daily to keep himself in good form, never losing the agility that made him famous. He also continued coaching his numerous students. [Ibid]
He died on September 23, 2007, at his home in France.