A moment of silence for Marcel Marceau

Most of the mimes I have ever seen are just as annoying as the panhandlers you meet in any big city. I am not a fan but have seen a few that know what they are doing and can really pull it off.

Marcel Marceau, the most well-known mime artist, was one of those who you could enjoy  watching. Many people tied to imitate him with his famous – The Cage, Walking Against the Wind, The Maskmaker, The Park, among others. He also had  a gallery of unforgettable characters – head waiters, mad sculptors, matadors, dictators and ballet dancers.

Marcel Marceau took his Final Taxi at 84.

 Born Marcel Mange, Marceau was born in Strasbourg, France. At the age of 16, his Jewish family was forced to flee their home when France entered the WWII. He later joined Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces and, due to his excellent English, worked as a liaison officer with General Patton’s army. His father, a kosher butcher, was arrested by the Gestapo and died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

 One of the earliest influences on Marceau’s work was the silent cinema. As a boy, he was fond of dressing up in his father’s trousers, and painting on a black moustache to do Charlie Chaplin impersonations for his playmates. Chaplin – along with Buster Keaton – remained his idol.

He studied mime in France and developed his own methods and also created was his most remembered character “Bip”.

 Since 1946, when he began his silent career, Mr. Marceau performed an average of 200 shows a year, most of them abroad, where he was more highly praised than in his native France. His repertory changed little over the decades, but he played to full houses in the United States, Germany and other European countries, Australia and Japan, where he was deemed “a national treasure.”

 My favorite movie with him is in Mel Brook’s Silent Movie. In his big scene Brook’s calls him on the phone.  All of the movie is silent except for the music. When Brook calls Marceau to be ask him if he will be in his ‘silent movie’ he responds with the ONLY speaking part in the entire movie, “NO!” 

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One Response

  1. In the early 80’s I happened to befriend a young mime in Paris who knew the famous Marceau. It seems like Marcel was generous not only with his time and with introductions and advice, but with cash and an occassional place to stay.

    I’ll never forget the way the young man described Marceau and then the idea of pantomiming as an art in general.

    These special performers felt like miming was THE most perfect and pure and universal human creation in art.

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