22 September: Tribute to Marcel Marceau

OV Digital Desk
5 Min Read
Marcel Marceau

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Marceau (22 March 1923 — 22 September 2007) is widely considered to be one of the greatest mimes in the history of the art form.

Life and Career

Marceau was born on 22 March 1923, in Strasbourg, France. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest mimes in the history of the art form.

Marceau grew up in a Jewish family in Strasbourg, but his family fled to Limoges during World War II to escape the Nazis. It was during this time that he began his career in mime, entertaining children in hiding with his silent performances. After the war, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he met Etienne Decroux, a

In his childhood, Marceau was introduced to movies and dreamed of starring in silent films. He entertained his friends with impersonations of famous actors and mimes and would later use his silent acting skills to help smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied France. His pantomimes were used to keep children quiet during dangerous moments on the journey to the Switzerland border. Marceau made three of these trips and liberated at least 70 children during World War II.

After the war, Marceau studied dramatic acting and mime at the School of Dramatic Art of the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris. In 1947, he began playing his famous character Bip the Clown, a tragicomic figure with a striped shirt, white face paint, and a battered beflowered hat. Bip explored the range of human emotions and his actions spoke louder than words could. Soon after, he founded the Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau, the only pantomime company in the world at the time, to develop the art of silence.

Marceau performed in transcontinental tours and introduced people around the world to the art of miming. Millions more would become familiar with Marceau through his television and movie appearances. He played the role of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol in 1973 and earned an Emmy for Best Specialty Act for his 1956 appearance on the Max Liebman Show of Shows. Some of his stand-out performances in the motion picture realm include the 17 roles he played in the film First Class and his silent role in Shanks. Beyond his acting talent, Marceau also directed a mime drama and published two children’s books.

Marcel Marceau passed away on 22 September 2007, in Cahors, France, at the age of 84. He is remembered as a pioneer of modern mime and a tireless advocate for peace and justice.

Award and Legacy

Marcel Marceau’s contributions to the world of mime and the performing arts were widely recognized during his lifetime, and he received numerous awards and honors for his work.

Some of the most notable awards and honors Marceau received include:

  • Marceau was made a commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an Officer of the Légion d’honneur, and in 1978 he received the Médaille Vermeil de la Ville de Paris.
  • The Emmy Award for Best Speciality Act in 1956.
  • The National Order of Merit, another prestigious French award, in 1970
  • The Praemium Imperiale award for Theatre/Film from the Japan Art Association in 2001

Marceau’s legacy continues to inspire and influence generations of performers, particularly in the world of mime and physical theatre. His creation of the character Bip is still considered a seminal work in the history of mime, and his approach to the art form has influenced countless artists around the world.

Beyond his contributions to the performing arts, Marceau is also remembered for his commitment to humanitarian causes and his work as an activist for peace and justice. His efforts to raise awareness about important social issues continue to inspire others to this day.

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