Marcel Marceau, French actor, Died at 84

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Marcel Marceau died on the 22nd of September 2007 at the age of 84, he was a French actor and mime most famous for his stage persona as “Bip the Clown.”

Born Marcel Mangel in Strasbourg France to a Jewish family on the 22nd of March 1923, his parents were Ann Werzberg and Charles Mangel, a kosher butcher.

When Marcel was four years old, the family moved to Lille, but they later returned to Strasbourg.

When France entered World War II, Marcel, 16, fled with his family to Limoges.

In 1944 Marcel’s father was captured and deported to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was killed.

He won the Emmy Award for his work on television, was elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, and was declared a “National treasure” in Japan.

Marcel and his younger brother, Alain, adopted the last name “Marceau” during the German occupation of France; the name was chosen as a reference to François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers, a general of the French Revolution.

The two brothers joined the French Resistance in Limoges, where they saved numerous children from the race laws and concentration camps, and, after the liberation of Paris, joined the French army.

Owing to Marcel’s excellent command of the English, French and German languages, he worked as a liaison officer with General George Patton’s army.

In 1947 Marceau created Bip the Clown and was first played at the Théâtre de Poche (Pocket Theatre) in Paris.

In his appearance he wore a striped pullover and a battered, beflowered silk opera hat.

The outfit signified life’s fragility and Bip became his alter ego, just as the “Little Tramp” became Charlie Chaplin’s. Bip’s misadventures with everything from butterflies to lions, from ships and trains, to dance-halls or restaurants, were limitless.

As a style of Pantomime, Marceau was acknowledged without peer. Marceau, during a televised talk with Todd Farley, expresses his respect for the mime techniques that Charlie Chaplin used in his films, noting that Chaplin seemed to be the only silent film actor who used mime.

In 1959, Marcel Marceau established his own school in Paris, and later the Marceau Foundation to promote the art of pantomime in the United States.

His latest performances in 2000-2001 received great acclaim. He was made “Officer de la Legion d’Honneur” (1978) and “Grand Officer de la Legion d’Honneur” (1998), and was awarded the National Order of Merit (1998).

He won the Emmy Award for his work on television, and was elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, the Academie des beaux-arts France and the Institut de France, and was declared “National treasure” in Japan.

In 2002 he was UN Goodwill Ambassador at the international conference on aging in Madrid.

Among the many original performances he has devised are the mime-drama Don Juan (1964), and the ballet Candide (1971).

He has also created about 100 pantomimes, such as The Creation of the World.

In 1978 he became head of the Ecole de Mimodrame Marcel Marceau.

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