Marcel Marceau, as Bip the clown, June 16, 1977
|Birth name:||Marcel Mangel|
|Date of birth:||March 22, 1923|
|Date of death:||22 September 2007 (aged 84)|
|Death location:||Paris, France|
Marcel Mangel (March 22, 1923 – September 22, 2007), better known by his stage name Marcel Marceau, was a well-known mime. He performed all over the world in order to spread the "art of silence" (L'art du silence). He was said to be "single-handedly responsible for reviving the art of mime after World War II."
He was most recognized by his famous white face paint, soft shoes and a battered hat topped with a red flower. Marceau showed the world every emotion imaginable yet for more than 50 years, he never voiced a sound. Offstage, however, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," Marceau originally developed his art amid the chaos and hurt of the World War. He used it to explore the range of human emotion, through all the stages of life. He created moments in which his viewers, even while being entertained by his art, could think about life, emotion, the meaning of silence and the emptiness of so many of the sounds we make. In a world that is increasingly loud, his revival of silence was a refreshing surprise.
Marcel Mangel was born in Strasbourg, France, the son of Anne Werzberg and Charles Mangel. When he was 16, his Jewish family was forced to flee from their home to Limoges when France entered the Second World War. He and his brother Alain later joined Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces and, due to his excellent English, he 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 in 1944. Marcel was married and divorced three times: the first to Huguette Mallet by which he had two sons, Michel and Baptiste, the second to Ella Jaroszewicz, and the third to Anne Sicco by which he had two daughters, Camille and Aurélia.
After having seen Charlie Chaplin, Marcel became an actor. After the war, he enrolled in 1946 as a student in Charles Dullin's School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris, where he studied with teachers like Charles Dullin and the great master, Étienne Decroux, who had also taught Jean-Louis Barrault. Marceau joined Barrault's company and was soon cast in the role of Arlequin in the pantomime, Baptiste—which Barrault himself had interpreted in the world famous film Les Enfants du Paradis. Marceau's performance won him such acclaim that he was encouraged to present his first "mimodrama," called Praxitele and the Golden Fish, at the Bernhardt Theatre that same year. The acclaim was unanimous and Marceau's career as a mime was firmly established.
Career and signature characters
In 1947, Marceau created "Bip," the clown, who in his striped pullover and battered, beflowered silk opera hat—signifying the fragility of life—has become his alter-ego, even as Chaplin's "Little Tramp" became that star's major personality. Bip's misadventures with everything from butterflies to lions, on ships and trains, in dance-halls or restaurants, were limitless. As a style pantomime, Marceau was acknowledged without peer. His silent exercises, which include such classic works as The Cage, Walking Against the Wind, The Mask Maker, and In The Park, and satires on everything from sculptors to matadors, were described as works of genius. Of his summation of the ages of man in the famous Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death, one critic said, "He accomplishes in less than two minutes what most novelists cannot do in volumes."
In 1949, following his receipt of the renowned Deburau Prize (established as a memorial to the nineteenth century mime master Jean-Gaspard Deburau) for his second mimodrama, "Death before Dawn," Marceau formed his Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau—the only company of pantomime in the world at the time. The ensemble played the leading Paris theaters—Le Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Le Theatre de la Renaissance, and the Sarah Bernhardt—as well as other playhouses throughout the world. During the 1959-60, a retrospective of his mimodramas, including the famous Overcoat by Gogol, ran for a full year at the Amibigu Theatre in Paris. He has produced 15 other mimodramas, including Pierrot de Montmartre, The 3 Wigs, The Pawn Shop, 14th July, The Wolf of Tsu Ku Mi, Paris Cries—Paris Laughs, and Don Juan—adapted from the Spanish writer Tirso de Molina.
Marceau first toured the United States in 1955 and 1956, close on the heels of his North American debut at the Stratford Festival of Canada. After his opening engagement at the Phoenix Theater in New York, which received rave reviews, he moved to the larger Barrymore Theater to accommodate the public demand. This first US tour ended with a record breaking return to standing room only crowds in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other major cities. His extensive transcontinental tours included South America, Africa, Australia, China, Japan, South East Asia, Russia and Europe. His last world tour covered the United States in 2004 and returned to Europe in 2005 and Australia in 2006.
Marceau's art became familiar to millions through his many television appearances. His first television performance as a star performer on the Max Liebman Show of Shows won him the television industry's coveted Emmy Award. He appeared on the BBC as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol in 1973. He was a favorite guest of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore, and he also had his own one-man show entitled "Meet Marcel Marceau." He teamed with Red Skelton in three concerts of pantomimes.
He also showed his versatility in motion pictures such as First Class, in which he played 17 different roles, Shanks, where he combined his silent art, playing a deaf and mute puppeteer, and his speaking talent, as a mad scientist; as Professor Ping in Barbarella, and as himself in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie, in which he is the only actor with a speaking part, the single word "Non!." A further example of Marceau's multiple talents was the mimodrama Candide, which he created for the Ballet company of the Hamburg Opera. He directed this work and also performed the title role. He also had a role in a low-budget film roughly based on his life story called Paint It White. The film was never completed because another actor in the movie, a life-long friend with whom he had attended school, died halfway through shooting.
Children have been delighted by his highly acclaimed Marcel Marceau Alphabet Book and Marcel Marceau Counting Book. Other publications of Marceau's poetry and illustrations include his La ballade de Paris et du Monde, which he wrote in 1966, and The Story of Bip, written and illustrated by Marceau and published by Harper and Row. In 1982, Le Troisième Oeil, (The Third Eye), his collection of ten original lithographs, have been published in Paris with an accompanying text by Marceau. Belfond of Paris published Pimporello in 1987. In 2001, a new photo book for children titled Bip in a Book, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, appeared in the bookstores in the US, France and Australia.
In 1978, he established his own school in Paris: École Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris, Marcel Marceau (International School of Mimodrame of Paris, Marcel Marceau). In 1996, he established the Marceau Foundation to promote mime in the United States.
In 1995, vocalist, dancer, choreographer and mime Michael Jackson and Marceau conceived a concert for HBO, but the project was frozen at the stage of rehearsals, never being completed because of the singer's illness at the time.
In 2000, Marceau brought his full mime company to New York City for presentation of his new mimodrama, The Bowler Hat, previously seen in Paris, London, Tokyo, Taipei, Caracas, Santo Domingo, Valencia (Venezuela) and Munich. From 1999, when Marceau returned with his classic solo show to New York and San Francisco after 15-year absences for critically-acclaimed sold out runs, his career in America enjoyed a remarkable renaissance with strong appeal to a third generation. He latterly appeared to overwhelming acclaim for extended engagements at such legendary American theaters as The Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, and the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, demonstrating the timeless appeal of the work and the mastery of this unique artist.
Marceau's new full company production Les Contes Fantastiques (Fantasy Tales) opened to great acclaim at the Theater Antoine in Paris.
Death and Legacy
Marceau passed away on September 22, 2007. He died of a heart attack in his house of Cahors, France; he was 84. He was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. He was honored with two minutes of silence, a particularly appropriate gesture considering how many people around the world found joy in Marceau's conspicuously silent art form.
Marceau's Creation of the World, a retelling of the first two chapters of Genesis is, in part, recreated by Axel Jodorowsky in Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1989 film Santa Sangre. Both father and son Jodorowsky had worked with Marceau.
Japan's Maruse Taro was greatly influenced by Marceau, and his mimer's name is derived from that of Marceau.
The French Government conferred upon Marceau its highest honor, making him an "Officier de la Legion d'honneur," and in 1978 he received the Medaille Vermeil de la Ville de Paris. In November of 1998, President Chirac named Marceau a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit; and he was an elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France. The City of Paris awarded him a grant, which enabled him to reopen his International School, which offered a three-year curriculum.
Marceau held honorary doctorates from Ohio State University, Linfield College, Princeton University, and the University of Michigan—America's way of honoring Marceau's creation of a new art form, inherited from an old tradition.
In 1999, the city of New York declared March 18 Marcel Marceau Day.
Marceau accepted the honor and responsibilities of serving as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Second World Assembly on Aging, which took place in Madrid, Spain, in April 2002.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Lust, Annette. From the Greek mimes to Marcel Marceau and beyond mimes, actors, Pierrots, and clowns: a chronicle of the many visages of mime in the theatre. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2000. ISBN 9780810835108
- Martin, Ben. Marcel Marceau, master of mime. New York: Paddington Press, 1978. ISBN 9780448226804
- Niedzialkowski, Stefan, and Jonathan Winslow. Beyond the word the world of mime. Troy, Mich: Momentum Books, 1993. ISBN 9781879094239
All links retrieved November 5, 2022.
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