Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau

Feb 4, 2009, 4:00 PM |

Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau, as Bip the clown, 16 June 1977
Born Marcel Marceau
22 March 1923(1923-03-22)
Strasbourg, France
Died 22 September 2007 (aged 84)
Cahors, France

Marcel Marceau (born Marcel Mangel) (22 March 1923 – 22 September 2007) was a celebrated French mime artist.



[edit] Early life and training

Marcel Marceau was born in Strasbourg, France, the son of Anne (née Werzberg) and Charles Mangel.[1] When he was 4 years of age, his family moved to Lille, but returned to Strasbourg when he was in his early teens.[2] When he was 16, France entered the Second World War, and his Jewish family was forced to flee from Strasbourg, near the German border, to Limoges.[2] His father, a kosher butcher, was arrested by the Gestapo and died in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.[2]

Marcel and his older brother, Alain, adopted the last name "Marceau" in order to hide their Jewish origins; as a gesture of defiance, however, the name was chosen as a reference to François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers, a general of the French Revolution.[3][2] The two brothers joined the French Resistance in Limoges, where they saved numerous Jewish children from concentration camps, and later joined Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces.[2] Due to Marcel's excellent command of the English language, he worked as a liaison officer with General Patton's army. [4],[2]

Marcel was married and divorced three times, first to Huguette Mallet with whom he had two sons, Michel and Baptiste. Secondly, to Ella Jaroszewicz. His third wife was Anne Sicco. They had two daughters, Camille and Aurélia.[5]

Gifted in gymnastics and acting, and inspired by the physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Marx Brothers, Marcel became an actor.[2] After the war, he enrolled in 1946 as a student in Charles Dullin's School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, where he studied with teachers like Joshua Smith and the great master, Étienne Decroux, who had also taught Jean-Louis Barrault. Marceau joined Barrault's company[6] 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.

Prior to beginning his career as a mime, Marcel Marceau danced with Rina Shaham (née Rosalind Gologorsky); she ended their partnership to pursue a successful career in modern dance in Israel.

[edit] 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, as well as 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 19th 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 Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Le Théâtre de la Renaissance, and the Sarah Bernhardt, as well as other playhouses throughout the world. From 1959 to 1960, a retrospective of his mimodramas, including the famous The 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 Three 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).

[edit] World recognition

With United States President Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter, and Amy Carter, June 16, 1977

Marceau performed all over the world in order to spread the "art of silence" (L'art du silence). He 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, D.C., 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.

Marceau also showed his versatility in motion pictures such as First Class, in which he played 17 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 a cameo as himself in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie, in which, with purposeful irony, his character has the only audible speaking part, uttering the single word "Non!" when Brooks asks him (subtitled) if he would participate in the film. 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.

As an author, Marceau published two books for children, the Marcel Marceau Alphabet Book and the Marcel Marceau Counting Book, and poetry and illustrations, including La ballade de Paris et du Monde (The Ballad of Paris and of the World), an art book 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 Œil, (The Third Eye), his collection of ten original lithographs, was 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, Marceau 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 never completed. 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, D.C., the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 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 Théâtre Antoine in Paris.

[edit] Acclaim and honors

The French Government conferred upon Marceau its highest honor, making him an "Officier de la Légion d'honneur", and in 1978 he received the Médaille Vermeil de la Ville de Paris. In November 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.

In 1999 New York City declared March 18 to be Marcel Marceau Day.

He became the eleventh recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Medal on April 30, 2001. The Auditorium was standing-room-only that night. “This year the person chosen to be the Wallenberg Medalist is unlike all previous medalists in that he is famous all over the world,” said University of Michigan professor emerita Irene Butter in her introduction. “Yet he is not widely known for his humanitarianism and acts of courage, for which we honor him tonight.”

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.

[edit] Death

At the age of 84, Marcel Marceau died at his home in Cahors, France, on Yom Kippur 22 September 2007. His burial ceremony was accompanied by Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, and the sarabande of Bach's Cello Suite No. 5. Marcel Marceau was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.[7]

[edit] Writings

[edit] References

  1. ^ Marcel Marceau Biography (1923-)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Marcel Marceau - In Memorium", Jewish Free Press, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, October 19, 2007
  3. ^ Luther, Claudia (24 September 2007). "Marcel Marceau, 84; legendary mime was his a$$’s standard-bearer for seven decades". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 27 September"> 
  4. ^ Marcel Marceau, Master of Silence
  5. ^ Marcel Marceau, Renowned Mime, Dies at 84-NY Times
  6. ^ Master of Mime passes away
  7. ^ Associated Press (26 September 2007). "Marcel Marceau laid to rest". CNN. Retrieved on 4 January"> 

[edit] External links