Marceau, Marcel 1923–2007

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Marceau, Marcel 1923–2007

(Marcel Mangel)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg, France; died September 22, 2007, in Cahors (some sources cite Paris), France. Pantomimist, actor, artist, and writer. Marceau began his career with hopes of becoming a traditional stage actor, but instead he joined the pantomime company of Barrault-Renaud in the 1940s. Soon afterward he created his own pantomime company and introduced the world to Bip, the silent character with the worn-out top hat and the red carnation that he would portray for decades. Marceau performed hundreds of shows each year around the world, even into his eighties; he did not retire until 2005. His first U.S. tour began in 1955 at the Phoenix Theatre in New York City and moved to Broadway and beyond; his last U.S. performance is said to have been "The Bowler Hat" in New York City in 2002. Marceau's dedication to classical mime survived more than fifty years of changing trends and never went out of fashion. His repertoire was vast and his themes universal: his art did not require translation. It was virtually impossible to misinterpret him, and audiences never tired of his fluid performances. Marceau rarely spoke on stage or screen (a notable exception being the single word " non! " that he uttered in the otherwise wordless film Silent Movie, but he was a loquacious interview subject who enjoyed discussing his art and relating anecdotes about his life and career. His mission, he often told interviewers, was to capture the universal essence of man. Marceau's genius was the subject of many honors and awards around the world. In his own country, he was decorated a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1978; he also was named a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters and an officer of the French National Order of Merit. He was beloved by many, criticized by almost no one. Marceau was also a painter and a lithographer. He was both author and illustrator of the children's book The Story of Bip(1976), as well as several other children's books published in French. He was the coauthor (in his own silent way) of a book of photographs titled Bip in a Book(2001).



Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2007, p. B9.

New York Times, September 24, 2007, p. A25.

Times(London, England), September 24, 2007, p. 59.