Marcel Marceau (22 March 1923 – 22 September 2007) was born in Strasbourg, France and is universally acclaimed as the world’s greatest mime. Marceau’s interest in the art of mime began at an early age when he would imitate with gestures anything that fired his imagination. Later he discovered such silent screen artists as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and his admiration for these great actors inspired him to pursue the art of silence as a profession.In 1946, he enrolled as a student in Charles Dullin’s School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, where he studied with the great master, Etienne Decroux, who had also taught Jean-Louis Barrault. The latter noticed Marceau’s exceptional talent, made him a member of his company, and cast him in the role of Arlequin in the pantomime entitled Baptiste – which Barrault himself had interpreted in the 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 so unanimous that Marceau’s career as a mime was firmly established.
In 1947, Marceau created Bip, the clown who in his striped pullover and battered, deflowered opera hat, has become his alter-ego. Bip’s misadventures with everything from butterflies to lions, on ships and trains, in dance-halls or restaurants, are limitless. As a style pantomime, Marceau has been acknowledged without peer. His silent exercises, which include such classic works at The Cage, Walking Against the Wind, The Mask Maker, and In The Park, and satires on everything from sculptors to matadors, have been 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 can not do in volumes.”
In 1949, following his receipt of the renowned Deburau Prize (established as a memorial to the 19th century master) 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, such as Le Theatre des Champs-Elyees, Le Theatre de la Renaissance, and the Sarah Bernhardt. 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 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.
Marceau first toured the United States in 1955-56, close on the heels of his North American debut at the Stratford (Ontario) Festival. After his opening engagement at the Phoenix Theater in New York, he moved to the larger Barrymore Theater to accommodate 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. Mr. Marceau’s art has become familiar to millions of Americans through his television appearances on the Max Liebman Show of Shows, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and Dinah Shore. He has also shown his versatility in motion pictures, such as First Class, Shanks and Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie.
Children have been delighted by the highly acclaimed Marcel Marceau Alphabet Book and Marcel Marceau Counting Book. Other publications of Mr. Marceau’s poetry and illustrations include his La ballade de Paris et du Monde, which he wrote in 1966, and The Story of Bip. In 1982 The Third Eye, his collection of ten lithographs, was published in Paris with an accompanying text by Mr. Marceau.
The rench Government has conferred upon Mr. 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 is an 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.
The City of Paris awarded him a grant which enabled him to reopen his International School, which offers a three year curriculum. Mr. Marceau holds honorary doctorates from Ohio State University, Linfield College, Princeton University, and the University of Michigan – America’s way of honoring Marcel Marceau’s creation of a new art form, inherited from an old tradition.
The 1997-98 marked the 50th anniversary of Marcel Marceau’s famous copyrighted character Bip In that season, he created with his Company a new mimodrama, The Bowler Hat, presented in Paris at the Espace Cardin for two months with great success, and since seen in London, Tokyo, Taipei and Caracas.
Marceau returned to North America in early 2000 with a sold-out three week engagement at the historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. While in the capital, he addressed the National Press Club, broadcast nationally on National Public Radio and cable television, and members of the Smithsonian Associates. He was also invited for a personal visit with President Clinton at the White House, and taught a three-day workshop.
Marcel Marceau Foundation
253 West 73rd Street, Suite 8G
New York, NY 10023
Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marcel-Marceau-karsh.jpg
Photo file from the Wikimedia Commons.