Marcel Marceau is the world's greatest mime. A master and genius who created visual illusion, facial expression, body movement, and storytelling without words. In 1947 he invented the famous Bip the clown, wearing a little-boy sailor suit and tall silk hat, and carrying one bright red flower. His actions brought the invisible art of silence, mime, to the world, and his career has spanned fifty years so far.
Marcel Marceau was born Marcel Mangel in Strasbourg, France
At age 15, in 1939 while living in Alsace-Lorraine they were uprooted by the Nazi’s and given two hours to pack their things for transport to the southwest of France. Instead Mengel changed his last name to Marceu after a Napoleanic general and fled to join the underground movement in Limoges. Then Marceu would change the identity cards of scores of children so they would appear to be too young to be sent to labor camps and pose as a Boy Scout leader and would lead children on a hiking trip in the Alps and into the safety of neutral Switzerland.
Became interested in the silent acting profession after seeing Charlie Chaplin
and later from artists like Marc Chagall and William Blake.
In 1947, Marceau created and performed as "Bip", the tragicomic clown whose striped pullover and silk-dented hat became recognized worldwide. Some of Bip’s misadventures would be with butterflies, lions, on ships or trains, and in dance-halls or restaurants.
In 1955, however, he performed for the first time in the United States on the Max Liebman Show of Shows and won him an Emmy award. He was a guest of appeared on and with Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore.
In 1973, he appeared on the BBC as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
In 1976, he appeared in Mel Brooks's Silent Movie playing the only character to speak. His acting career has been in several movies with one of his roles as mute puppeteer. It is known that Jim Henson
was the father of puppeteering on television, but Katharine Hepburn
was also a puppeteer as a teen.
When performing is his solo act he can be seen portraying a painter, in acutely observed detail, setting up his easel, blocking out his canvas, framing his subject landscape, squeezing the paint from a tube and mixing it on his palette.
In 1978 he received the Medaille Vermeil de la Ville de Paris.
In 1985, he was in the U.S.S.R. and was rushed to the hospital to discover that he had a perforated ulcer necessitated an emergency return to France and took him six months to recover before he could tour again.
In 1995, he along side Michael Jackson were choreographing a concert for HBO, but the project was cancelled due to Jackson’s being sick at the time.
In 1998, President Chirac of France named Marceau a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit. And received a grant to reopen his school, Marcel Marceau Foundation of which several of the board of directors include Pierce Brosnan, Pierre Cardin, and Dustin Hoffman.
In 1999, the city of New York declared March 18 Marcel Marceau Day.
In 2001, he was honored as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Previous recipients include heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and actor Michael Douglas.
In 2003 he spoke in an interview for the documentary on Charlie Chaplin
: The Life And Art Of Charlie Chaplin
He holds honorary doctorates from Ohio State University, Linfield College, Princeton University, and the University of Michigan.
By 2004 he was slowing down ever so slightly by performing over 150 shows a year, down from his average of 300 which is almost a show a day.
September 22, 2007: Passed away at his home in Cahors, France and is survived by his wife Anne Sicco Marceau, and four children. At the day of his funeral at Pere Lachaise cemetery where he joins the likes of writer Oscar Wilde, composer Frederic Chipin, and singer Jim Morrison, more than 300 people attended and his famous character Bip’s hat and famous wilting flower were next to the coffin.