Marcel Marceau pronounced in French; born Marcel Mangel; 22 March 1923 – 22 September 2007) was a French actor and mime artist best known for his stage character “Bip the Clown”. He called mime the “art of silence” and spent more than 60 years working as a professional performer all around the world.
He spent the most of World War II living in hiding and working with the French Resistance as a young Jew. Following the liberation of Paris in August, he gave his first significant performance to 3,000 soldiers. He studied mime and theatrical art in Paris after the war.
Pretending to be an employee of the school she oversaw, he attended Yvonne Hagnauer’s home in the outskirts of Paris; Hagnauer would go on to acquire the title of Righteous Among the Nations from Yad Vashem. Marcel’s father was executed in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 after being taken prisoner by the Gestapo. Marcel’s mom made it through.
During German occupation of France, Marcel and his elder brother Alain took on the last name “Marceau” in honor of French Revolutionary general François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers. In Limoges, the two brothers enlisted in the French Resistance. As part of the Jewish Resistance in France, they saved countless children from detention camps and racial legislation, and joined the French army following the liberation of Paris. Because of his proficiency in English, French, and German, Marceau served as a liaison officer for the Third Army under General George Patton.
When Marceau was five years old, his mother allegedly took him to see a Charlie Chaplin movie, which enthralled him and inspired him to pursue a career in mime. He employed mime for the first time following the invasion of France, keeping Jewish youngsters quiet as he assisted them in fleeing to Switzerland, which was neutral at the time.
He joined as a student at Charles Dullin’s School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris after the war ended in 1945, where he was taught by instructors like Joshua Smith and Étienne Decroux with Barrault, Jean-Louis.