Marcel Marceau


Biography of Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau (22 March 1923 – 22 September 2007) was an internationally acclaimed French actor and mime most famous for his persona as Bip the Clown.

He was born Marcel Mangel in Strasbourg, France to a Jewish family. His parents were Ann Werzberg and Charles Mangel, a kosher butcher. When Marcel was four years old, the family moved to Lille, but they later returned to Strasbourg. When France entered World War II, Marcel, 16, fled with his family to Limoges. In 1944 Marcel's father was captured and deported to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was killed. Marcel's mother survived.

Marcel and his older brother, Alain, adopted the last name "Marceau" during the German occupation of France; the name was chosen as a reference to François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers, a general of the French Revolution. The two brothers joined the French Resistance in Limoges, where they saved numerous children from the race laws and concentration camps, and, after the liberation of Paris, joined the French army. Owing to Marcel's excellent command of the English language, he worked as a liaison officer with General George Patton's army. Marcel started miming as a way of keeping children quiet as they were escaping to neutral Switzerland.

Marceau was demobilized 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 teachers like Joshua Smith and the great master, Étienne Decroux, who had also taught Jean-Louis Barrault.

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