Thursday, August 9, 2018

QuickFacts: Marcel Marceau

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For some reason, yesterday's Bytes wasn't emailed to subscribers.  I don't do the emailing or choose when it is sent, the blog does that, so I will repost it.  If you should now happen to get it twice, my apologies.

Otto
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Byter John P sent me a clip about Marcel Marceau that provided a lot of information that I had not known previously.  Thanks John.
Here are some items about Marcel Marceau . . .
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Marcel Marceau (1923 – 2007) was a French actor and mime artist most famous for his stage persona as "Bip the Clown". He referred to mime as the "art of silence" and performed professionally worldwide for over 60 years.
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Marceau was born in Strasbourg, France, to a Jewish family and was named Marcel Mangel. His father was from Poland and his mother came from what is today the Ukraine. 
At the age of 5 he was taken by his mother to see a Charlie Chaplin film.  He was entranced and determined to become a mime artist.  He entertained family and friends with his mime performances.
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After Germany invaded France, Mangel, then aged 16, fled and joined the French Resistance.  He and his brother Alain adopted the last name "Marceau" after a general of the French Revolution.
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Jewish residents fled Strasbourg but Marceau’s father was captured by the Gestapo, was sent to Auschwitz and died there.  Marceau’s mother survived.  Years later Marceau’s cousin, Georges Loinger, who had been a Commander in the Resistance with Marceau, commented “You see the pain and the sadness in his mime skits. The origin of that pain was his father’s deportation.”  Marceau didn’t speak of his war time experiences until he received an award in 2001 (more of that later), when he said “If I cry for my father, I have to cry for the millions of people who died. I have to bring hope to people,”
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Masquerading as a boy scout, Marceau evacuated a Jewish orphanage in eastern France. He told the hildren he was taking them on a vacation in the Alps and led them to safety in Switzerland. He made this dangerous journey three times, saving hundreds of Jewish orphans.  He was able to avoid detection by entertaining the children with silent pantomime.  Documentary filmmaker Phillipe Mora, whose father fought alongside Marceau in the French resistance, said, “Marceau started miming to keep children quiet as they were escaping. It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life.”
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On one occasion Marceau and a companion ran into a unit of 30 German soldiers in a forest.  Marceau pretended to be an advance guard of a larger French force and convinced the Germans to surrender
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After the liberation of Paris, Marceau joined the French army. His excellent command of the English, French, and German languages enabled him to work as a liaison officer with General George Patton's army.
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Marceau gave his first major mime performance to 3000 American troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Following the war, he studied dramatic art and mime in Paris.
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The character of Bip the Clown developed by him, in striped shirt, sailor pants and a battered top hat with single red flower sprouting from the lid, was modelled on Charlie Chaplin’s The Little Tramp.  The name is a reference to Pip in Great Expectations.  According to Marceau, Bip was a figure of hope.
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In 2001 Marceau was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Medal for humanitarianism.  There were some ironies inherent in this award:  Could a mime make an acceptance speech?  Also, according to Professor Irene Button in her introduction,  “This year the person chosen to be the Wallenberg Medallist is unlike all previous medallists in that he is famous all over the world, yet he is not widely known for his humanitarianism and acts of courage, for which we honour him tonight.”
Marceau himself said: “I don’t like to speak about myself because what I did humbly during the war was only a small part of what happened to heroes who died through their deeds in times of danger.”
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Michael Jackson was friends with Marceau for nearly 20 years and planned a concert with him in 1995 but this had to be cancelled after Jackson was hospitalised for exhaustion during rehearsals. According to Jackson “He was a great guy. I used to go see Marcel Marceau all of the time, before Off the Wall. I used to sneak in and sit in the audience and watch how he would defy the laws of gravity, like he was stepping on air. I would take some of those things and include it into rhythm and dance when I move.”  Jackson borrowed his famous moonwalk from a Marceau sketch, Walking Against the Wind.

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Marceau made a notable film appearance in Mel Brooks’ 1976 film Silent Movie.  In that film producer Mel Funn (Mel Brooks) seeks to recruit big name actors to star in the first Hollywood silent film to be made in 40 years.  Everything is done with screen titles as Funn secures such stars as Anne Bancroft, Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds, James Caan and Paul Newman, all playing themselves.  There is one spoken word of dialogue in the film: Funn approaches Marcel Marceau who gives a firm “No”.
The actual scene reads/sounds as follows:
Mel Funn: [seen as an insert title] Mr. Marceau, how would you like to appear in the first silent movie made in nearly forty years?
Marcel Marceau: [in French, the only spoken line in the film] Non!
Dom Bell: [seen as an insert title after Mel hangs up the phone] What did he say?
Mel Funn: [seen as an insert title] I don't know. I don't speak French!
See the scene by clicking on: https://vimeo.com/244249479 
Note Marceau’s superb mimes and the foot movements that inspired Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.
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Marcel Marceau died in 2007 aged 84. 
The silent man with the sad face would remain silent ever after




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