Marcel Marceau: a snapshot biography

“Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?” – Marcel Marceau

Black and white portrait of Marcel Marceau, a male mime artist, with a contemplative expression. His hand is resting on his cheek, and he gazes off to the distance. The focus is sharp on his face, emphasizing his thoughtful appearance, and the background is softly blurred.
Marcel Marcau

Biography

His birth name was Marcel Mangel. The world would come to know him as Marcel Marceau.

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1923, Marcel found a calling in art at a young age. It was a trip with his mother to see a Charlie Chaplin film that marked the beginning of a lifelong passion and career performing as a mime.  

But while Marcel was still a youth in his teens, the Nazis invaded France. Marcel’s family fled, in danger for being Jewish. Marcel eventually took shelter in Paris, where he taught drawing and acting to children and joined the resistance, helping smuggle children to Switzerland. 

Marcel, his brother, and his mother survived the war. His father, however, was captured by the Gestapo in 1944 and killed in Auschwitz. 

“If I cry for my father, I have to cry for the millions of people who died. I have to bring hope to people,” Marcel would say. 

Continuing with art after the war, Marcel studied theatre and began performing. Over a sixty year career, he performed on television, toured worldwide, acted in films, and published multiple books, and received a number of honorary degrees and many awards.

Marcel passed away in 2007. 


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“A snapshot biography of Marcel Marceau” sources:

William Fifield. “The Mime Speaks: Marcel Marceau.” The Kenyon Review, vol. 30, no. 2, 1968, pp. 155–165. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4334799. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021. / Wikipedia / Jewish Virtual Library / Studio Harcourt – Wikimedia Commons / Quote – “Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?” – As quoted in The Reader’s Digest, June 1958 (Wikiquote) / Quote – “If I cry for my father, I have to cry for the millions of people who died. I have to bring hope to people” – “2001, Marcel Marceau” (Wallenberg Legacy, University of Michigan)