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Profile of the Day: Marcel Marceau

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of French mime Marcel Marceau. Before he became one of the most famous mimes in the world, Marceau helped save many Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II.

Image: Marcel Marceau / Library of Congress

Marceau was born Marcel Mangel on March 22, 1923 in Strasbourg, France to a Jewish family. From a young age, Marceau was an avid fan of silent films, especially those of Charlie Chaplin. He would often entertain his family and friends with imitations of Chaplin.

After the Nazis invaded France during World War II, Marceau’s father was captured and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was killed. His mother survived. He and his brother changed their surname to “Marceau” to avoid being identified as Jewish. The name was chosen as a reference to François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers, a general of the French Revolution. They were recruited to join the French Jewish Resistance by their cousin, Georges Lionger. During their time in the resistance, they helped save many Jewish children by smuggling them to safety in Switzerland. Marceau used his skills as a mime to help keep the children quiet and at ease during their dangerous journey.

After the war, Marceau studied at the Charles Dullin’s School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris. In 1947, he created his most famous character Bip the Clown, a white-faced tragicomic figure in a striped pullover and a battered, flowered silk opera hat. He performed all around the world, gaining international fame as a pantomime artist. He also starred in several films and published two children’s books.

Marceau died on September 22, 2007 at the age of 84.

Explore Marcel Marceau’s family tree on Geni and discover how you’re connected.

View Marcel Marceau’s Geni Profile

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The post Profile of the Day: Marcel Marceau first appeared on About Geni.


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