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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Obituary: Marcel Marceau
Marcel Marceau
Bip's gestures were inspired by Chaplin and Keaton, Marceau said
Legendary mime artist Marcel Marceau, who has died aged 84, captivated the world for decades.

He epitomised the silent art, eliciting laughter and tears from audiences around the world.

"Mime, like music, knows neither borders nor nationalities," he once said.

"If laughter and tears are the characteristics of humanity, all cultures are steeped in our discipline."

Marceau was best known for the melancholy, engaging clown Bip, who he created 60 years ago.

With a stripy top, white face, and limp red flower in his battered silk hat, he charmed with his deft silent movements, and mercurial expressions.

Off stage, Marceau was known as a witty, chatty and generous man.

Joseph's Gift (1998)
Kinski Paganini (1989)
Elogio della pazzia (1986)
Les Iles (1983)
Silent Movie (1976)
Shanks (1974)
Barbarella (1968)
Yego zvali Robert (1967)
Es (1966)
Die Schone Lugnerin (1959)
Pantomimes (1954)
Un jardin public (1954)

Marceau was born Marcel Mangel in the Alsatian town of Strasbourg on 22 March 1923.

He was brought up in Lille, where his Jewish father was a butcher.

When World War II came to France, he and his family were given just hours to pack their bags. He fled to southwest France and changed his last name to Marceau to hide his Jewish origins.

His father, however, was captured and sent by the invading Nazis to Auschwitz, where he died. In 1944 Marceau joined his elder brother in the Resistance, and later joined the French Army.

Inspired by the great US actors of the silent film era, Marceau began to study acting in 1946 under Charles Dullin and the great mime teacher Etienne Decroux, who also taught Jean-Louis Barrault.

Barrault, who starred in 1945 film Les Enfants du Paradis, cast Marceau in a stage version of the movie and the role won the new star universal acclaim.

Marcel Marceau
In later years Marceau became a UN ambassador
Marceau created Bip in 1947 and formed his own mime company the following year.

The troupe was soon touring other European countries, but failed financially in 1959. It was revived as a school, the Ecole Internationale de Mimodrame, in 1984.

A veteran of dozens of films, one of his best remembered roles was a speaking cameo in Silent Movie, made by US director Mel Brooks.

As he aged, Marceau kept performing, never losing the agility that made him famous.

On top of his Legion of Honor and his countless honorary degrees, he was invited to be a UN goodwill ambassador for a 2002 conference on aging.

"If you stop at all when you are 70 or 80, you cannot go on," he said in an interview in 2003.

"You have to keep working."

Marcel Marceau and Michael Jackson on stage together

President leads Marceau tributes
24 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
French mime artist Marceau dies
23 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Marcel Marceau
23 Sep 07 |  In Pictures

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