Google Doodle celebrates French mime artist Marcel Marceau through an animated portrayal of his famous character Bip the Clown, who is “a tragicomic figure with a striped shirt, white face paint, and a battered beflowered hat.” March 22 marks the 100th birthday of the artist.
Who was Marcel Marceau?
The master of silence was born on this day in 1923 in Strasbourg, France. His real name was Marcel Mangel but he changed his last name after the German occupation of France to avoid being identified as Jewish.
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He always dreamt of starring in silent films from his childhood ever since he was introduced to movies. He was just 17 during France’s invasion by Nazi Germany. He and his family fled to Limoges where his cousin Georges Loinger, one of the members of the French Jewish Resistance in France urged him to join the French Jewish Resistance in France to help rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Marceau began using his silent acting skills to help smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied France. His pantomimes were also used to keep calm children down when they faced perilous moments during the journey to the Switzerland border. During the war, Marceau made three of these trips and liberated at least 70 children.
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When the war was finally over, Marceau enrolled himself in the School of Dramatic Art of the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris where he studied dramatic acting and mime. In 1947, he began playing his famous character Bip the Clown, through which he explored the range of human emotions. Soon after, he founded the Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau, which was the first-ever pantomime company in the world at the time, to develop the art of silence.
He also became an actor in the latter half of his life. He played the role of Scrooge in A Christmas Carolin 1973 and earned an Emmy for Best Specialty Act for his 1956 appearance on the Max Liebman Show of Shows. Some of his stand-out performances include First Class and his silent role in Shanks. He also wrote children’s books.