Marcel Marceau has become legendary as one of the greatest mimes of all time. But, before he cemented his place in performance history, Marceau’s knack for performing made him a unique asset to French resistance against Nazi forces during World War II. As the story goes, Marceau helped a group of children escape Nazi-occupied France by using his skills of mimicry to safely lead them into Switzerland. YouTube.
“He later said that he used his pantomime skills to keep the children silent during the most dangerous moments,” writes David B. Green for Haaretz.
“In 1947, [he] created his most iconic character, Bip. “Destiny permitted me to live,” he said in his 2001 speech. “This is why I have to bring hope to people who struggle in the world.”
He also alluded to his character’s dark origins, saying on another occasion that ‘“the people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it… My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”’
In ‘“Bip Remembers,”’ Marcel explained that he returns to his childhood memories and home and shows life and death in war. One of the people he alluded to in that sketch was his father, Charles Mangel, who was murdered at Auschwitz.
“Marceau changed his name because he needed to hide during the war, choosing ‘“Marceau”’ to honor a historic French general, along with his brother Alain.”
“Marceau’s performances as Bip were a bright spot in the appreciation of mime outside of France, writes novelist Mave Fellowes for The Paris Review. After his death in 2015, nobody stepped forward to take his place.” Smithsonian.
H/T Dad, OpenCulture