Remembering the master mime, Marcel Marceau

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

I never thought that a recent trip my wife, Deanna, and I took to North Carolina for a Road Scholar workshop would eventually lead me back to the master mime entertainer I had thoroughly enjoyed years ago, Marcel Marceau.
Marceau, considered by many to be the best mime ever, helped make mime internationally popular from 1948 through 2003.
Trying to contact an old Army buddy, Ben Martin, who had lived near our Montreat destination in North Carolina, I learned sadly that Ben had passed away two years previously.
Speaking to a friend of his, I also learned that Ben and Marcel Marceau had become good friends in Paris while Ben was a Time-Life photographer.
With Marceau’s’ permission, Ben took numerous photographs of the King of Mime, producing a wonderful 150-page display of the art of mime, titled “Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime.”
While this is primarily a photo book about Marceau, the entertainer, it also briefly mentions Marceau’s experiences evading the Nazis and helping to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Holocaust, a mitzvah he rarely mentioned. Just what you would expect from a silent mime.
Marcel’s real last name was Mangel, but he later changed it to Marceau when he needed an alias after joining the French resistance movement during World War II.
His family evacuated Alsace-Lorraine for central France. Sadly, like so many others, Marcel’s father, a butcher, was caught, deported to Auschwitz and gassed upon arrival.
Marcel, serving in the French underground with his brother, helped to hide many Jewish children from the Nazis and their French collaborators.
Changing the children’s ages from older to younger on their identity cards, Marcel was able to convince the enemy that the children were not old enough for heavy labor.
His acting ability shone through when he dressed, at times, as a Boy Scout leader, leading his charges to a campground in the hills, and across the border to safety in neutral Switzerland.
Because of his modesty, I suspect that many people are unaware of Marceau’s heroism during the war and are more knowledgeable about his successful mime career after the war.
With the liberation of Paris and the war in France drawing to a close, Marceau joined the Free French Army to use his language skills as a translator for General Patton.
Soon after Marceau’s pantomime skills became known to the GIs, there was a clamor for him to perform, resulting in his first professional performance, in a huge army tent before 3,000 troops.
In April 2001, Marcel Marceau received the Wallenberg Foundation’s award in recognition of his solidarity and courage during the Second World War.
If you don’t learn anything else from having read about Marcel Marceau, remember this: “Actions speak louder than words.”

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