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Home > Movies > Report

The face of mime is no more

Rediff Entertainment Bureau | September 24, 2007 18:40 IST

Bip the Clown will no longer entertain the world in the unique manner it has long grown used to expecting from him. On September 22, the legendary Marcel Marceau � creator of Bip and possibly the world's most recognised mime artist � died, aged 84.

Born Marcel Mangel in France [Images], he was forced to flee from home, along with his family, during World War II. After a few years of working in Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces � during which his father was arrested by the Gestapo and died in Auschwitz � Marcel chanced upon another legendary silent actor, Charles Chaplin.

Impressed by what he saw, he decided to attempt acting. Acclaim soon followed, after his role in a pantomime. He created his first 'mimodrama', and a famous mime was born � a throwback to an art form that traces its history to ancient Greece.

Bip the clown was gifted to the world in 1947. Dressed in a striped pullover and battered silk hat to signify life's fragility, Bip became Marcel's alter-ego. Through a series of 'silent exercises', the actor began to, as one critic put it, accomplish 'in less than two minutes what most novelists cannot do in volumes.'

In 1949, he formed the Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau, then the world's only company of pantomime. World recognition and awards from all quarters poured in and, as the hold of television got stronger, his art became familiar to millions. He acted in movies, wrote books for children, published poetry and illustrations, and even established the Marceau Foundation to promote mime in America.

A silent spectator of his world, Marcal Marceau will forever be remembered for his ability to point to the complexity of life. All without saying a word.