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March 22: Marcel Marceau

Lawrence Bush
March 22, 2010

Marcel_MarceauMarcel Marceau, the world’s most beloved mime, was born on this date in 1923 in Strasbourg, France. His father, a kosher butcher, was killed in 1944 in Auschwitz while Marcel and his brother Alain joined the French Resistance in Limoges. Marceau began to practice mime in order to help silence children whom they were helping to shepherd to safety. He created his Bip the Clown character in 1947 and established, in 1949, the only pantomime company in the world at that time. In 2001 he became received the Raoul Wallenberg Medal for his work in the anti-Nazi resistance and his many acts of humanitarianism in the decades since. In Mel Brooks’ film, Silent Movie, Marceau had the only speaking part when he uttered the word, “Non!” The rest of his performing life was a great, silent “Oui!” until his death in 2007. To see him in performance, look below.

“It is good to shut up sometimes.” —Marcel Marceau

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.