Who was Marcel Marceau? Google Doodle celebrates French mime artist

Marcel Marceau toured the world during his long career and appeared in TV shows and films, including Barbarella (1968) and Silent Movie (1976 (Getty Images)
Marcel Marceau toured the world during his long career and appeared in TV shows and films, including Barbarella (1968) and Silent Movie (1976 (Getty Images)

Google Doodle is celebrating the late French actor and mime artist Marcel Maceau on what would have been his 100th birthday (March 22).

Marceau was a world-famous mime artist, who used his talents to help liberate Jewish children from Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.

Google says: “Happy birthday, Marcel Marceau, you specialised in silence but continue to leave audiences roaring with laughter.”

A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.

Marcel Marceau is celebrated in today’s Google Doodle (Google Doodle)
Marcel Marceau is celebrated in today’s Google Doodle (Google Doodle)

Who was Marcel Marceau?

The French actor and mime artist was born on this day in 1923.

He was born with the surname Mangel, but changed it to Marceau during the German occupation of France, so that he wouldn’t be identified as being Jewish.

He was inspired by silent films as a child and would impersonate famous actors and mimes. He later used his silent acting skills to smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied France by keeping them quiet at dangerous moments.

His cousin, Georges Loinger, was a commander in the secret unit who was part of a Jewish relief group. He told the Jewish Telegraph Agency in 2007: “The kids loved Marcel and felt safe with him.

Marceau appeared in TV shows and films (Getty Images)
Marceau appeared in TV shows and films (Getty Images)

“He had already begun doing performances in the orphanage, where he had met a mime instructor earlier on. The kids had to appear like they were simply going on vacation to a home near the Swiss border, and Marcel really put them at ease.”

Marceau made three trips to the Swiss border and liberated at least 70 children during the war. His father was killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

Following the end of the Second World War, Marceau attended the School of Dramatic Art of the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris in 1946.

He began playing his famous character Bip in 1947, who wore a striped top and a white painted face. Soon after, he founded his mime company, which was the only pantomime company in the world at the time, in 1949.

Marceau toured the world during his long career and appeared in TV shows and films, including Barbarella (1968) and Silent Movie (1976). He won an Emmy for Best Specialty Act in 1956 and was awarded the National Order of Merit in 1998.

In 1996, he founded the Marceau Foundation to promote and encourage the art of mime. He died in 2007 at the age of 84.