Home Movie CraftsActors & Actresses Marcel Marceau: ‘Shanks’ & ‘Silent Movie’ Mime Artist

Marcel Marceau: ‘Shanks’ & ‘Silent Movie’ Mime Artist

Mime artist Marcel Marceau died in Cahors, France, on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007. The cause of death was not immediately known. Marceau (born on March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg) was 84.

Marcel Marceau’s most famous character was Bip, a melancholy clown with a limp red flower in his hat. According to reports, the mime’s artistic inspirations were the clowns of the Commedia dell’Arte, Hollywood silent comics such as Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and the stylized gestures of Chinese opera and the Noh plays of Japan.

Marcel Marceau movies

Marcel Marceau was featured in a handful of films, most notably Mel Brooks’ 1976 comedy hit Silent Movie, in which, ironically, the almost invariably silent mime artist has the only speaking line in the otherwise silent film: Non! Besides Marceau, Silent Movie features Anne Bancroft, Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, and James Caan in (silent) star cameos.

Marceau’s other notable screen appearances were those in Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda’s sci-fi sex farce Barbarella (1968), in which he plays Professor Ping; and William Castle’s macabre fantasy Shanks (1974), with Marceau in the title role – that of a mute puppeteer who uses an invention that makes dead bodies move like puppets.

Marceau’s last film appearance was in Philippe Mora’s 1998 American-made drama Joseph’s Gift.

Not in ‘Children of Paradise,’ not a Los Angeles Farmers Market restaurant

Marcel Marceau doesn’t seem to have been featured in Marcel Carné’s 1945 classic Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis. Apparently, reports claiming that Marceau played Arlequin in that film have based that information on a misreading of the Wikipedia segment on Marceau’s early career. In Children of Paradise, Jean-Louis Barrault plays the mime Jean-Baptiste Debureau; on stage, Marceau and Barrault collaborated on the pantomime Baptiste, with the former playing Arlequin.

I should add that despite widespread confusion, Marcel Marceau is not a Farmers Market restaurant in Los Angeles. The name of that establishment is Monsieur Marcel.

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