A man who let his actions speak his words, the great mime artist Marcel Marceau (1923-2007) was born Marcel Mangel on this day in Strasbourg, France, the son of a butcher.
"When you are young you have so much courage somehow," he once said.
A survivor of the Nazi occupation and member of the underground resistance, he discovered his passion for mime while studying with the renowned Paris master Étienne Decroux.
In revitalizing the ancient art of mime, Marceau once said: "In a moment of grace, we can grasp eternity in the palm of our hand. This is the gift given to creative individuals who can identify with the mysteries of life through art."
With wordless poetry, he captured life's deepest emotions. "I have spent more than half a lifetime trying to express the tragic moment," the pantomime wizard said.
Inspired by "the revelation" Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Marceau created his famous character Bip in 1946-- the white-faced clown with striped jumper, soft shoes, and battered silk opera hat topped with a red rose. His lithe body was liquid as he expressed the essence of emotion.
"I tried just to show the adventure of life," he said in 2000. "Fun and tragedy."
With fluttering hands and expressive eyes, what he called "playing with his body and soul," he made his first appearance in the U.S. in 1955. In the sketch "Walking Against the Wind," Marceau leaned into a nonexistent wind and inspired Michael Jackson's famous moonwalk.
Marceau said, "I have designed my style pantomimes as white ink drawings on black backgrounds, so that man's destiny appears as a thread lost in an endless labyrinth."
Actions speak volumes.