Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Review: MARCEL MARCEAU by Gloria Spielman
Spielman’s excellent biography of the Master of Mime engages one from the outset by introducing young Marcel as he is raiding his father’s wardrobe to dress up as Charlie Chaplin and entertain neighbors on the streets of pre-World War II France. We see that Marceau was, from his own outset, a performer and much in demand.
He was also a Jew, and this fact altered his life, which is an understatement. His father died in Auschwitz. At the age of 16, he and his older brother worked for the French Resistance in Limoges. The artistic young Marceau forged documents and dangerously led groups of Jewish children secretly to the Swiss border. At 20, Marceau was in Paris studying mime and later performed for Patton’s troops in Germany. Once the war was over, Marceau concentrated on his art, honing his clown character Bip. His fame spread worldwide, and many of us have been privileged to see him on one medium or another. His legacy, through his school for mime and also through the lives of the children he saved during WWII, is assured. His mime communicated beyond language. (Oh, and BTW, he spoke excellent English.)
Speilman’s language in this book soars, even poetic when describing what Marceau could do through mime. And the art is outstanding, very expressive and using the page space gorgeously through color, placement, and design. Gauthier fits the palette to the prose, making for a very successful collaboration.