Even those who know little or nothing about mime knew Mr. Marceau and his pantomime persona of Bip — a gentle soul in whiteface with arched black eyebrows and black marks under each eye, topped by a crush hat adorned with a red flower.
Through Mr. Marceau, the world became familiar with such iconic mime routines as "Walking Against the Wind" and "The Cage," in which Bip attempts to escape an unseen set of walls.
He first became famous when he starred in Marcel Carne's epic 1947 film, "Les Enfants du Paradis," in which he played Arlequin. He created the role of Bip the same year. He made several more films, and had a famous cameo in Mel Brooks' spoof, "Silent Movie," in which he had the only speaking line.
He formed his own mime company in 1948. It was called Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau and was the only company of pantomime in the world at the time. Soon he was touring Europe, though the troupe collapsed in 1959. Among the silent dramas he created were Overcoat, Pierrot de Montmartre, The 3 Wigs, The Pawn Shop, 14th July, The Wolf of Tsu Ku Mi, Paris Cries—Paris Laughs and Don Juan.
Mr. Marceau made it to Broadway twice, in 1955 and again in 1983. The first visit was produced in association with the Phoenix Theatre. In 1978 he established his own school in Paris: École Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris, Marcel Marceau. In 1996 he established the Marceau Foundation to promote mime in the United States.
Marcel Mangel was born on March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg, Alsace, France, to a kosher butcher and his wife. He changed his family name to Marceau when his family was forced to flee their home at the beginning of the Second World War. His father was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. He was killed there. Marcel and his brother Alain fought against Germany as part of the French underground, helping children to escape to safety in neutral Switzerland.
Mr Marceau gave his first big public performance to 3,000 troops after the liberation of Paris in August of 1944.
He was married three times and is survived by two sons and two daughters.