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The French mime artist Marcel Marceau has died at the age of 84, his family has announced.

Marceau continued to perform until he was in his 80s

The performer was known around the world for his portrayal of a white-faced clown with battered hat. Born in Strasbourg in 1923, Marceau studied under mime master Etienne Decroux in Paris. His daughter Camille said he died on Saturday evening, adding that details of the burial at Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemetery would be given out later.

Silent films

Marceau, whose real name was Marcel Mangel, became world famous for his 1947 creation of Bip, the sad, white-faced clown in a striped jumper and a battered silk opera hat. Mime artist Corinne Soum-Wasson, who was a friend of Marceau’s, told the BBC he was an « extraordinary person ».  « He trained with an extraordinary master, and due to his wonderful witty personality he was able to put that into practice. He was able to captivate people, » she said.

« I was lucky enough to have known him very well, I was teaching at his school in Paris, and was just a generally funny, nice human being. » Ms Soum-Wasson said Marceau had created Bip early in his career: « He always told me the idea of Bip came to him very early on, when he was a student… he suddenly had the idea in class one day then developed it. »

Marceau was credited with single-handedly reviving the art of mime after World War II, after two decades of being eclipsed by the silent movie. Marceau was inspired to become a mime by the great Hollywood actors of the silent era such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon. His Compagnie Marcel Marceau was the only mime troupe in the world in the 1950s and 1960s – it enjoyed as much acclaim abroad as at home.

From 1969 to 1971 he directed the Ecole Internationale de Mime before founding his Ecole Internationale de Mimodrame in Paris in 1978. He also made several films including Un Jardin Public, and Barbarella, with Jane Fonda. In 2001 he was chosen to be a United Nations goodwill ambassador for the older generation.




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