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Silence can be music for your ears.

Mar 17, 2023 by Eileen Adler

Silence can be music for your ears.

And silence, like a poultice, comes
to heal the blows of sound,” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. quipped.


I remember so vividly seeing Marcel Marceau on “The Ed Sullivan Show” – he was mesmerizing. He was born in 1923 in France to a Jewish family. Discovering Charlie Chaplin at the age of five was life transforming for him, and he began entertaining his peers with imitations of that amazing actor. Would he be able to act in silent movies? His goal had always been to make the “invisible visible" – a person going up the stairs and down the stairs without the stairs.

            Within ten years, the Nazis marched into France. His home, Strasbourg is near the German border, and like so many Jewish families, they fled to Limoges, France. Marcel’s father was captured and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was killed. Marcel’s mother survived. He changed his last name from Mangel to Marceau and joined the French resistance movement, a heroic role in the fight against fascism.

            One aspect of his underground work was masquerading as a boy scout leading children housed in Jewish orphanages to Switzerland. He told the children they were going on vacation in the Alps! But how did he keep these frightened children engaged and quiet? He entertained them with silent pantomime. Phillipe Mora, whose father worked alongside Marcel said, he “started miming to keep children quiet as they were escaping. It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life.’' He made three perilous journeys, saving over 70 children.

            The Allied forces heard of this remarkable talent. He was invited to entertain 3,000 US troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Within three years, Marceau created his character, Bip, the clown. He performed 300 times a year and taught 4 hours a day at his pantomime school in Paris. Over his lifetime, he accrued many honors and awards. At one of his acceptance speeches, he quipped, “Never get a mime talking, because he won’t stop.”

Marceau died at the age of 84 on Yom Kippur, 2007.


Life Lesson: “Saying nothing sometimes says the most.” -- Emily Dickinson

A fun tidbit: Michael Jackson’s explained that his moonwalk was inspired by Marceau’s walking-into-the-wind number. Here is a video of this act from the movie “Silent Movie” - Marcel Marceau