French mime Marcel Marceau dies -radio

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PARIS, Sep 23 (Reuters) The world's best-known mime artist, Marcel Marceau, has died, France Info radio said today, saying his family had informed it of his death.

It gave no further details. He was 84.

For decades, Marceau epitomised his silent art, eliciting laughter and tears from audiences around the globe. His comic and tragic sketches appeal on a universal level, with each audience interpreting his performance in its own way.

''Mime, like music, knows neither borders nor nationalities,'' he once said. ''If laughter and tears are the characteristics of humanity, all cultures are steeped in our discipline.'' On stage, he charmed with his deft silent movements, a white-faced figure in white harlequin suit, striped jersey and battered top hat.

Off stage, with the costume and the pancake makeup removed, Marceau was a slim, agile Frenchman whose eloquent description and explanation complement his mute mastery of the art of mime.

In mime, Marceau said, gestures express the essence of the soul's most secret aspiration. ''To mime the wind, one becomes a tempest.

To mime a fish, you throw yourself into the sea.'' Marceau created the figure of Bip, the melancholy, engaging clown with a limp red flower in his hat.

He traced his ancestry back through US silent film greats Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to the clowns of the Commedia dell'Arte, a centuries-old European tradition, and to the stylised gestures of Chinese opera and the Noh plays of Japan.

Marcel Marceau was born in the Alsatian town of Strasbourg on March 22, 1923. He was brought up in Lille, where his father was a butcher. When World War Two came, his father was taken hostage and later killed by the invading Nazis and in 1944 Marcel joined his elder brother in the Resistance.

He later joined the French Army and served with occupation forces in Germany at the end of the war.

He began to study acting in 1946 under Charles Dullin and the great mime teacher Etienne Decroux, who also taught Jean-Louis Barrault.

Reuters SG RN1500

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