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Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007

Marceau_marcelMarcel Marceau, the world’s best known mime (please don’t ask me who ranks number two) died this morning. You can read a full obituary in the New York Times.

To have seen him perform was to understand why so many people over the years have chosen to put on whiteface and pester strangers in public places: his genius was such that he made all the bad imitations worth bearing.

While not primarily known for his work in films, Le Mime Marceau had a few notable credits: as Professor Ping in the 1968 cult classic Barbarella; as the star of William Castle’s bizarre and seldom-seen horror fantasy Shanks (1974); and for the one film in which he spoke. Can you remember what that film is?

The only word Marceau ever spoke on screen was, suitably, the only word uttered in all of Silent Movie, Mel Brooks’ 1976 tribute to the era of silent comedy. Asked by Brooks’ character to appear in the film he is trying to make, Marceau utters “Non.” (You don’t have to be much of a lip-reader to make out Brooks’ off-color reply.)

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