Monday, September 24, 2007

Sober news: A great entertainer has died.

One of my heroes, Marcel Marceau, has died at age 84, after a performing career that lasted more than fifty years.

Several of my favorite actors are performers who did fine work in the horror and fantasy film genres. Marceau, of course, was not a horror icon (although the only film he ever starred in, William Castle's 1974 film SHANKS, is a horror movie). But Monsieur Marceau was a notable figure in imaginative storytelling; what were his mime performances if not finely crafted pieces of fantasy?

He was a popular performer with much of the late Baby Boom generation. As a child, I saw his appearances on Red Skelton's TV show in the 1960s. Later, I enjoyed him in BARBARELLA, loved his hilarious cameo in Mel Brook's 1976 SILENT MOVIE, and thrilled to see him perform live at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, TN in the 1980s. I was lucky enough to meet and chat with him afterwards, and was relieved that he was delighted to speak to fans.

He spoke of how mime could instruct and delight across language barriers. He praised Stan Laurel. (I think in response to a question of mine.) He told us-- the small crowd of fans gathered to meet him after the show-- how glad he was that we enjoyed his performance. (I also remember that he was very angry that some of the blue-hair crowd that comprised much of the audience left during his bows. The fact that they couldn't respectfully wait to go to their cars until after the applause had finished annoyed him mightily.)

In 1973 he appeared on the BBC playing most of the characters in A Christmas Carol.

He was one of the 20th Century's best entertainers. May he rest in peace.

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