Sunday, September 23, 2007

A last walk into the wind


Marcel Marceau died yesterday. I was lucky enough to see him at Sadler's Wells when I was about 12, and I'll never forget his 'maskmaker' routine. He played a craftsman who put on a smiling mask of his own design, and then couldn't take it off; his despair was communicated by his body alone, as his face maintained a serene grin.

He served in the French Resistance during World War II, as did Samuel Beckett. I like to imagine the two of them being sent to blow up a railway line together.

17 comments:

Billy said...

I like that idea too - I wonder what Marcel was like to talk to?

Molls said...

That's kind of strange when you think of something like characters that only reveal their heads, or just a mouth. There's more than a passing link to mime there in old Becks. How cool is that?

To add to your list of female writers: Meg Rosoff. Read the first and the third book. Cool.

wyndham said...

As I remember it, Marcel was the only person to get dialogue in Mel Brooks's Silent Movie.

Poor old Marcel, he ruined many a European variety programme for me. With that flower, pushing into that imaginary wind. Dickie Valentine was rubbish as well. But a much worse mime.

First Nations said...

i recall a merv griffen interview he did years ago where he actually spoke-english! he did a comedy routine where he 'spoke' different languages without knowing the words; just using gestures, accents and inflections. and he was hysterical! think about making something like translate for a minute-not only was he working for laughs out of his known range but across a language barrier.

amazing man he was.

Tim Footman said...

All the obits say he was very chatty and a really sweet guy, Billy. But obits say that sort of thing. Apparently his job with the Resistance was to fake ID cards for children to help them evade the Nazis. Which is great, of course, but I was rather hoping he'd do something like painting fake railway tunnels on the sides of mountains, so troop trains crashed straight into the rocks.

Hello, Molls! Well, one of MM's big influences was Keaton, of whom SB was a big fan - even worked together in the 60s. Hadn't thought of it - the mask piece as a sort of inversion of Not I, where all you get is the mouth. Nice.

I think the worst thing he ever did was bloody Bip, the simpleton with the flower, Wyndham. That was what got trotted out for RVPs, the missing link between Chaplin and Hulot and Mr sodding Bean. When I saw him live, it was one half of Bip, as a crowd-pleaser, and one half of weird stuff, like the mask. Dickie Valentine, though? You're showing your age, old chap. You're right about Silent Movie, of course: "Non!"

FN: I think we're running short of people who can just turn up on a chat show, no preparation, nothing to plug, and get the viewers and the interviewer eating out of their palms. Orson Welles could do it, and Peter Ustinov as well. Not many left. I wish I'd seen that Merv clip. Will trawl YouTube.

Jun Okumura said...

He served in the French Resistance during World War II, as did Samuel Beckett. I like to imagine the two of them being sent to blow up a railway line together.

What a delightful tribute.

Voice from the Village said...

They'd have been a bundle of laughs to be lumped with on a train blowing up operation. Beckett and Marceau two great chatters of our time.
I never saw Marcel, but I did catch Bob Berkey in Belfast once, who I guess followed in his wake. Bob did a great energetic funy seal flopping about.

Rimshot said...

Marceau was the only mime worth his salt. Like the great vaudevilians a master craftsman of an art belonging to simpler times.

He will be missed.

Tim Footman said...

The only one worth his salt? What about the magnificent Alternative Carpark?

dh said...

'He served in the French Resistance during World War II, as did Samuel Beckett. I like to imagine the two of them being sent to blow up a railway line together.'!!!!

Speechless.

wyndham said...

Dickie Valentine... I may be getting confused as usual. It was Dickie someone, though. Always came on after Arthur Askey and just before Petula Clark.

Ah, Alternative Carpark - genius! Pity, then, that Rowan strung him out for umpteen series and two lamentable movies.

Tim Footman said...

No, it may well be Dickie V, Wyndham, but according to the Wiki god, he died in 1971, so I'm surprised your memory is that clear. Not Dickie Henderson? According to the same impeccable source, he appeared in eight RCPs.

dinahmow said...

Marcel and Sam blowing up trains...you've made my day.

dh said...

I can't get the image of Marcel and Sam out of my head....how about Buster Keaton for the train driver, background music by Harpo Marx...

wyndham said...

Dickie Henderson! That was him - killed variety single-handedly. He was like Dean Martin via Argos.

violetforthemoment said...

Urgh. Mimes. ~shudders~ They freak me out nearly as much as.... clowns.

Tim Footman said...

...with Jacques Tati as the bloke trying to enjoy a quiet picnic in the field alongside the railway line, but he's frustrated by the fragments of eviscerated Nazis that keep dropping on the cheese...

I just remember Henderson doing pro-celebrity golf, Wyndham. Apricot knitwear. Tasty.