The Secret Past of a Silent Performer

As a child, I watched The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings.

I have a vague memory of a mime named Marcel Marceau performing on the program.

As a high-schooler, I knew a boy who owned a vinyl LP titled The Best of Marcel Marceau. It began with applause and proceeded in silence to the end of Side Two, culminating in a final round of applause.

Few people knew Marceau beyond his artistic genius. But as a youth, Marceau performed great feats of heroism.

Marceau was a Jew in France. He moved from Northern France to the south when the Nazis invaded. But eventually, the Nazis too arrived in Marceau’s new home.

Also arriving were Jewish orphans in search of safe homes. It was up to Marceau to accompany the children across France’s border to the safety of Switzerland.

I learned of this story through the movie Resistance, now out on DVD.

A good deal of the story is fictionalized. Marceau’s romantic interest is part of the moviemaker’s creativity. Another piece is the representation of the Nazis in the person of Klaus Barbie.

The depiction of Barbie, otherwise known as the Butcher of Lyon, garners the movie an R rating despite the lack of graphic violence.

The accurate explanation of Barbie’s torture tactics is enough to justify the rating.

Not every reviewer gives this movie a 10-star IMDb rating as I did. One especially disagrees with the latitude the filmmakers took with the story.

I’m not so sure Marceau would agree. He was an artist. And this movie is art.

Many today haven’t heard of him. Many also don’t know about Barbie. A quick trip to Wikipedia can illuminate both stories for those who need such clarity.

This film tells a tightly woven story with fabulous performances.

And we get to see a young man doing all he can to save others. A young man, at first concerned only for himself, who grew to fame and fortune and apparently didn’t feel the need to let everyone know what he had done.

That’s true heroism. And we would do well to know the story–even with a bit of fiction added in.

Photo Credit: 10 Interesting Marcel Marceau Facts

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