Marcel Marceau was born Marcel Mangel to a Jewish family in Strasbourg, France. He was introduced to music and theatre by his father, Charles Mangel, who also sang as an amateur baritone. At the age of 5, he was entranced by a Charlie Chaplin silent film. He studied English, French and German, and became trilingual.
During World War II, his father was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp and killed. Marcel and his older brother adopted the surname Marceau and joined the French Resistance. After the war, he studied at the School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris and with famed pantomimist Étienne Decroux. After early successes with the "art of silence" (L'art du silence), he focused exclusively on mime and formed his own mime troupe. He is best known for the creation of his stage persona, Bip. He won international acclaim after touring the USA in 1955 and 1956 to record-breaking crowds. He became familiar to millions through his numerous television appearances and more than a dozen film roles. He published two books for children, the Marcel Marceau Alphabet Book and the Marcel Marceau Counting Book, as well as poetry and illustrations, including La ballade de Paris et du Monde (The Ballad of Paris and of the World, 1966), and The Story of Bip. In 1982, he published Le Troisième oeuil (The Third Eye), his collection of ten original lithographs. In 2001, he published a new photo book for children, Bip in a Book.
He opened his first school in Paris in 1969, and established the École Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris in 1978. He received the Deburau Prize, named for the 19th-century mime master Jean-Gaspard Deburau, in 1969, and was award the Légion d’honneur in 1970.