Monday, October 22, 2012

Maurice Tillet 'The French Angel' Wrestler

 Maurice Tillet and "The French Angel"

  TABS at the TOP of THIS page:

1.    BIOGRAPHY(This Page) -       BIO for Maurice Tillet, The French Angel
2.    SHREK -                                            WAS Maurice Tillet, The French Angel, inspiration of SHREK?
3.    DEATH MASKS  -                           THE Death Masks of Maurice Tillet, The French Angel
4.    PICTURES -                                      Maurice Tillet Pictures

5.    ARTICLES -                                      French Angel NEWSPAPER and MAGAZINE articles
6.    GHOST STORY -                      MAURICE - BACK from THE AFTERLIFE?                  


You may have a picture of Maurice, or a family story.  Nothing is more important to this project than to collect and share these.  Please contact me and I will share it with all. Contact TOM at  After years of study, here's a couple of pictures that captures the character of the man.

 Much of what was known about Maurice could be summed up to character marketing. The truth about Maurice is far more interesting, and inspiring, than his wrestling persona.

Maurice Tillet and his mentor, manager, and the man with the vision to bring Maurice to wrestling, Karl Pojello.

Maurice Tillet
The Man, the Busts, and Shrek

Maurice said he was born in the Ural Mountains however in official documents it lists St. Petersburg Russia on October 23, 1903, had brown eyes, and was the only child of French parents.  Maurice's father was from Vendée, and his mother, Louise Margot-Tillet was born about 1880 in Bordeaux.

Maurice's father was an engineer involved in the building of the Trans-Siberian railroad.  Maurice father died when he was somewhere between 4 and 8 years old.  After his fathers death, Maurice's mother moved to Moscow Russia where she taught languages at Saint Philip Niri Catholic School.  Maurice said that he attended his mother’s classes there.

The church around which the St. Philip Neri was erected is called 'Saint Louis-des-Français' in Moscow Russia.  "The parish became an impressive complex, which eventually included not only a rectory for the priest, but also two schools for approximately 600 students: Saint Philip Neri School for boys, two-thirds of whom were residents, and Saint Catherine School for girls."   
Saint Louis-des-Français Church, and to the right and left, Saint Philip Neri School for boys, and Saint Catherine School for girls in Moscow Russia.

Maurice age 13.  
The uniform he is wearing, in the above picture, is likely from his time at St. Philip Neri.

With the Russian Revolution underway in 1917, and with foreigners being pushed out of the country, his mother decided to move back to her native France. She found employment teaching languages at a local girl’s school in Rheims, France.

Probably due to his mother’s influence, Maurice learned to speak many languages. By mid 1942 Maurice spoke at least 5 languages including French, Russian, Lithuanian, Bulgarian and English. After completion of Maurice's primary education at Rheims he went to college, and graduagedfrom St. Stanislaus in Paris, France.
St. Stanislaus: 

By age 17 Maurice’s head, chest, hands, and feet started to expand.  By age 19, he was diagnosed with Acromegaly.   

Maurice near the end of his childhood was kicked in head by a mule.  Throughout his life Maurice believed this injury to have been the catalyst for the onset of Acromegaly.  At that time, Acromegaly was not well understood and it may have been believed by doctors, or Maurice himself, an injury could cause a tumor to form.   Research since that time has dis-proven this theory.  This, 'kicked in the face story', was reported to me by the first cousin of Maurice's godchild.   The almost identical story is told by wrestler George Macricosta here: SPORTS PARADE: LOWDOWN ON FRENCH ANGEL - from a Boston area paper, printed in early 1956 - By Hugh Brown - found here: ")

Acromegaly, in about 90+% of cases, is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland. This condition causes excess growth hormone production.  In all other cases a tumor is found on the hypothalamus or other glandular location.  Acromegaly, if contracted young, it turns the victim into a giant. In Maurice's case, the long bones in his body had completed growing.  Because of this, the tumor caused his bones to thicken, and his internal organs to swell.  Maurice did not grow taller, he grew thicker.  Acromegaly changed his appearance, and his life, forever.

After completing his education at St. Stanislaus college, Maurice's mother paid for him to go to school at Toulouse University of Law.

Toulouse University - Toulouse, France.
Image of Toulouse Capital Square below.

Maurice, always an athlete, was named to an all-France rugby team in 1926. After one game in London, he received the distinction of shaking the hand of King George V of England, a distinction he spoke about often.

Maurice was working on his law degree at Talouse, when  he found Acromegaly attacking his vocal cords, and his voice deepening.  At this time Maurice realized his intent to practice law would not be possible.
Lowell Sun Newspaper, Lowell Mass. U.S.A, April 8th 1943:
“Maybe with this face I could be a lawyer”, he remarked at the time, “but with this mule voice no one would listen to me. So I gave up law and joined the French Navy.”   

Other sources said that he attended for 2.5 years out of the required 4, before leaving law school.

Look Magazine, April 25th 1950:
“The children of my boyhood called me, ‘Le Singe’ which means ‘the monkey’. I am sad too much, so I go to the seaport, and try to make my life over on the water where other men don't care what you are.” 

Maurice detailed that he joined the French Navy where he worked as an engineer aboard ships and subs, eventually achieving the rank of Chief Petty Officer. He reported that his start in wrestling began while in the Navy where shipmates would often wrestle to pass the time. Maurice served 5, or maybe 6 years in the French Navy.  When in the course of WWII he heard the French Navy intentionally sank his ship, he wept. 

Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 105, 5 May 1945, Page 8 
Six Years In Navy After six years in the French Navy, during which he rose to the highest non-commissioned rating attainable by an enlisted man, Tillet returned to his birthplace near Rheims (Authors note - almost certainly incorrect as he is born in Russia), rested for a year, and went with his mother to Moscow, where she was to teach the romance languages in the University of Moscow. He hit the sawdust trails as a circus strong man."  

Maurice Tillet - Actor:
Lutte et Boxe Magazine Jan. 1952:
"On returning to civilian life, I tried a little of all professions without much success. One day, meeting a friend who was the cinema, I decided to do it also. With no ordinary head I felt I could no doubt succeed. I made a lot of movies but with the exception of two or three, always in a small role. To succeed in the movies, it takes a lot of luck, capital and talent. I was certainly short of a bit of everything. Between attempts, I played rugby, which is very popular in France. It gave me great satisfaction, and at the same time developed me physically."

The following detail came to me from man who was 11 years old at the time of Maurice's death and who was close with Maurice.  "Hunchback de Notre Dame - (the Angel's) acting debut, French Version, in this flick ,is saintly. Gorgeous George viewed it over 100 times... I find it spooky! Mau(r)ice played a torturor, but sympathetic dungeon guard, for the captive monster. What an irony! Tears are visible in Maurice's eyes...".  This movie has not yet been identified.

Maurice had a bit part in the movie - 'Princesse Tam Tam' with Josephine Baker:

Maurice Tillet Identified in the film about 2/3 the way through when Josephine is entering a naval or nautical bar. 

Clearfield Progress, Evening February 20th, 1940  
". . . Paul Bowser's latest foreign wrestling importation, Maurice Tillet (better known as The Angel) has a part in the French film, "The Harvest," now showing on Broadway."
This film was released in France in 1937 under the name "Regain", and the United States in 1940 under the name "Harvest." By the time the film was conserved it had considerably deteriorated. The 1937 version of the film was 150 minutes.  In 1969 was cut down to 128 minutes. An original copy of the film is not likely ever to be found and unfortunately Maurice is not seen in its edited version.  

Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 105, 5 May 1945, Page 8:  Part in "Volga Boatman"  Tillet was making good money in the French films, but had had only one big part up to that time, in the "Volga Boatman."

There is a French Volga Boatman movie done in 1936 is called "Los Bateleros Del Volga" directed by Vladimir Strizhevsky.   
Here he is in stock photo's from the film.
Some of which were from the French release press kit here -  Others were found in a book on this film.

Although NOT confirmed, I am pretty sure that I see here Maurice in the background of this picture from the Press packet for the French Film, released in 1936, called "BACH Detective". 

 In a RING program from Belgium featuring Legs Langevin, there is a bio on Maurice.  In that bio Maurice is mentioned in the following two films, "Soir De Rafle", 1931 French Film, with Albert Prejean and Annabella, and  "Kermesse heroique" 1935 released in the U.S. under the name "Carnival in Flanders". In both cases he is listed as having only a bit part. 

In Un Soir De Rafle as introduced as"The Cannon Man"
 1931 is quite early in Maurice's acting career. He was only 27 to 28 years old at the time of filming. This scene encompasses sporting matches at the local circus, and speaks to their being worked or fixed. 
Maurice is introduced onscreen in Un Soir De Rafle with the following: 
"And now ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to introduce you, 'The Cannon Man'.  The strongest athlete in the world! Charles Rigoulot himself has never accepted a challenge from him. A challenge that had been reiterated several times."

Maurice isolated in the film, La Kermesse Heroique, also called Carnival at Flanders, in a press photo online 11/25/2016 here:,9708.php

The following French Cinema lobby card is from "Rive Gauche" or Left Bank.  It was made by Paramount in a Paris studio in 1931.  Maurice is prominently displayed. We have no idea as to his role due to the scarcity of details on this film.  He is face to face with the star of the show, Meg Lemonnier.  Maurice was only 28 years old in this pic.

Maurice's godchild said:
"Maurice had short speaking roles in, quite early, Superman shoots & in Flash Gordon too. Us Dewey (Dewey Elementary - Chicago) kids would view them at the Garfield Boulevard haunted mansion." (Where Maurice died). 
 There are different stories that tell of how Maurice came to wrestling. The following takes pieces of each story as to most closely represent reality.  

One day in 1937, Maurice was walking the Boulevard des Italiens on his way to Paris studio doorman job. 
1936 image of the Boulevard Des Italiens -
Maurice acted as Frankenstein dressing in rags, one shoe, and no socks.  His appearance assisting in scaring away children when they collected in too large of numbers.  Karl Pojello, and likely George Macricostas, passed Maurice on the street and were taken with Maurices appearance. They approached to question him about what he did for a living but Maurice told them to scram.  

Karl asked him what kind of money he was making and Maurice said 60 francs. Karl asked Maurice, What if I could get you 1000? 

Boxing and Wrestling Magazine, Vol 6, N6, Feb. 1956. P71.
(At the time Karl met Maurice) "He was engaged by Porte Maillot Studios.  His job was to keep kids away from the movie studio and frighten them away.  That wasn't difficult because when they saw him coming they ran and kept on running.  And that is where Karl Pojello who was in one of his world tours and wrestling in Paris, first saw Maurice Tillet"

Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 105, 5 May 1945, Page 8
Tillet was working with a French movie company…. when Pojello first met him. Pojello was on a world tour, meeting all comers. He had seen all the freaks in wrestling, but never had he seen anything like the human specimen that ambled along.... Pojello's guttural French didn't register on Tillet, who speaks the university variety. So he tried German, Italian, Spanish, English, all of are familiar to Tillet, but it wasn't until he opened up in Russian that the two men reached a common conductor. "Karl asked me if I ever did any physical culture, or play sports," said the Angel, "and I said 'Yes.' When I told him that I used to wrestle! and won several amateur tournaments, he was excited, and talked too fast. I was busy for the next three days, so we made a date for the fourth day, on a Monday, for a gymnasium." "We stripped down in the gym and wrestled for 25 minutes," Maurice continued. "Karl, he beat me easily in two minutes. Then I knew nothing! about catch-as-catch-can wrestling. In Graeco-Roman you do not touch the legs. That's all I knew about wrestling, Graeco - Roman." After the gym workout …, Pojello painted a glowing future for the French horror-man in Europe and America. The agreement was that Tillet would quit his movie job and travel with Pojello. For ten months Pojello trained Tillet every day in catch-as-catch-can. Finally they arrived in Paris. Karl told him, "Now, you are ready and I will call in the "promoters." Convincing promoters in Europe is a tougher proposition apparently than in America. A promoter from Antwerp arrived with four wrestlers. If Pojello’s man could make a good showing against them, he would book him through Belgium and Holland. "We go into a gym, and I beat these four men, catch-as-catch-can, in 15 minutes," said Tillet. "That was the happiest day of my life. That night Karl and I celebrated. I broke training for the first time in ten months.''

Karl cabled for his business partner, Sir Atholl Oakeley, to meet him and Maurice at a little restaurant in the back of the Cafe de la Paix.

Cafe de la Paix -
Atholl in 1948 reported that Maurice, "When he found that his Mother remembered Pojello as the chemist in St Petersberg at whose shop she used to buy the family medicine, Maurice became firm friends." According to details reported on Karl, he once worked in a pharmacy in St. Petersburg owned by his brothers, Antanas and Motiejus.

At the Cafe they discussed Maurice's history.. They knew that with his wrestling background, great strength, natural athleticism, abnormal look, and acting experience, he would be ideal for professional wrestling.
(This is a NEW vision of how Maurice came to wrestling, and as such I need to provide to you the proof of what I detail here. Pull to the bottom of this page to see all the stories I have found of how Maurice came to wrestling as to show the above being closest to the truth.)   At the same time, I found a VERY specific article talking about his discovery in Singapore, however in thie version Maurice was there for acting work.  It's worth noting, this version COULD be true.

Between 1937 - 1939 saw Maurice wrestle in England as, “The Angel”, a nickname given to him by his mother.  

From"The Wrestler" magazine September 1972 - 
"The Angel was a sensation when he first visited Britain in the 1930's...  A blaze of advances publicity concerning his first appearance in this country brought over 20,000 mat fans scrambling to get into the Nottingham venue....  Such was his crowd-pulling capacity there was once a near riot once when 30,000 attempted to force there way in to the Manchester venue to see him wrestle." 

On page 14 of “The Knockout” magazine, year and issue unknown: “They(Maurice Tillet & Karl Pojello) arrived in London, May 11th, 1937 and the next day from the Marble Arch of Hyde Park, London watched the passing of the Coronation Parade.”  This detail is corroborated in that Karl competed and won the Kings coronation amateur wrestling tournament held in London in the weeks following the parade.


Maurice also went by “Ugliest Man in the World”.

The bear hug became his signature move. 
These are of Maurice in England 1939 from Life Magazine, just before coming to the U.S.   The woman outside the ring is seen a couple of times with Maurice and she is described as Miss Elaine Hutchinson a former Ballet dancer, only 20 years old and now managing wrestlers.

Another of Maurice and Elaine:
By late 1939, Maurice had a proven track record and was ready to invade the United States.  Paul Bowser was Maurice's promoter, and Karl Pojello, his manager. 

Reported by Karl Pojello from, 'The Cavalier Daily , University of Virginia, Monday February 26th 1940 by J. McC. T.' - ”.....we toured Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium. When the war broke out, we were in Italy. Although we had an excellent offer from South America we decided to come to America as the best competition in the world was here.”

Timeline details in order to help understand events - 
September 1st 1939 Hitler invades Poland.  Britain and France declares war on Germany September 3rd, 1939.  In September 1939, Britain imposed a selective blockade of Italy.

Lutte et Boxe Magazine from Jan. 1952.
“I went with him to England, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and I won all my matches in front of sold-out rooms. I was starting to make money, and made a name for myself in the fight. In short, I was happy. Alas, the war came. 
The French Navy was mobilized on the third day of the conflict. I joined up in Cherbourg, my home port, where I remained a few months before being demobilized by military authorities. I went home and went to go find my manager in Italy. This was January 1940.”

Maurice and Karl must have gotten through that selective blockade as they left Italy January 2nd 1940, arriving in the United States January 12th 1940 aboard the Trans-Atlantic Ocean liner S.S. Rex.
 According to Wrestling Magazine magazine July 1951, the boat docked on the Hudson River, Pier 90.   
Maurice was held for a three days while immigration decided what to do with him.  Official documents show that he was held for three days due to a lack of a C.I.V..  Maurice was given three meals per day, before being released on Jan 16th 1940.

Maurice made his American debut on January 24, 1940 at Boston Garden against Luigi Bacigaiupi. Maurice walked down the aisle, entered the ring, leaned over the ropes, and roared at the crowd.

At his American debut were Harvard scientists anticipating the sight of Maurice. They asked him if he would submit to be measured for science and Maurice agreed. 

Picture of Maurice with his manager Karl Pojello, promoter Paul Bowser and Anthropologist Earnest Albert Hooton. - Other scientists that studied Maurice at Harvard were Carlton Stevens Coon, Hallam Movius, Carl Seltzer, and William Sheldon.
Maurice was 5 foot 8.5 inches in height, 276 pounds, a 47 inch chest, head almost twice the size of normal, arms down to his knees, and hands that could shuffle three decks of cards.  At least this is how they liked to sell him.  
Bismarck Tribune May 28, 1941 -  

"an anatomical freak, a fellow who looks like the most powerful man who ever lived." .... 
The X-rays show that the seilatureia, the medical name for the cavity in which the pituitary gland is located, in the skull is 2.5 centimeters…

Other figures are: 
1—M Tillet's skull thickness varied from .59 to .67 on an inch, the thickest point being .79. The average wrestler's is .12 to .16.
2—Tillet's occipital protuberance, that bump on the back of your head, is 2 to 3 times the size of the average man, being like an. English walnut compared with a small pea.
3—The Angel's frontal sinus is approximately an Inch long, or twice as deep as the average man's.
4—M. fillets brain, normal In all respects, is larger than the average college professor's.
5—The head of the humerus, largest bone in arm, is 1.5 times that of the average man's, but the shaft of the bone is twice as big in the same comparison. And this is true of most of Tillet's 206 bones, which are heavier in proportion because of great deposits of calcium.
6—The spine is twice and in some places four times the size of an average 6-foot man.
7—Tillet's ribs, measured on the X-ray photo, are 1.5 centimeters wide, thrice the size of the ribs of a fellow wrestlers...
Most interesting, of course, to the doctors was M. Tillet's head, the largest they had ever seen.  So large in fact that they couldn't get all of the chin on the X-ray plate. The length of the face, from the root of Tillet's nose to the bottom of the chin is 7.05 inches, compared with a normally large masculine face at 5.31 inches.  The width of his face, from ear to ear, is 7.13 inches, compared to a large man's 4.33 inches.

Pictures of Maurice, at Harvard, being Measured - Time Magazine March 4th 1940.

He was declared to be the closest living specimen to that of Neanderthal man known to exist. The crowds flocked to see this monster of a man who was a throwback to prehistoric times.

Chicago's Field Museum for Natural History - Maurice poses with the Neanderthal Exhibit:

Maurice proved incredibly strong and staged events where he would pull a bus, train, or street car.

He wrestled and won against all the greatest wrestlers of his day. His persona was fierce, and although he was sold as a heel, he was kind, gentle, educated, and well-mannered.

Maurice's popularity immediately soared and he provided the following details to the newspapers and magazines about his preferences.

Maurice  eats slowly, sometimes taking two hours for a meal. He likes French food, orange and celery juice, and a little wine.  His favorite fruit is banana, and next pears.  He favorite desert is fruit salad.  At one particular afternoon party, he refused sherry and cigarettes, took tea and cookies.  

According to wrestling historian Don Luce, "Maurice did some early training in East Pembroke, NY at Heverans bar, run by a man who ran a place for wrestlers/Boxers to train. I think it was Tom Heveran."

Maurice was a devout Catholic and once in 1947 he was given an audience with the Pope. 

Lutte et Boxe Magazine Jan. 1952.
"During my trips, I'd had the occasion to be introduced to great people of this World, but I'll never forgot the day I was given an audience and knelt down at the feet of Pope Pious XII. I was received in Castel Gondolfo September the 22th 1948, the day of my saint, saint-Maurice. As à devout Catholic, I keep this memory as the most precious of my life."

Maurice Tillet with Baron Von Heczey after their private meeting with the Pope at the Vatican.  Hard Boiled Haggerty, aka Don Sparrow got his wrestling start through Karl Pojello. HBH once, in a discussion with Scott Teal said the following about Maurice, "... One of his proudest possessions was a picture of him and the Pope that he carried in his wrestling bag.  When we’d travel around, Maurice would drive the car.  If he wasn’t wearing his hat, we’d stop at a light, and people would do double takes.  I thought, ‘What a gimmick!’ "

Maurice always focused on health and strength.  Karl, his manager, said, “Angel always gets 10 hours sleep a day and has to ‘because wrestling is so hard and he must stay in condition.'"

Acromegaly comes with allot of serious pain and medical complications. John Pantozzi said that his uncle, Dr. John Bonica, father of all modern pain management, cared for Maurice when he was in the U.S.. 

Chopin is Maurice's favorite composer.  His favorite book authors were Paul Bourget, Marcel Prouit, and Alexandra Dumas.  

His favorite flower is Lilly of the Valley.

Maurice prefers and Oxford Grey Suit and a beret so that the wind cannot not blow it off.   His shoe size is unattainable, however he wears a size 14 stocking.  He wears a pin on his lapel for the British Wrestling Board of Control.   Other than the pin he had no interest in jewelry.

San Antonio Light Pg10&13 Aug 1 1940 -
"He likes dancing, music, and American girls – with reservations. He thinks American lassies are richer, wear more expensive clothes, but just can't compare to the French mademosille when it comes to sex appeal."
Oakland Tribune August 12, 1943 -
Maurice has a keen sense of humor, intellect, and an attractive girlfriend who escaped France to London and may someday become Mrs. Tillet. He took a picture from his pocket of his girlfriend and said, “Nice eh?”
Oakland Tribune August 12, 1943 -
……. He was asked if his facial or body distortions gave him a complex. He said, “Since I was a little boy old enough to know what it was about I have been the object of curiosity. Long ago I accepted my appearance for what it was. “No I do not have an inferiority complex. I have not let my looks – how you say it? – down.” He shrugged his shoulders expressively and grinned.
Oakland Tribune pg1 June 29 1940 -
Here, too. is a human who looks on life with tranquil eyes, who neither is abashed nor annoyed by the curious stares off the public, who lives in a mental world all his own and into which domain no outsider might trespass. ….enjoys a calm, detached amusement when he realizes the shocked awe in which he is held by his fellow men and women......Perhaps The Angel, Nature's prank though he may be, has attained that state of complete tranquility which so many humans seek to attain, but never grasp.

1953 article written in Singapore, reference to article history lost:
“Stamp collectors will be interested to meet M’sier Tillet, as he is a ardent philatelist and the large and varied issues of Malaya are sure to interest”. Maurice as a stamp collector was further substantiated byMaurice’s godchild mentioned to me that “stamps” were one of Maurice’s belongings that had come to him and his father, after Maurice’s passing.

On May 13, 1940 Maurice defeated Steve Casey by disqualification for the AWA World Title in Boston, and beat him clean again two weeks later. Maurice reinvigorated professional wrestling as crowds dramatically increased to witness his body and his ability. He remained unbeaten for nineteen months but on May 13, 1942, Maurice lost the AWA title back to Steve Casey. Although no longer billed as unbeatable, “The Angel” remained a very popular draw. Maurice held the AWA World Title (Boston) from May 13, 1940 to May 13, 1942 and the Montreal World Title March 30, 1942 to June 25, 1942. He was also the AWA champion from August 1, 1944 until August 15, 1944.

1942 saw Maurice join the Boston Chapter of France Forever, a group intended to give raise support in the U.S. to France during the course of WWII.

Maurice reported to the U.S. Army in 1942 to serve in the war effort.
He was told that he would not be able to understand complex orders and be a curiosity and distraction and therefore was denied service.
Picture of his U.S. physical:
In February of 1947, Maurice took his oath of citizenship to the United States.
Promoter Jack Pfeffer recognized the genius in the name “Angel” and started importing other “Angels” with physical abnormalities. This influx forced Maurice to become “The French Angel.” With the “theft” of his very personal nickname being applied to other wrestlers likely explains the story of Tillet’s first face-to-face meeting with Pfeffer. Maurice knocked him cold.  There was a consequence to this action. 

Jack Pfeffer sued Maurice for 30,000$ and was instead awarded 250$ by the courts. The wrestling commission fined Maurice 50$ for the action.   In short, the courts, and the wrestling commission had to send a message that although technically inappropriate to have slapped Jack, they secretly agreed by imposing smallest punitive action they could impose.  It was reported that if they really disagreed with Maurice's action they would have suspended him for a match or two for a true loss of money to the wrestler and his promoter. The papers of the day did not seem to be in love with Jack.

By 1946 Maurice was detailed as the highest paid sports figure. 
 Sandusky Register Star News April 20, 1946
Wrestling comes into its own in the income department. Maurice "The Angel" Tillet, according to a Chicago sportswriter who should know, is. top man on the nation's sports payroll.

Maurice was especially close to one friend, Antanas Tamašiūnas aka Tony Thomasun, and his son, who became Maurice's godchild.
 From the above location:
"Tamašiūnas (Thomasun), Anthony, was born 01/11/1894 Jakūnų t., Kovarskas, Vilnius County.  He attended Elementary School in Kovarska.  He came to America in 1910, to Pittsburgh, PA.  Later moving to Oshkosh, Wis., where he lived for 20 years. There he was a drainage and sewer contractor and amateur wrestler.  In 1912 he wrestled Stanislaus Zbyszko in De Kalb, Ill.  In 1926 he met Karl Pojello in Chicago.  Soon afterward, Anthony organized Karl to wrestle Carl Van Würden, Canadian and former Wisconsin state semi-heavy weight champion, in the 175lb weight class, in OSHKOSH, Wis.  Pojello beat his opponent in just under 3 minutes.  The match setup Pojello to wrestle all over America.  In 1949 Anthony moved to Chicago. There he owned a few taverns and a Trailer Park, where he lived for a time."

What I would like to point out here is that Anthony setup Karl for success, and in turn, Karl discovered and trained Maurice, which set-up Maurice for success.  

The following came from Tony's son, Maurice's godchild:  "I knew 'The Angel' always. He walked me to my 1st day of 'Kindergarden'. We lived at..... Detroit then. I recall, because the kids + teacher got scared, some screamed! Maurice stayed in our basement apartment... HE owned a new Caddy Convertible then..."

Later they all moved to Chicago. Karl Pojello, his wife Olga, and Maurice went in on a Mansion together at 726 West Garfield Avenue in Chicago. 

"Do you have oatmeal each morning? As a kid I did together with Maurice & Karl. It was their favorite muscle food."  "The Angel came to my school several times to partake, jointly, in school plays. HE loved kids and (acting). George Dewey Elementary (Chicago) ha(d)... a 5ft X 5ft painting of Maurice + Karl in a dual bear hug."... "My dad, karl, Maurice + the Mayor dinned often. Other wrestles mingled together too. at Milda(Theater) on Garfield Boulevard (where the pals died). Dozens of kids from Dewey , and Visitation Elementary Catholic School often visited Maurice + Karl, after school..."..."For a couple of years, before the Angel's death, every Saturday(He) would take kids to Eliotts diner for hamburgers and the famous fried donut holes. Eliotts, owned by a French Jew, is located on 55th Street and next to the RR viaduct. School buses were chartered..." At the mansion on Garfield "...We would have fun in the rear barn'garage, with the several old cars, and the cats... He cherished dozens of the felines..."  He also reported that Maurice owned a huge H.O. gauge train set. After Maurice's death it was packaged up and moved to the Chicago Museum for Science and Industry. Maurice had several vehicles including a 1950 Lincoln, 1950 Stretch Packard, and a 1948 Studebaker truck.  

Below is a 1950 Packard, Lincoln Cosmo Sedan, and a1948 Studebaker Truck

Again from Maurice's godchild:
"Maurice became friends with Marilyn Monroe, the actress early in her career."  I let him know that was looking for some connection between them. He suggested: "Baseball might be it. Both Maurice & Karl and Jean(M.M.) cherished baseball."

FROM: DEL TROCADERO AL PASAPOGA: Historias de Mujeres Buenas by Oscar Yanes.

In April, or early May, of 1952 Maurice came to Caracas Venezuela, to wrestle.  Promoter Oscar Ibarra, was there to meet Maurice, and told him of a recent tragedy.


In the Church of Santa Teresa, in Caracas, a lady’s article of clothing momentarily caught fire, and someone yelled fire, fire.  The crowds trying to get in, and the crowds trying to get out, essentially created a panicked stampede.  In the end 22 children, 22 women, and one man were trampled to death.

Maurice then went to speak to Father Carrillo, at the church, to see how he could help.

Maurice told the priest he wanted to the mothers who had lost their children in the tragedy anonymously.  Explaining to the priest he loves children, and mentioning that he maintains a foundation for underprivileged children in Versailles France.

While he spoke to the father Carrillo a girl in the Catholic Action, Carolina Ramirez was listening.  “Carolina was moved, hearing how this man, with his head down, as if confessing a sin, wanted to help others and how he even showed embarrassment in wanting to help…..”

Carolina ended up escorting Maurice to an underprivileged school, and then to the trauma center to see some of the injured.  In the end, Carolina ended up becoming close with Maurice, and he became smitten with her.    

He went to Venezuela for a two week contract, and stayed for 1.5 months.

The author of the book, Oscar Yanes, leads us to believe that Maurice either very close to asking Carolina to marry him, or had already asked her mother if he might.  Carolina could not bring herself to accept.  

Mr. Yanes details the event, but allows the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what she was refusing and why.  Likely Carolina was turning Maurice down for two reasons, he was much older, and due to his abnormal physiology.   She originally had expressed that she found Maurice very unappealing, to say the least, due to his look.

Seems Maurice handled this situation the best he could.  He left her house letting her know it was better they make a clean break, and go their separate ways.

Side Note:
The book mentioned that Maurice once met famed philosopher, Jean Paul Sarte, but says his heart is in opposition with existentialism.  

Maurice’s appearance drew significant attention when he was in public and is likely why chose to live a more private life and was particular about friends. Maurice’s personal friends included, Tony Thomasun, mentioned above, businessman Patrick Leonard, sculptor Louis Linck, and professional wrestler Bobby Managoff. 

"Mysteries at the Museum" Travel Channel TV in the United states reported that in 1951, Louis made a series of busts.  For the record, I know of two that are full size, or the actual size of Maurice's head. One is now at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago.  The other in personal hands outside of the United States. (Detail withheld for privacy sake).   In addition Louis created a series of little, 12 inch high, gold colored statue heads.  I have seen one, know two persons that have them, and at one time a person reported he had a dozen that were given out.
Louis Link bust of Maurice Tillet:

Bobby Managoff took a mold of Maurice’s head prior to his death in 1954. From that mold, a number of busts of Maurice were created.

There is now known, four finished Tillet busts, referred to as “Death Masks”.  One went to wrestler/strongman Henry “Milo” Steinborn.  Two went to Patrick Leonard.  The last was last seen in the office of Houston TX promoter Paul Boesch.

Steinborn donated his to The York Barbell and Weightlifting Hall of Fame in Pennsylvania.  In 2006 Patrick donated one of his to the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard and the other to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum.  Paul Boesch's is still at large.  The one below is from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Maurice wrestled until 1954 and remained extremely close to his manager Karl Pojello.   Note that Karl was 46 yrs old here in this picture and Maurice was 36.  Karl was still a world-class wrestler.  The picture on the right is later when they were in the U.S.
By 1954, Karl had lung cancer and Maurice had recently recovered from pneumonia was suffering from a heart condition. 
Maurice, at that time, was living with Karl and his wife Olga at 726 W. Garfield Blvd in Chicago, shown above.

Maurice and Karl's bio,, end exactly the same.

In the early 1950's Karl, Olga, and Maurice Tillet had turned the mansion on Garfield Blvd. in Chicago, into a boarding house. Karl and Maurice had adjoining rooms on the first floor. In a strange twist of fate both men became very sick at about the same time. Maurice had an enlarged heart, and Karl had lung cancer.  According to Karl's grand nephew, Valentine L. Krumplis, Olga was taking care of both Karl and Maurice.  He remembered going to the house and Olga having been very tired and and having no patience for the kids.

Karl's room had previously been the Music room on the 1st floor of the Mansion. Karl died on September 4th 1954 at 9:43am. Upon Karl's passing his wife, Olga, went to Maurice to inform him of Karl's passing.  Maurice told her that then there was no further reason for him to stay, and shortly afterward was taken to the hospital. 13 hours after Karl died, Maurice died, September 4th 1954, at 11:00pm.

At their funeral, Karl was noted for being tolerant of all persons, races, etc. The French Consul General, M. Strauss, spoke on behalf of Maurice at the Funeral. Karl’s wrestling pupils carried his coffin. About 300 Automobiles blocked up Halstad Street for the funeral and crowds of thousands attended the funeral.

Funeral details:
Last Wed. in Bridgeport there was an interruption on Halstad Street because these two sportsman procession blocked traffic. Many could not get into the Funeral Parlor before the bodies were taken to the cemetery. Farewell words were spoken by the Editor, Kaustas Augustas, of the Local Lithuanian Paper “Naujienos”(Lithuanian for "The News"), was Karl’s personal friend. In emotional words he remembered his friend’s gentleman behavior, and balanced life. Karl never forgot to mention he was Lithuanian and very much helped raise up the Lithuanian people. About 300 cars were in the procession and there were crowds of thousands that went to the cemetery to say goodbye. Speaking for Maurice was the Consul General of France, M. Strauss. In the French Language he spoke about Maurice drew attention to the French People. Karl’s coffin was carried by some of his students/pupils. Karl was noted for being tolerant of all nationalities. At the cemetery they flew U.S., French, and Lithuanian flags.

Author Greg Oliver - Found here:
"The official cause was heart disease, but "Tough" Tony Borne, who knew both starting out in Chicago, said he died of a broken heart. "He was a money-maker for Carl. Carl was basically interested in the dollar. The French Angel told me that 50 cents of every dollar he made went to Carl," said Borne. "He wasn't bitter about it at all. In fact, Carl's wife told me, 'Carl doesn't love me, he loves the French Angel.' Dollar signs."

Karl and Maurice were buried side by side in the Pojello family plot in the Lithuanian National Cemetery in Justice, Illinois. 
Suburbanite Economist September 8, 1954 - "The Angel, who won out in his bout against pneumonia last month, succumbed to a heart ailment a few hours after he learned Karl Pojello, a life-long friend, and manager, was the victim of lung cancer. The pair had shared adjoining rooms at 726 W. Garfield Blvd. When informed, the Angel became ill and was taken to County Hospital where he passed away. They will be buried at the same time today at 1:30 p.m., from the chapel at 3354 S. Halsted St. Interment will be Lithuanian National Cemetery."
Maurice is the widely accepted inspiration for the cartoon character “Shrek”.  DreamWorks has never confirmed precisely from where Shrek’s inspiration arose. There is an obvious physical and personality-based parallels between Maurice and Shrek throughout the movie.

The film was originally written and animated to fit actor Chris Farley. When Farley died, a whole new film was written. In a rush to create a new film, it is presumed they found in Maurice the perfect representation of an older, wiser ogre. A man, now an Ogre, with a desire for a private personal life, yet possessing a noble character required of a reluctant hero. 

The physical characteristics, as well personality traits of Maurice Tillet, and his wrestling persona “The French Angel”, appear to be evident throughout the film.


Maurice's continued relevance -

Every new person you saw reacted to you with stunned fixation, fear, or at very best, curiosity.  Occasionally people ran or moved away quickly, fainted, and sometimes children cried.  Imagine What kind of person would you become, if you smiled, and so many did not smile back.  What would it do to you?  Who would you become? 

It is not enough to say he overcame his life's special conditions. Maurice understood it was normal for people to react as they did.  Rather than allowing it to move him to a life of dissatisfaction, and isolation, he was able use how different he was, in order to get out there and live.   To make of his life, something special and impressive.

Maurice did, near the very end of his life become more reclusive.  Please not judge this in context to his whole life.  Pain, and end of life, will be a challenge for all of us.  If being with a select few friends made him comfortable, when pain was aggressive, we should not judge.  There can be no argument that Maurice's physical and emotional challenges were fierce.   What makes him impressive was his ability to stay a grounded, compassionate, motivated human being.

Suburbanite Economist January 29, 1941:  WRESTLERS MEET IN BENEFIT SHOW - "The Angel" and English Champ Will Battle Tonight...  Proceeds from tonight's show will be turned over to the Cook County chapter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis,Inc.
Oakland Tribune July 11, 1940:   CHARITY TO RECEIVE PORTION OF THE ANGEL'S MAT PURSE - French Wrestler to Meet Rasputin Here Tomorrow Night; Villmer to Mix With Paxek - "The Angel," will attempt to materialize this gruesome, yet admirable character when he wll turn over a large share of his earnings received from his wrestling match with Ivan Rasputin tomorrow night at the Auditorum to the French Red Cross.
Sheboygan Press November 4, 1952 - French Angel Wrestles At Playdium Tonight
He supports 19 or 20 French war orphans and has the reputation of being an intelligent man for all his appearance.

Below is something I never thought I would see, a picture of Maurice before Acromegaly set in.  
We see a young man of 13yrs. old whose mother called him, "Angel". 

Feel free to friend my Facebook page for him - 
Maurice on Facebook:
Maurice on Pinterest:

Maurice suffered from Acromegaly. It is what shaped his look, and added to the challenge that his life presented.

The passion for all things related to Maurice began when I discovered I have a completely unknown death mask of Maurice Tillet. The artist took a mold of Maurice in 1954, just before his death. From that mold, it was detailed he had created a few busts.  If you are interested in the history, and research of all the death masks click the link here - "FRENCH ANGEL DEATH MASK"

The reason why Maurice is interesting, upon first examination, due to his abnormal proportions. It is undeniable that his look opened the door for Maurice to opportunities.  What made him incredible is how he lived life and dealt with the illness that created that look. Acromegally / Giantism comes with allot of physical and psychological challenges. Maurice managed to stay positive, embrace his differences, and actively fought to be healthy and strong.  The challenges he met and overcame in becoming the man he was to be, made him amazing.

Pictures taken of Maurice Tillet by Irving Penn in 1945. 

SPORTS PARADE: LOWDOWN ON FRENCH ANGEL - (source likely a Boston paper, printed in early 1956) - By Hugh Brown - found here:    
Someone, I cannot determine from the article said, "The Angel's manager, Karl Pojello, said he had found him in a dive in Singapore, where he (The Angel) had arrived from the jungle after strangling two tigers.   "Macricostas replied, ""Tigers! Stromberry! Rossberry!"..
..Mr. Macricostas sputtered. "I will tell you how the Angel really happened. Pojello and I are walking along a Paris street in 1937 and this strange creature passed us. I saw him and I cried to Pojello: "'Karl, I have just seen the ugliest man in the world. Why don't you make him a rassler? He could make you a fortune.' Then I ran up to this Maurice Tillet and spoke to him in French. He replied in French: 'Scram, bum.' But, then Pojello arrived and began talking money. The Frenchman softened and said he had a job as a Frankenstein in the movies. He said he made 60 francs a week. Pojello said, 'I'll give you a thousand.  Pojello trained him for five months, then took him to Manchester, England, where he sold out. He did the same in London and Rome. When they came to America they had formed the weirdest partnership I have ever known. Pojello was fascinated by The Angel's ugliness and The Angel was fascinated by Pojello. They would fight like cats and dogs, then make up."....""I saw a picture of him when he was 15," George said, "and he was a normal French kid wearing a sailor suit. A year later, a horse kicked him in the face. His glands were damaged and his face began broadening and thickening.".... "You remember," the Maestro said, "that Jack Pfeffer, (a rival rassling promoter) dug up another gargoyle and called him the French Angel, too. (Likely Macricostas forgot history here. Pfeffer brought in the Swedish Angel. There was not another French Angel and likely his memory just failed him here.) Well, one night in Chicago I was talking to Pfeffer when the real French Angel walked up and asked me, 'Ees thees M'sieu Feefair?' I said, 'Yes, this is Mr. Pfeffer.' A second later, the Angel had knocked him cold.

1.    Pictures and  details of the man from childhood, his parents, his relationships?
2.    Where is his supposed Poetry?  

3.    What supposed French Horror Films did he played in? 
4.    According to Maurice he served aboard a ship, Toulon.  It was sunk at the port, by the same name, Toulon.

I have provided above a cohesive story about how Maurice came to wrestling.  As I studied him, I found multiple stories told of this event.  The truth of each one of these descriptions is suspect as Maurice was as much 'a sold character' as he was a real person.  I have taken details from descriptions that blend, removing hyperbole, in order to more closely represent the truth.

1.  Maurice Tillet and Karl Pojello, his manager, pretty consistently say to the media that Maurice was in the Navy for 5 years, and when his tour was over, he got off the boat in Singapore.   Karl was there to hunt and Maurice ran into him at a bar.
This particular version, although told by the man himself, never sat well with me.  No other source during Maurice's life confirms this story.   It is nothing more than character marketing to avoid the basic fact that Maurice was an actor.  Not a terribly successful one actually.  According to later interviews with him he had a couple of good parts, and a few small ones. He said that the business took luck and money, and he was in short supply of both.

2. In allot of 1940's newspapers they say that at the time that Maurice came to wrestling he was a doorman at the Paris France studio's. His job being to scare away children when they collected in too large of numbers. Maurice himself in some newspapers says that his job before wrestling was for the Paris Studios as a doorman.

3.  Atholl Oakeley, in his 1971 book, Blue Blood on the Mat, details that he was there when Maurice was discovered.   In this version, Atholl states that Karl was a very good man, that no one ever asked for help and did not receive help from Karl.  One day Karl and Atholl were strolling down the Boulevard des Italiens, and passing them was a poor man, dressed in rags, one boot missing, no socks. Karl tried talking to him in many languages before hitting Russian.   To which Atholl say's, "Instantly this terrible creature, weeping like a babe, was in his arms.  Karl said to Atholl, "Atol, quick, you help me please.  Zis zick man.  Very zick man.  Quick. Quick!!"    Atholls description of Maurice is very filled with hyperbole and this never completely sat well with me, Atholl said that Karl Pojello, Jack Sherry, and Karloff Manoogian(Likely Manoognan) were generous, not so much church going men,  as they were dedicated to a charitable christian life. I mention this, as Karl and Maurice always remained close.  Maurice himself was a devout Catholic and it appears he stayed close to others with like mindset.

4.  Sir Atholl Oakeley - PEN PORTRAIT of an ANGEL 1948.   In this version, Atholl tells a different story.  "One day, meeting Pojello (the famous former World Light-heavyweight Champion) in Paris, he discovered a kindred spirit who spoke Russian. When he found that his Mother remembered Pojello as the chemist in St Petersberg at whose shop she used to buy the family medicine, Maurice became firm friends. Pojello cabled me to go over and see him, and we all talked in a little restaurant at the back of the Café de la Paix. It was then decided that Maurice should take up wrestling, at which his great strength would be an asset. Pojello made a contract and undertook to teach Maurice."
In this version, Atholl was not with Karl when Maurice was found.  He was "cabled" and he also talks about how strong Maurice was.  In his 1971 story, Maurice was sick and weak.

5.  The following is a interview with wrestler George Macricostas.  
SPORTS PARADE: LOWDOWN ON FRENCH ANGEL - (source likely a Boston paper, printed in early 1956) - By Hugh Brown - found here:   "The Angel's manager, Karl Pojello, said he had found him in a dive in Singapore, where he (The Angel) had arrived from the jungle after strangling two tigers." Macricostas replied, ""Tigers! Stromberry! Rossberry!" Mr. Macricostas sputtered. "I will tell you how the Angel really happened. Pojello and I are walking along a Paris street in 1937 and this strange creature passed us. I saw him and I cried to Pojello: "'Karl, I have just seen the ugliest man in the world. Why don't you make him a rassler? He could make you a fortune.' Then I ran up to this Maurice Tillet and spoke to him in French. He replied in French: 'Scram, bum.' But, then Pojello arrived and began talking money. The Frenchman softened and said he had a job as a Frankenstein in the movies. He said he made 60 francs a week. Pojello said, 'I'll give you a thousand.'

I looked into where the Paris Studios were in 1936.  The Wikipedia page for French Cinema talks about this:  Pre WWII in Paris it seems like allot centered around Gaumont-Palace.  According to Atholl Oakeley, Maurice, Karl and he sat down in a little Cafe at the back of Cafe De La Paix.  The location of Cafe de la Paix - 12 Boulevard des Capucines, 75009 Paris to Gaumont Palace 3 Rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris is1.9km or 23min. walking time.

Here is a picture of the Palace from that time-period.   Image taken from  -  It is by no means a certainty that Maurice's doorman job was here, simply that it is a possibility until which time I find a specific name.

If you have anything to add, or have a question, please contact me at: 

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, Parts I, II, & III by Ed (The Phantom of the Ring) Garea. 


  1. Bert Assirati was the first wrestler to beat The Angel on his English tour in 1939, his manager Karl Pojello tried to keep the defeat out of the newspapers, but a sports fan wrote in saying he had seen Assirati defeat The Angel in London. Assirati defeated The Angel a further five times once in front of a crowd of 12,000 fans again in London, he again defeated him in a World Title eliminator also in London, and once more while defeating all opposition in Singapore, before moving on to India, and Pakistan. The Angel was often portrayed as a wild animal, who lived in trees, while eating a bunch of bananas. In real life he was said to be quiet, well behaved, friendly, with a good sense of humour. When Assirati got him in a punishing head lock, he would stick out his long tongue, and gasp in agony. He was regarded as a circus freak, a good box office draw, with little wrestling skill, his value was limited. When he first appeared at Bell Vue, Manchester in 1938 women would faint when they first saw him, just like in the film Elephant Man, the local Council was so worried they tried to stop him from appearing.
    Best wishes Mike Hallinan Wrestling Historia London England ---- Web-Sites and

  2. it's Toulouse, not Talouse, and the picture you posted is the Capitole, not the university ;) anyway it was very interesting, thank you

    1. I will definitely fix that! I much prefer accuracy. This site is an exercise in an ongoing attempt to obtain accurate information on a remarkable man. His real life is mixed in with the fiction that can be professional wrestling and hence can be challenging. Thanks for calling that to my attention!

    2. Help me out with any image of the Law School at Toulouse please? Seems all images of the university seems to be focused on the Capitole.

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  5. Thank you for sharing so many information about Maurice the Angel!

  6. This site gives me Geocities vibes. Good times.