Monday, November 5, 2007

Freak of the Week #6 - Maurice Tillet, "The French Angel!"

With a face which would stop Billy Goats from crossing bridges, but a gentle heart, Maurice Tillet overcame crippling physical obstacles and grappled with fate to become a star on the wrestling circuit!

original freakStomp illustration by RelleR; click to enlarge

Born in France circa 1910, Maurice was an extremely intelligent young man, speaking 14 different languages! And, wouldn't ya know it - he was also a poet, as well as an aspiring actor!

But, in his twenties, Maurice developed acromegaly, a rare disease that causes human bones to grow and distort into abnormal proportions (a contemporary wrestler with this disease went by the name of Andre The Giant).

Much pain and suffering came along for the ride, and his appearance led to ridicule, causing him to flee his native home.

Smart Maurice made the leap to America, where he turned his affliction into cash by becoming a wrestler, where he was given the description "The Freak Ogre of the Ring!"

His "heel" persona of The French Angel was an immediate hit for wrestling marks, and on August 1, 1944 Maurice had a career pinnacle with his defeat of Steve "Crusher" Casey for the American Wrestling Association World championship!

The French Angel lived a solitary life afterwards, although he did befriend a few people, including businessman Patrick Kelly, whom he would visit in Braintree, Massachusetts and play chess together.

Maurice passed at age 51 in 1955 from heart disease. He was asked on his death bed by fellow wrestler Bobby Managoff if a life mask could be made of his unusual visage. A plaster form was made, and three masks were made from the mold. One was given to Milo Steinborn, while the other two two ended up with Tillet's good friend Patrick Kelly. Steinborn donated his mask to the York Barbell Museum (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania, on display in the strongman/wrestling section). One of the other two masks sat on Kelly's office desks for years, while the final mask was donated to the International Wrestling Museum in Iowa.

A life-sized bust of The French Angel Maurice Tillet (made in 1950 by Louis Linck) resides at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago, Illinois.

Now, there's a persistent rumor that Maurice Tillet was the inspiration for the character model of the CGI animated Shrek, but your Barker has not been able to find information which would either confirm or deny this rumor. I'll leave you with a photo comparison, and let you decide for yourself for whom the bell trolls!


Anonymous said...

These pictures scare me.

Dave S. said...

He seemed like a nice guy!

He's buried in a Lithuanian cemetery in Justice, IL, alongside a friend of his (don't remember the name). It appears that they both died on the same day. I thought that he may have perished in a car crash, but I guess not.

RIP, Maurice.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I bought a pair of statue, seemed as they were to hold the books, and they seemed head of a giant..I have looked at the statue for hours and thought it was a fictional character. one time my husband decided to search internet and I am shock to know that these statue of the head belongs to a real wrestler from 50's.....incredible....I love this head statue, I always thought there was a beauty in his misshaped head...never knew it was real........

Anonymous said...

his head statue is in my living room and he is beautiful......

Anonymous said...

I was working in the PDI/Dreamworks art dept. while Shrek was being developed. On my wall I had photos of Wrestling oddballs 'The Swedish Angel','Irish Angel' and the 'French Angel'. They may have well inspired the modelers who sculpted Shrek.

Nina said...

Maurice "Angel" Tillet died September 4, 1954. He is buried next to his best friend and Manager
( Also died the same date just hours later).
The stone says something like
Not even death could split them apart, with two hands together.

GN522 said...

He looks like a very good person

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