Lionel Atwill

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Lionel Atwill
Lionel Atwill.jpg
Born (1885-03-01)1 March 1885
Croydon, London, England, UK
Died 22 April 1946(1946-04-22) (aged 61)
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
Cause of death pneumonia
Occupation Actor
Years active 1905–1946
Spouse(s) Phyllis Relph (1913-1919) (divorced) 1 child
Elsie Mackay (1920-1928) (divorced)
Henrietta Louise Cromwell Brook MacArthur (1930-1943) (divorced)
Mary Paula Pruter (1944-1946) (his death) 1 child

Lionel Alfred William Atwill (1 March 1885 – 22 April 1946) was an English stage and film actor.

Life and career[edit]

He was born on 1 March 1885 in Croydon, London, England. He studied architecture before his stage debut at the Garrick Theatre, London, in 1904.

He became a star in Broadway theatre by 1918,[1] and made his screen debut in 1919. He acted on the stage in Australia before becoming involved in U.S. horror film roles in the 1930s. He played the crazed, disfigured sculptor in Mystery of the Wax Museum (Warner Brothers, 1933), as Inspector Krogh in Son of Frankenstein (1939).

His other roles include The Wrong Road (1937) for RKO and Dr. James Mortimer in 20th Century Fox's film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), and Professor Moriarty in the Universal Studios film Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943).

Personal life[edit]

He married four times. His first wife was Phyllis Ralph; the couple married in 1913 and divorced in 1919. In 1941 their son, John Arthur Atwill (born 1914), was killed in action aged 26.[2] Atwill married the American actress Elsie Mackay in 1920, and Louise Cromwell Brooks in 1930; they divorced in 1943. She had previously been married to Douglas MacArthur. Atwill's fourth and final wife was Mary Paula Shilstone (d. 2002) in 1944 for the remainder of his life; She gave birth to his only surviving child, Lionel Anthony Atwill, now a retired writer.

In 1942, he was indicted for perjury by a jury investigating the 1941 proceeding of a grand jury relative to the alleged occurrence of a sex orgy at his home.[3]

Atwill died of cancer and pneumonia while filming the 1946 serial Lost City of the Jungle. Atwill was playing the mastermind villain, Sir Eric Hazarias, a foreign spy chief. Universal could not afford to throw out the footage already filmed, so they were forced to adapt the serial. First, another villain (Malborn, played by John Mylong, who was originally just a servant of Sir Eric) was introduced as the boss of Atwill's character to take over most of the villain requirements of the film. Secondly, a double of Atwill was used to complete his remaining scenes. The double was filmed from behind and remained silent. The villain's henchmen were filmed repeating their orders back to the silent double and stock footage of Atwill was edited in to show a response. The director skipped ahead and filmed the last chapter out of order, while Atwill was still alive, because they knew he was dying.

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "The Rise of Lionel Atwill", The New York Times, 14 April 1918, p. X6.
  2. ^ "Actor Lionel Atwill's Son Killed in British Air Action". Chicago Tribune. 1941-04-29.  Commonwealth War Graves Commission - CWGC record.
  3. ^ "Lionel Atwill Indicted", The New York Times, 1 July 1942, p. 28.Stage and screen actor indicted


  • Mank, Gregory William (1998). Hollywood's Maddest Doctors. A Biography of Lionel Atwill, Colin Clive and George Zucco. Baltimore MD: Midnight Marquee Press. ISBN 188766422X. 
  • Smith, Ronald L. (2010). Horror stars on radio, The broadcast histories of 29 chilling Hollywood voices. Jefferson NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786445257. 
  • Pitts, Michael R. (1981). Horror Film Stars. Jefferson NC: McFarland. ISBN 0-89950-004-8. 
  • Stuart, Ray; Banasiewicz, Czeslaw Z. (1965). Immortals of the Screen. New York: Bonanza Books. ASIN B000OGH3S2. 
  • Twomey, Alfred E.; McClure, Arthur F. (1969). The Versatiles, A Study of Supporting Character Actors and Actresses in the American Motion Picture, 1930-1955. South Brunswick NJ: A.S. Barnes & Company. ISBN 978-0498067921. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Lionel Atwill at Wikimedia Commons