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May 30, 2023

Meet Maurice Tillet, the Man Who Was the Rumored Inspiration Behind the Animated Character Shrek

Maurice Tillet (October 23, 1903 – September 4, 1954) was a Russian-born French professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, The French Angel. Tillet was a leading box office draw in the early 1940s and was twice World Heavyweight Champion in the American Wrestling Association run by Paul Bowser in Boston.

At the age of 17 Tillet noted his face, and hands, growing out of proportion with that of the rest of his extremities. By age 19, he had been diagnosed with Acromegaly. His entire world view must have changed almost instantly with this diagnosis in 1922.

It was Pierre Marie, in 1886, who established the term “acromegaly” for the first time and established a distinct clinical diagnosis with clear clinical descriptions in 2 patients with the characteristic presentation. Multiple autopsy findings revealed a consistent correlation between acromegaly and pituitary enlargement. Acro is most often caused by a benign or non-cancerous tumor on the pituitary gland. It can be caused by tumor’s at other locations of the body that affect growth hormone.

Although you never see Tillet wearing glasses, please be aware, those close to Tillet said he did wear glasses.

Despite the physical difficulties Tillet continued to pursue his dreams as a lawyer and actor. He could allegedly speak 14 languages. Tillet rose to fame in the 1940s after moving to America and taking an interest in professional wrestling, which he parlayed into a successful acting career.

Early on, there are references in articles that indicated Maurice had dated, and there were girlfriends, however his attitude towards dating and women shifted radically in the 1940s. “He would like to marry some rich pretty girl, settle down to a life of ease and travel. So he said last night, through an Interpreter. He’s a bit choosy about the girl, as she would be undoubtedly if she picked him.” – Bakersfield Californian, July 17 1941. THEN “Unmarried (he says the girls would want to marry him “only for my money.”)” – Evening Independent, May 10, 1947.

Maurice Tillet died on September 4, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. He suffered from a heart attack after hearing of his friend and former trainer, Karl Pojello’s death. Tillet and Pojello are buried together at the Lithuanian National Cemetery in Justice, Illinois, Cook County, 20 miles (32 km) south of Chicago. Their gravestone reads: “Friends Whom Even Death Couldn’t Part.”


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