Lionel Atwill – Actor



Lionel Alfred William Atwill (1 March 1885 – 22 April 1946) was an English stage and film actor. He was born on March 1, 1885, in Croydon, Surrey. He studied architecture before his stage debut at the Garrick Theatre, London, in 1904.


Atwill became a star in Broadway theatre by 1918, and made his screen debut in 1919. He acted on the stage in Australia but was most famous for his Hollywood horror film roles in the 1930s.


His two most memorable characters were as the crazed, disfigured sculptor in Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), and as Inspector Krogh in Son of Frankenstein (1939), memorably sent up by Kenneth Mars in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein (1974).


Atwill’s notable non-horror roles were opposite his contemporary Basil Rathbone in films featuring Sherlock Holmes, including a role as DoctorJames Mortimer in the 1939 film rendition of the Conan Doyle novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, and the 1943 film Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, in which he played Holmes’ archenemy and super-villain, Professor Moriarty.

After several marriages and numerous personal tragedies such as his homes being destroyed by fire and a storm, Atwill’s Hollywood career was scuppered by a major social scandal related to a Christmas 1940 party held at his Malibu home. Partygoers, some of whom were alleged to be younger than eighteen, apparently frolicked naked on a tiger skin rug while rude movies were shown. Atwill claimed that he was “absolutely not guilty” in court, which gave rise to a perjury charge and five years on probation.

Seven months later, he confessed that he “lied like a gentleman” to protect his family and friends from embarrassment and a judge quashed his sentence, taking the view that the actor had already suffered enough public humiliation.


Never one to beat around the bush as far as relations between the sexes were concerned, in 1941 he infamously declared:

“All women love the men they fear. All women kiss the hand that rules them… I do not treat women in such soft fashion. Women are cat creatures. Their preference is for a soft fireside cushion, for delicate bowls of cream, for perfumed leisure and for a master – which is where and how they belong.”


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Selected filmography:

Doctor X (1932)

The Vampire Bat (1933)


Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

The Sphinx (1933)

Secret of the Blue Room (1933)

Murders in the Zoo (1933)

The Devil Is a Woman (1935)

Mark of the Vampire (1935)

The Murder Man (1935)

Son of Frankenstein (1939)


The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

The Gorilla (1939)

Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)

Charlie Chan in Panama (1940)

Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise (1940)

Man Made Monster (1941)


The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942)

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Night Monster (1942)

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

House of Frankenstein (1944)

Lady in the Death House (1944)

Fog Island (1945)


House of Dracula (1945)

Lost City of the Jungle (1946 serial)

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