Maurice Tillet

Maurice Tillet: The French Angel


Maurice Tillet (October 23, 1903 – September 4, 1954) had a remarkable career as a French professional wrestler. He was given the ring name the “French Angel.” Although he likely inspired many to pursue a successful career in pro wrestling, he may have also inspired the creation of the animated character called “Shrek.” Tillet certainly bore a striking resemblance to the fictional ogre.

Unfortunately, Tillet suffered with an extremely rare syndrome called “acromegaly.” His condition significantly altered his facial features, which played a role in making him look like a “Real Shrek.”

What Is Acromegaly?


A hand of a person affected with acromegaly.

Acromegaly is defined as a rare condition characterized by abnormal growth primarily in the bones of the hands, feet, face, and head. It can result in severe disfigurement. Acromegaly is a chronic disease that is usually caused by excessive secretion of growth hormone (GH) by a non-cancerous tumor of the pituitary gland called adenoma. Although the adenoma is benign, if acromegaly is left unchecked, it can also result in premature death. The condition often affects middle-aged adults.

Rondo HattonAbove is an image of American soldier, journalist and actor Rondo Hatton. You can clearly see the hypertrophy (abnormal enlargement of a part or organ). Below are more famous acromegalics.

More Famous People With Acromegaly

American Actor: Ted Cassidy

Ted CassidyFrench Professional Wrestler And Actor: André the Giant

Peak Performance Strategist & Author: Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins” by Randy Stewart is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Indian Professional Wrestler: The Great Khali

The Great Khali

Khali” by Mshake3 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

The Early Years

Maurice Tillet was born on October 23, 1903 in the Ural Mountains in Russia to French parents. His father was a train operator, and his mother was a teacher. Sadly, Tillet’s father passed away when he was a young child. Due to the Russian Revolution, he moved to France with his mother. The two settled in Reims.

Tillet Begins To Show Signs Of Acromegaly

At the age of 20, Tillet began to see signs of acromegaly. He noticed swelling in his hands, feet, and head. His symptoms lead him to pay a visit to the doctor. He was then diagnosed with acromegaly.

Tillet’s Dream To Become A Successful Lawyer

Tillet was a highly intelligent man who spoke 14 different languages. Although Tillet had big plans on becoming a lawyer (one source says he wanted to become an actor), unfortunately, he could never achieve his dream. Due to Tillet’s unfortunate condition, his dream was shattered. Instead of becoming a lawyer, he chose to pursue a career as an engineer in the French Navy. He served for five years. Little did he know that his condition would lead to a successful career in professional wrestling.

Tillet’s Career In Professional Wrestling

wrestling matchKarl Pojello was a professional wrestler who met Tillet in February 1937, in Singapore. Pojello saw great potential in Tillet and convinced him to pursue a career in wrestling. Both wrestlers moved to Paris to began training. For the next 2 years, Tillet wrestled in France as well as England. In 1939, due to World War II, both men were forced to move to the United States to continue wrestling.

The Beginning Of A Successful Wrestling Career

Paul BowserIn 1940, Tillet met professional wrestling promoter Paul Forbes Bowser (May 28, 1886 – July 17, 1960) in Boston, Massachusetts. Tillet became famous, and was dubbed “The French Angel.” According to, Tillet would destroy his opponents with his patented Bear Hug. He was the “main event,” and for 19 consecutive months, he remained undefeated.

In May 1940, Tillet won the Boston-version of the World Heavyweight Championship. He held the championship until May, 1942. He was virtually unstoppable. The same year, he also held the Montreal-based world heavyweight championship. In 1944, for a short time, Tillet also regained the Boston-based title. On August 1, 1944 Tillet defeated Steve ‘Crusher’ Casey for the American Wrestling Association World Championship.

Tillet’s Final Wresting Match

Bert AssiratiSadly, Tillet’s health began to deteriorate in 1945. His days of dominating the ring, were numbered. Tillet’s final match took place in Singapore on February 14, 1953. Unfortunately for Tillet, he lost his final match to English professional wrestler (image above) Bartolomeo “Bert” Assirati (9 July 1908 – 31 August 1990). Assirati was a multiple time British Heavyweight Champion.

Watch A Wrestling Match Between Tillet & Jerry Monohan (March 7, 1940)

More Images Of Tillet

The French Angel

Tillet in Quebec, Canada in 1936.

The French Angel

Above is a 1940 image showing Tillet being interviewed in Montreal.

Why Was Tillet Called “The French Angel”?

Due to his angelic face, Tillet was nicknamed “The French Angel.” Tillet was also called “World’s Ugliest Man,” and “Freak Ogre Of The Ring.”

The Cause Of Tillet’s Death

On September 4, 1954, in Chicago, The French Angel died at age 51 from heart disease.

Interestingly, Tillet gave permission to have a cast made of his face. The death mask is now located at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.

Do you see the resemblance? Despite the many physical similarities between the “French Angel” and Shrek, DreamWorks Animation (the American animation studio, which released the film) never declared that he was actually the inspiration for the fictional ogre character. Although there is no evidence that Maurice Tillet had inspired the creation of Shrek, the resemblance sure is striking.

This entry was posted in Human Abnormalities on by .

About Joseph Caltabiano

Joseph Caltabiano is a writer, oddities lover and a former surgical technologist. He left the field of surgical technology to pursue a career in blogging and internet marketing. As clearly shown in his posts, Joseph is very passionate about unusual topics. His two most favorite topics are medical and weird science.