Lionel Atwill

Active - 1918 - 2007  |   Born - Mar 1, 1885   |   Died - Nov 20, 1946   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Horror, Crime, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

British actor Lionel Atwill was born into wealth and educated at London's prestigious Mercer School, where he planned to pursue a career as an architect; instead, he became a stage actor, working steadily from his debut at age 20, most often in the plays of Ibsen and Shaw. Establishing himself in America, Atwill continued his stage work, supplementing his income with silent film appearances, the first being Eve's Daughter(1918). Atwill's rich rolling voice made him a natural for talking pictures. Following a pair of Vitaphone short subjects in 1928, the actor made his talkie bow in The Verdict (1932). Most effective in roles as an aristocratic villain, Atwill found himself appearing in numerous melodramas and horror films, including the classic Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). Atwill's career was threatened in 1940, when it was revealed that he'd thrown an "orgy" at his home, complete with naked guests and pornographic films. Atwill "lied like a gentleman" to protect his party guests at the subsequent trial, and was convicted of perjury. The ensuing scandal made Atwill virtually unemployable at most studios, but he found a semi-permanent home at Universal Pictures, which at the time was grinding out low budget horror films. Lionel Atwill died in harness in the middle of production of the 1946 Universal serial Lost City of the Jungle; viewers watching this serial today will no doubt notice how often Atwill's character turns his back to the camera, allowing the producers to cover his absence with a stand-in.

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