George Zucco  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

George Desylla Zucco (January 11, 1886 – May 27, 1960) was an English character actor who appeared, almost always in supporting roles, in 96 films during a career spanning two decades, from 1931 to 1951.



Early life

Zucco was born in Manchester, England to a Greek merchant father and an English mother who was a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. He debuted on the Canadian stage in 1908. He and his wife Frances toured the American vaudeville circuit during the 1910s, their satirical sketch about suffragettes earning them renown. He returned to Britain, and served as a lieutenant in the British Army's West Yorkshire Regiment during World War I. He became a leading stage actor of the 1920s, and made his film debut in 1931, playing Eugène Godefroy Cavaignac in The Dreyfus Case, an early British re-telling of the Dreyfus Affair.


Zucco returned to the U.S.A. in 1935 to play Benjamin Disraeli alongside Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina, and appeared with Gary Cooper and George Raft in Souls at Sea (1937). His best known film role was that of Professor Moriarty in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), opposite Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.

During the 1940s, he took every role he was offered, landing himself in B-movies and Universal horror films, including The Mummy's Hand (1940), The Mummy's Tomb (1942), The Mad Monster (1942), The Mad Ghoul (1943), Dead Men Walk (1943), The Mummy's Ghost (1944), House of Frankenstein (1944), and Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948). He was reunited with Basil Rathbone in another Sherlock Holmes adventure, Sherlock Holmes in Washington, this time playing not Moriarty, but a Nazi spy.

He retired due to illness, after playing a bit part in David and Bathsheba in 1951. Kenneth Anger, in his 1988 book Hollywood Babylon II, claimed that Zucco died in a madhouse, convinced that he was being haunted by H.P. Lovecraft's creation Cthulhu, and that Zucco's wife and adult daughter committed suicide in response to the loss. Actually, Zucco died of pneumonia in an assisted-living facility in 1960, and is interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. His daughter died of cancer in 1962, and his widow died of natural causes in 1999, more than a decade after Anger's published account of her purported suicide.

Selected filmography

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "George Zucco" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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