Maurice Tillet was a French Russian-born 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 by the American Wrestling Association run by Paul Bowser in Boston.
By late 1939, Maurice had a proven track record and was ready to invade professional wrestling in the United States. Maurice made his American debut on January 24, 1940 at Boston Garden against Luigi Bacigaiupi. Maurice walked down the aisle, entered the ring, leaned over the ropes, and roared at the crowd. On May 13, 1940 Maurice defeated Steve Casey by disqualification for the American Wrestling Association World Title in Boston, and beat him clean again two weeks later. Maurice reinvigorated professional wrestling as crowds dramatically increased to witness his body and his ability. He remained unbeaten for nineteen months but on May 13, 1942, Maurice lost the AWA title back to Steve Casey.
Maurice is widely believed to have been the inspiration for the cartoon character “Shrek”, although DreamWorks has never confirmed precisely from where Shrek’s inspiration arose. The film was originally written and animated to fit actor Chris Farley. When Farley died, a whole new film was written. In a rush to create a new film, it is presumed Dreamworks found in Maurice the perfect representation of an older, wiser, grumpier ogre, yet possessing a noble character of a hero. The physical characteristics, as well personality traits of Maurice, and his wrestling persona “The French Angel”, appear to be evident throughout the film.