Lionel Atwill was born into a wealthy family and was educated at London’s prestigious Mercer School to become an architect, but his interest turned to the stage. He worked his way progressively into the craft and debuted at age 20 at the Garrick Theatre in London. He acted and improved regularly thereafter, especially in the plays of Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw. Atwill came to the US in 1915 and would appear in some 25 plays on Broadway between 1917 and 1931, but he was already trying his hand in silent films by 1918. He had a sonorous voice and dictatorial British accent that served him well for the stage and just as well for sound movies. He did some Vitaphone short subjects in 1928 and then his first real film role in Silent Witness (1932) (also titled “The Verdict”).
That voice and his bullish demeanor made Atwill a natural for a spectrum of tough-customer roles. As shady noblemen and mad doctors, but also gruff military men and police inspectors (usually with a… read more