George Zucco

George Zucco (11 January 1886 – 27 May 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.[1] In his horror films, he often played a suave villain or a mad doctor.[2]

George Zucco
Zucco in Fog Island (1945)
Born(1886-01-11)11 January 1886
Manchester, Lancashire, England, UK
Died27 May 1960(1960-05-27) (aged 74)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Years active1907–1951
Stella Francis
(m. 1930; his death 1960)

Early life and family

Zucco was born in Manchester, Lancashire, on 11 January 1886.[1] His mother Marian (née Rintoul) ran a dressmaking business; it is claimed she was a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria - but this is untrue as the honour was only accessible to titled ladies of high rank (duchesses, marchionesses, countesses, viscountesses, and baronesses). His father, George De Sylla Zucco, was a Greek merchant.[2][3]

Zucco debuted on the Canadian stage in 1908 in a stock theater company.[4] In 1910, he entered the United States for the first time from Canada, bound for Seattle, Washington, where he soon appeared in plays such as The Melting Pot and The White Sister. He and his wife Frances toured the American vaudeville circuit during the 1910s, their satirical sketch about suffragettes earning them renown.

He returned to the UK and served as a lieutenant in the British Army's West Yorkshire Regiment during the First World War.[5] He lost the use of two fingers when he was shot in the right arm in France. When the war ended, he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and later taught there.[4]

He became a leading stage actor of the 1920s, and made his film debut as Eugène Godefroy Cavaignac in The Dreyfus Case (1931), a British film dramatising the Dreyfus Affair.


Zucco returned to the United States in 1935 to play Benjamin Disraeli in Victoria Regina,[6] and appeared with Gary Cooper and George Raft in Souls at Sea (1937).

He played Professor Moriarty in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), opposite Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Zucco earned a reputation as a bespectacled, nefarious character in films such as After the Thin Man, Fast Company, Arrest Bulldog Drummond, Charlie Chan in Honolulu, The Cat and the Canary, and My Favorite Blonde.

During the 1940s, he took every role he was offered, landing himself in B-films 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.

Last years and death

He retired due to illness, after playing a bit part in David and Bathsheba (1951). Zucco was to have played in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, but his health issues resulted in his being replaced by Cedric Hardwicke.

Zucco suffered from dementia throughout the 1950s, and he died on 27 May 1960 from pneumonia in an assisted-living facility at the age of 74.[1]

Personal life

He and his wife, Stella Francis, had a daughter, Frances (1931-1962), who died of throat cancer at age 30, and a grandson, George Zucco (né Canto). Stella Zucco died from natural causes in 1999 (aged 99).[7]

Complete filmography


  1. "George Zucco, 74, Film Actor, Dead". New York Times. 29 May 1960.
  2. Feramisco, Thomas M. (2003). The Mummy Unwrapped. McFarland. p. 164. ISBN 0786413689.
  3. Parker, John (1916). Who's who in the Theatre. Pitman. p. 1492. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  4. Richards, Brad (October 2017). "George Zucco: Hollywood Madman". Classic Images (508): 6–14.
  5. British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008.
  6. "George Zucco". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 2 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  7. Lentz, Harris M. III (2000). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 1999: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 244. ISBN 9780786409198. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
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