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Sanders, George


Nationality: British. Born: St. Petersburg, Russia, of English parents, 3 July 1906. Education: Attended a Russian grade school; Dunhurst Preparatory School; Bedales School; Brighton College; Manchester Technical School. Family: Married 1) the actress Susan Larson, 1940 (divorced 1949); 2) the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, 1949 (divorced 1957); 3) the actress Benita Hume, 1958 (died 1967); 4) the actress Magda Gabor, 1970 (divorced 1970). Career: Worked in a Birmingham textile mill, in the tobacco business, and as an advertising writer; then in show business as a chorus boy, in a cabaret act, on radio, and as understudy in London; 1936—film debut in Find the Lady; contract with 20th Century-Fox: U.S. film debut in Lloyd's of London; in the Saint and the Falcon series over the next few years; 1957—host of TV series The George Sanders Mystery Theatre. Awards: Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for All about Eve, 1950. Died: Suicide, 25 April 1972.

Films as Actor:


Find the Lady (Gillett) (as Curly Randall); Strange Cargo (Huntington) (as Roddy Burch); The Man Who Could Work Miracles (Mendes) (as Indifference); Dishonor Bright (Walls) (as Lisle); Lloyd's of London (Henry King) (as Lord Everett Stacy); Things to Come (Menzies) (as Pilot)


Love Is News (Garrett) (as Count Andre de Guyon); Slave Ship (Garrett) (as Lefty); The Lady Escapes (Forde) (as Rene Blanchiard); Lancer Spy (Ratoff) (as Lt. Michael Bruce)


International Settlement (Forde) (as Del Forbes); Four Men and a Prayer (Forde) (as Wyatt)


Mr. Moto's Last Warning (Foster) (as Eric Norvell); So This Is London (Freeland); The Saint Strikes Back (Farrow) (as Simon Templar); Confessions of a Nazi Spy (Litvak) (as Schlager); The Saint in London (Carstairs) (as Simon Templar); Allegheny Uprising (Seiter) (as Captain Swanson); Nurse Edith Cavell (Wilcox) (as Captain Heinrichs)


The Outsider (Stein) (as Ragatzy); Green Hell (Whales) (as Forrester); Rebecca (Hitchcock) (as Jack Flavell); The Saint's Double Trouble (Hively) (as Simon Templar/The Boss); The House of the Seven Gables (May) (as Jaffrey Pynchon); The Saint Takes Over (Hively) (as Simon Templar); Foreign Correspondent (Hitchcock) (as Ffolliott); Bitter Sweet (Van Dyke) (as Baron von Tranisch); The Son of Monte Cristo (Lee) (as Gurko Lanen)


Rage in Heaven (Van Dyke) (as Ward Andrews); The Saint in Palm Springs (Hively) (as Simon Templar); Man Hunt (Fritz Lang) (as Major Quive-Smith); The Gay Falcon (Reis) (title role); A Date with the Falcon (Reis) (title role); Sundown (Hathaway) (as Major Coombes)


Son of Fury (Cromwell) (as Sir Arthur Blake); The Falcon Takes Over (Reis) (title role); Her Cardboard Lover (Cukor) (as Tony Barling); Tales of Manhattan (Duvivier) (as Williams); The Moon and Sixpence (Lewin) (as Charles Strickland); The Falcon's Brother (Logan) (as Gay Lawrence); The Black Swan (Henry King) (as Captain Billy Leech); Quiet Please, Murder (Larkin) (as Fleg)


This Land Is Mine (Renoir) (as George Lambert); They Came to Blow Up America (Ludwig) (as Carl Stealman); Appointment in Berlin (Green) (as Keith Wilson); Paris after Dark (Moguy) (as Dr. André Marbel)


Action in Arabia (Moguy) (as Gordon); The Lodger (Brahm) (as John Warwick); Summer Storm (Sirk) (as Fedor Michailovitch Petroff)


The Picture of Dorian Gray (Lewin) (as Lord Henry Wotton); Hangover Square (Brahm) (as Dr. Allan Middleton); Uncle Harry (The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry) (Siodmak) (title role)


A Scandal in Paris (Sirk) (as Vidocq); The Strange Woman (Ulmer) (as John Evered)


The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Lewin) (as George Duroy); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz) (as Miles Fairley); Lured (Sirk) (as Robert Fleming); Forever Amber (Preminger) (as Charles II)


The Fan (Lady Windermere's Fan) (Preminger) (as Lord Darlington); Samson and Delilah (DeMille) (as The Saran of Gaza)


Captain Blackjack (Duvivier) (as Mike Alexander); All about Eve (Mankiewicz) (as Addison De Witt)


I Can Get It for You Wholesale (Gordon) (as Noble); The Light Touch (Brooks) (as Felix Guignol)


Ivanhoe (Thorpe) (as De Bois-Guilbert); Assignment—Paris (Parrish) (as Nick Strang)


Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy; Voyage to Italy) (Rossellini) (as Alexander Joyce); Call Me Madam (Walter Lang) (as Cosmo Constantine)


Witness to Murder (Rowland) (as Albert Richter); King Richard and the Crusaders (Butler) (as Richard I); Jupiter's Darling (Sidney) (as Fabius Maximus)


Moonfleet (Lang) (as Lord Ashwood); The Scarlet Coat (Sturges) (as Dr. Odell); The King's Thief (Leonard) (as Charles II); Night Freight (Yarborough) (as disc jockey)


Never Say Goodbye (Hopper) (as Victor); While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang) (as Mark Loving); That Certain Feeling (Panama and Frank) (as Larry Larkin); Death of a Scoundrel (Martin) (as Clementi Sabourin)


The Seventh Sin (Neame and Minnelli) (as Tim Waddington)


The Whole Truth (Guillermin) (as Carliss); From Earth to the Moon (Haskin) (as Stuyvesant Nicholl)


That Kind of Woman (Lumet) (as the man); Solomon and Sheba (King Vidor) (as Adonijah)


A Touch of Larceny (Hamilton) (as Sir Charles Holland); The Last Voyage (Stone) (as Captain Robert Adams); Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons (Wilder) (as Landru); Village of the Damned (Rilla) (as Gordon Zellaby); The Rebel (Call Me Genius) (Day) (as Sir Charles Brouard)


Cone of Silence (Trouble in the Sky) (Friend) (as Sir Arnold Hobbes); Cinque ore in contanti (Five Golden Hours) (Zampi) (as Mr. Bing); Le Rendez-vous (Delannoy) (as J. K.)


Operation Snatch (Day) (as Major Hobson); In Search of the Castaways (Stevenson) (as Thomas Ayerton)


Cairo (Rilla) (as Major Pickering); The Cracksman (Scott) (as the guv'nor); Ecco (Mondo di notte) (Proia—doc) (as narrator)


Dark Purpose (Marshall) (as Raymond Fontaine); A Shot in the Dark (Edwards) (as Benjamin Ballon); The Golden Head (Thorpe) (as Basil Palmer)


The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (Young) (as the banker)


The Quiller Memorandum (Anderson) (as Gibbs); Trunk to Cairo (Golan) (as Professor Schlieben)


Good Times (Friedkin) (as Mr. Mordicus); Warning Shot (Kulik) (as Calvin York)


One Step to Hell (Howard) (as Captain Phillips); The Jungle Book (Reitherman) (as voice of Shere Khan)


The Candy Man (Leder) (as Sidney Carter); The Best House in London (Saville) (as Sir Francis Leybourne); The Body Stealers (Thin Air; Invasion of the Body Stealers) (Levy) (as General Armstrong)


The Kremlin Letter (Huston) (as the warlock); Rio '70 (The Seven Secrets of Su-Muru; Future Women) (Franco); Appuntamento col disonore (Rendezvous with Dishonor) (Bolzoni)


Endless Night (Gilliatt)


Doomwatch (Sasdy) (as the Admiral); The Living Dead (Psychomania; The Frog; The Death Wheelers) (Sharp) (as Shadwell)


By SANDERS: book—

Memoirs of a Professional Cad, New York, 1960, 1992.

On SANDERS: books—

Thomas, Tony, Cads and Cavaliers, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973.

Richards, Jeffrey, Swordsmen of the Screen: From Douglas Fairbanks to Michael York, London, 1977.

Aherne, Brian, A Dreadful Man, assisted by George Sanders and Benita Hume, New York, 1979.

Van Der Beets, Richard, George Sanders: An Exhausted Life, Lanham, Maryland, 1990.

On SANDERS: articles—

Current Biography 1943, New York, 1943.

Obituary in New York Times, 26 April 1972.

Beylie, C., "Trois hommes morts," in Ecran (Paris), June 1972.

"George Sanders," in Films and Filming (London), June 1972.

"George Sanders," letter from G. Shawcross in Films in Review (New York), October 1975.

Interim, L., "Homage à l'ironie," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1981.

Galton, Ray, and Alan Simpson, "The Unlikely Lads," in Sight & Sound (London), March 1994.

Marias, J., and A. Potes, "George Sanders," in Nosferatu (San Sebastian), January 1996.

* * *

George Sanders was the smoothest of villains; a cool, dangerous cad who could outsneer Basil Rathbone and outpurr Vincent Price. He deployed irresistible charm with an edge of menace, qualified by a disconcerting sense of languid indifference. Given the quality of many of his films, this feeling of ennui was often justified.

Despite frequently proclaimed laziness ("My own desire as a boy was to retire. That ambition has never changed") and contempt for the whole business of acting, Sanders made an impressive quantity of movies. From time to time he was cast as a good chap, or even a romantic lead, but the impersonation was rarely convincing. During the war years he inevitably played despicable Nazis, most notably in Lang's Man Hunt. But it was the morally ambiguous roles, the charmingly cynical bounders, that suited him best. "I was beastly but I was never coarse. I was a high-class sort of heel." Highly literate and multilingual, Sanders responded thankfully to intelligent scripts. Albert Lewin, master of overblown cultural decadence, served him well in three films, but his finest part came from another word-oriented director, Joseph Mankiewicz, in All about Eve. As the addertongued drama critic Addison De Witt, Sanders effortlessly walked off with the picture and a thoroughly deserved Oscar.

Such ideal roles were sadly rare. Sanders occasionally worked for major directors such as Renoir and Lang, but only in their lesser films. Towards the end of his career the overall quality of his material slipped from mediocre to abysmal, and he often looked as weary as he must have felt. One of his last assignments was Disney's Jungle Book, impeccably cast as the voice of Shere Khan, the soft-spoken, razor-clawed tiger. His suicide note was wholly in character: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored."

—Philip Kemp

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