A photograph of Sanders by Allan Warren, 1972
|Born||George Henry Sanders
3 July 1906
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
|Died||25 April 1972
Castelldefels, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Cause of death
|Education||Bedales School, Brighton College|
|Alma mater||Manchester Technical College|
|Occupation||Actor, author, singer-songwriter, music composer|
Zsa Zsa Gabor
(m.1959–1967; her death)
(1968–1972; his death)
|Family||Tom Conway (brother)|
George Henry Sanders (3 July 1906 – 25 April 1972) was a Russian-born English film and television actor, singer-songwriter, music composer, and author. His heavy English accent and bass voice often led him to be cast as sophisticated but villainous characters. He is perhaps best known as Jack Favell in Rebecca (1940), Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950), King Richard the Lionheart in King Richard and the Crusaders (1954), and the voice of the malevolent man-hating tiger Shere Khan in Disney's The Jungle Book (1967). His career spanned more than 40 years.
Sanders was born in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, at number 6 Petrovski Ostrov. His English parents were Henry Sanders (1873–1961) and Margaret Sanders (1875–1967). Actor Tom Conway (1904–1967) was his elder brother. His younger sister, Margaret Sanders, was born in 1912. The future actor was 11 when, in 1917, at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the family returned to England. Like his brother, he attended Bedales School, Brighton College, a boys' independent school in Brighton, Sussex, then went on to Manchester Technical College. After graduation, he worked at an advertising agency, where the company secretary, aspiring actress Greer Garson, suggested he take up a career in acting.
Sanders made his British film debut in 1929, Seven years later, after a series of British films, his first role in an American production was Lloyd's of London (1936) as Lord Everett Stacy. His smooth, upper-class English accent and sleek British manner, along with a suave, superior and somewhat threatening air, put him in demand for American films throughout the following decade. He played supporting roles in A-pictures productions such as Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), in which he and Judith Anderson played cruel foils to Joan Fontaine's character, and in the director's Foreign Correspondent, later that year, he played one of his career's few heroic parts. He had leading roles in lower-budget pictures such as Rage in Heaven (1941), and in both The Falcon and The Saint film series. In 1942, Sanders handed the Falcon role to his brother Tom, in The Falcon's Brother. The only other film in which the two acting siblings appeared together was Death of a Scoundrel (1956), in which they also played brothers.
Sanders played Lord Henry Wotton in the film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and he was the third lead in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in the leads. Sanders gave one of his most well received performances, starring with Angela Lansbury in director Albert Lewin's The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (also 1947) taken from an 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant. He and Lansbury also featured in Cecil B. deMille's biblical epic Samson and Delilah (1949).
For perhaps his best role as the acerbic, cold-blooded theatre critic Addison DeWitt, in All About Eve (1950), Sanders won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. He then starred as Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert in Ivanhoe (1952), dying in a duel with Robert Taylor after professing his love for Jewish maiden Rebecca, played by Elizabeth Taylor. Sanders starred as King Richard the Lionheart in King Richard and the Crusaders (1954). Peter Sellers and Sanders appeared together in the Pink Panther sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964). Sanders had earlier inspired Peter Sellers' character Hercules Grytpype-Thynne in the BBC radio comedy series The Goon Show (1951–60).
Sanders went into television with the series The George Sanders Mystery Theater (1957). He played an upper-crust English villain, G. Emory Partridge, in the The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair" (1965) and reprised the role later in that same year in "The Yukon Affair". He also portrayed Mr. Freeze in two episodes of the live-action Batman TV series which were shown in February 1966. Sanders voiced the malevolent Shere Khan in the Walt Disney production of The Jungle Book (1967). He had a supporting role in John Huston's The Kremlin Letter (1969), in which his first scene showed him dressed in drag and playing piano in a San Francisco gay bar. One of Sanders' final screen roles was in Doomwatch (1972), a feature film version of a contemporary BBC television series .
Two ghostwritten crime novels were published under his name to cash in on his fame. The first was Crime on My Hands (1944), written in the first person and mentioning his "Saint" and "Falcon" films. This was followed by Stranger at Home in 1946. Both were actually written by female authors: the former by Craig Rice, and the latter by Leigh Brackett.
In 1958, Sanders recorded an album called The George Sanders Touch: Songs for the Lovely Lady. The album was released by ABC-Paramount Records, and carried lush string arrangements of romantic ballads, crooned by Sanders in a fit baritone/bass (spanning from low to middle C), including "Such is My Love", a song of Sanders' own composition. After going to great lengths, he got himself signed to sing in South Pacific but was overwhelmed with anxiety over the role and quickly dropped out. Sanders' singing voice can be heard in Call Me Madam (1953). He also signed on for the role of Sheridan Whiteside in the stage musical Sherry! (1967), based on the Kaufman–Hart play The Man Who Came to Dinner, but he found the ongoing stage production highly demanding. He quit when his wife Benita Hume discovered she had terminal bone cancer.
During the production of The Jungle Book, Sanders, who voiced Shere Khan, was unavailable to provide the singing voice for his character during the finalized recording of the song, "That's What Friends Are For". According to Richard Sherman, Mellomen member Bill Lee was called in to substitute for Sanders.
On 27 October 1940, Sanders married Susan Larson; the couple divorced in 1949. From later that year until 1954, Sanders was married to Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, with whom he starred in the film Death of a Scoundrel (1956) after their divorce. On 10 February 1959, Sanders married actress Benita Hume, widow of actor Ronald Colman. She died in 1967, the same year Sanders' brother Tom Conway died of liver failure. Sanders had become distant from his brother a decade before due to Conway's drinking problem.
His autobiography, Memoirs of a Professional Cad, was published in 1960 and gathered critical praise for its wit. Sanders suggested the title A Dreadful Man for his biography, which was later written by Sanders' friend Brian Aherne and published in 1979.
In his later years, Sanders suffered from dementia, worsened by waning health. He can be seen teetering in his last films, owing to a loss of balance. According to Aherne's biography, he also had a minor stroke. Sanders could not bear the notion of losing his health or needing help from someone else, and he became deeply depressed. At about this time, Sanders found he could no longer play his grand piano, which he dragged outside and smashed with an axe. His last girlfriend, who was Mexican and much younger than he, persuaded Sanders to sell his beloved house in Majorca, Spain, which he later bitterly regretted. From then on, he drifted.
On 23 April 1972, Sanders checked into a hotel in Castelldefels, a coastal town near Barcelona. He was found dead two days later, having gone into a cardiac arrest, after taking five bottles of the barbiturate Nembutal. Sanders was 65 years old. The death was officially a suicide since he left behind three suicide notes, which read:
Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck. (His signature appeared under the message.)
Sanders' body was returned to Britain for funeral services, after which it was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the English Channel. David Niven wrote in his second autobiography, Bring on the Empty Horses (1975), that in 1937 his friend George Sanders had predicted he would commit suicide when he was 65, and in his 50s, he appeared depressed since his marriages had failed and several tragedies had befallen him.
Sanders garnered two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for films at 1636 Vine Street and for television at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard. This fact is mentioned in the song Celluloid Heroes by the Kinks: "If you covered him with garbage/ George Sanders would still have style." His ghost makes an appearance in Clive Barker's novel Coldheart Canyon (2001) as well as in the animated feature 2007 animated film Dante's Inferno. In 2005, Charles Dennis wrote and played Sanders in his play High Class Heel at the National Arts Club in New York City.
- Strange Cargo (1929)
- Love, Life and Laughter (1934)
- Dishonour Bright (1936)
- Find the Lady (1936)
- Lloyd's of London (1936)
- Strange Cargo (1936)
- The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)
- Things to Come (1936) (extra)
- Lancer Spy (1937)
- Love is News (1937)
- Slave Ship (1937)
- The Lady Escapes (1937)
- Four Men and a Prayer (1938)
- International Settlement (1938)
- Allegheny Uprising (1939)
- Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
- Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)
- Nurse Edith Cavell (1939)
- So This Is London (1939)
- The Outsider (1939)
- The Saint Strikes Back (1939)
- The Saint in London (1939)
- Bitter Sweet (1940)
- Foreign Correspondent (1940)
- Green Hell (1940)
- Rebecca (1940)
- The House of the Seven Gables (1940)
- The Saint Takes Over (1940)
- The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
- A Date with the Falcon (1941)
- Man Hunt (1941)
- Rage in Heaven (1941)
- Sundown (1941)
- The Gay Falcon (1941)
- The Saint in Palm Springs (1941)
- The Son of Monte Cristo (1941)
- Her Cardboard Lover (1942)
- Quiet Please, Murder (1942)
- Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942)
- Tales of Manhattan (1942)
- The Moon and Sixpence (1942)
- The Black Swan (1942)
- The Falcon Takes Over (1942)
- The Falcon's Brother (1942)
- Appointment in Berlin (1943)
- Paris After Dark (1943)
- They Came to Blow Up America (1943)
- This Land Is Mine (1943)
- Action in Arabia (1944)
- Summer Storm (1944)
- The Lodger (1944)
- Hangover Square (1945)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
- The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)
- A Scandal in Paris (1946)
- The Strange Woman (1946)
- Forever Amber (1947)
- Lured (1947)
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
- The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947)
- Blackjack (1949)
- Samson and Delilah (1949)
- The Fan (1949)
- All About Eve (1950)
- I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951)
- The Light Touch (1951)
- Assignment-Paris (1952)
- Hold That Line (1952)
- Ivanhoe (1952)
- Call Me Madam (1953)
- Run for the Hills (1953)
- Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) (1954)
- King Richard and the Crusaders (1954)
- Witness to Murder (1954)
- Jupiter's Darling (1955)
- Moonfleet (1955)
- Portrait for Murder (1955)
- The Big Tip Off (1955)
- The King's Thief (1955)
- The Scarlet Coat (1955)
- Death of a Scoundrel (1956)
- Never Say Goodbye (1956)
- That Certain Feeling (1956)
- While the City Sleeps (1956)
- The Seventh Sin (1957)
- From the Earth to the Moon (1958)
- Outcasts of the City (1958)
- The Whole Truth (1958)
- Solomon and Sheba (1959)
- That Kind of Woman (1959)
- A Touch of Larceny (1960)
- Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons (1960)
- Cone of Silence (1960)
- The Last Voyage (1960)
- Village of the Damned (1960)
- Five Golden Hours (1961)
- Gli Invasori (1961)
- Le Rendez-Vous (1961)
- The Rebel (aka, Call Me Genius, 1961)
- In Search of the Castaways (1962)
- Operation Snatch (1962)
- Cairo (1963)
- The Cracksman (1963)
- A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- Dark Purpose (1964)
- Ecco (aka This Shocking World) (1964) (narrator)
- Last Plane to Baalbeck (1965)
- The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965)
- The Billionaire (1965)
- The Golden Head (1965)
- The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
- Trunk to Cairo (1966)
- Good Times (1967)
- Rey de Africa (1967)
- The Jungle Book (1967) (voice)
- Warning Shot (1967)
- The Girl from Rio (1968)
- One Step to Hell aka Caccia ai violenti (1969)
- The Best House in London (1969)
- The Body Stealers (1969)
- The Candy Man (1969)
- Thin Air (1969)
- The Night of the Assassins (1970)
- The Kremlin Letter (1970)
- Doomwatch (1972)
- Endless Night (1972)
- Psychomania (1972)
- Screen Directors Playhouse (1956)
- Ford Star Jubilee "You're the Top" (1956)
- The George Sanders Mystery Theater (1957)
- What's My Line? 15 September 1957 (Episode No. 380) (Season 9, Ep 3) Mystery Guest
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea "The Traitor" (1965)
- The Rogues (1965)
- The Man From U.N.C.L.E. "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair" and "The Yukon Affair" (1965)
- Daniel Boone (1966)
- Batman "Mr. Freeze" (1966)
- Mission: Impossible: The Merchant (1971)
- Conversation Piece, at the 44th Street Theatre, 1934
- Sanders 1960, pp. 9–10, 13.
- Sanders 1960, p. 17.
- Sanders 1960, p. 54.
- Sanders 1960, p.117
- Sanders 1960, pp. 199–200, 202
- McNally 2008, p. 33.
- Wilmut, Roger and Jimmy Grafton (1976). The Goon Show Companion: A History and Goonography. Robson Books Ltd. p. 90. ISBN 0903895641.
- Sherman, Richard. The Jungle Book audio commentary, Platinum Edition, Disc 1. 2007.
- Sanders 1960, pp. 106, 110.
- VanDerBeets 1990, p. xiii.
- VanDerBeets 1990, pp. 116, 119.
- Aherne 1979, pp. 183, 190.
- Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca. "Bored to Death." Entertainment Weekly, 8 May 1992. Retrieved: 30 April 2009.
- "George Sanders (July 3, 1906 – April 25, 1972)." George Sanders: Official Site. Retrieved: 8 December 2011.[dead link]
- Niven, David (1975). Bring on the Empty Horses. Coronet Books/Hodder and Stoughton. p. 304. ISBN 0340209151.
- Aherne, Brian. A Dreadful Man: The Story of Hollywood's Most Original Cad, George Sanders. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979. ISBN 0-671-24797-2.
- McNally, Peter. Bette Davis: The Performances that made her Great. Jefferson North Carolina: McFarland, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7864-3499-2.
- Niven, David. The Moon's A Balloon. London: Dell Publishing, 1983. ISBN 978-0-440-15806-6.
- Sanders, George. Memoirs of a Professional Cad: The Autobiography of George Sanders. London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1960. ISBN 0-8108-2579-1.
- VanDerBeets, Richard. George Sanders: An Exhausted Life. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Madison Books, 1990. ISBN 0-8191-7806-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Sanders.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: George Sanders|
- George Sanders at the Internet Movie Database
- George Sanders at the Internet Broadway Database
- George Sanders at the TCM Movie Database
- George Sanders at Find a Grave
|Mr. Freeze Actor