Tom Conway

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This article is about the British actor. For other people with a similar name, see Thomas Conway (disambiguation).
Tom Conway
Tom Conway in Grand Central Murder trailer headcrop.jpg
from the trailer for
Grand Central Murder (1942)
Born Thomas Charles Sanders
(1904-09-15)15 September 1904
St. Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died 22 April 1967(1967-04-22) (aged 62)
Culver City, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cirrhosis of the liver
Alma mater Brighton College
Occupation actor
Years active 1940–64
Spouse(s) Queenie Leonard
(1958–1963, divorced)
Lillian Eggers
(1941–1953, divorced)
Family George Sanders (brother)

Tom Conway (15 September 1904 – 22 April 1967) was a British film, television and radio actor renowned for playing private detectives (including The Falcon, Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond and The Saint) and psychiatrists.

Early life[edit]

Conway was born Thomas Charles Sanders in St. Petersburg, Russia, to Henry Peter Ernest Sanders [1](1868–1960),[2] and Margarethe Jenny Bertha Sanders (1883–1967) née Kolbe, born in Saint Petersburg, of mostly German, but also Estonian & Scottish heritage.[3][4] His younger brother (b. 1906) was fellow actor George Sanders.[5] Their younger sister, Margaret Sanders, was born in 1912. At the outbreak of the Russian Revolution (1917), the family moved to England, where Conway was educated at Bedales School and Brighton College. He travelled to Northern Rhodesia, where he worked in mining and ranching, then returned to England, appearing in several plays with the Manchester Repertory Company and performing on BBC Radio.


Joining his brother George in Hollywood, Conway became a contract player for MGM.

Conway is perhaps best remembered for playing "The Falcon" in ten of the series' entries, taking over for his brother in The Falcon's Brother, in which they both starred. This work led Conway to become a contract star with RKO Pictures. While working at RKO Conway starred in three Val Lewton horror films. He played Dr. Louis Judd in two otherwise unrelated films: Cat People (1942) and The Seventh Victim (1943), despite the character having been killed in Cat People. The third Lewton film in which he starred was I Walked with a Zombie (also 1943).

On radio, Conway played Sherlock Holmes during the 1946–1947 season of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, following Basil Rathbone's departure from the series. In spite of a similar vocal timbre, Conway was not as well-received as Rathbone by audiences, so he just played Holmes for the one season.

Conway's screen career diminished in the 1950s, but he appeared in a number of British films, as well as on radio and television. In 1951, he replaced Vincent Price as star of the radio mystery series The Saint, a character which Sanders had portrayed on film a decade earlier. In 1956, the two brothers both featured (as brothers) in the film Death of a Scoundrel, though Sanders had the starring role.

From 1951–1954, Conway played debonair British police detective Mark Saber, who worked in the homicide division of a large American city, in the ABC series entitled Inspector Mark Saber – Homicide Detective. In 1957, the series resumed on NBC, renamed Saber of London, with Donald Gray in the title role.[6]

In October 1957, Conway performed as Max Collodi in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Glass Eye", to critical praise. His final television appearance was in 1964, playing the role of Guy Penrose in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Simple Simon."

Later life and death[edit]

In 1961, Conway provided his voice for Disney's 101 Dalmatians as a quizmaster in "What's my crime" a parody of the hit game show What's my line" and as a collie who offers the dalmatians shelter in a barn, later guiding them home. His wife at the time, Queenie Leonard, voiced a cow in the barn.

Despite having made millions in his twenty-four-year film career, Conway later struggled to make ends meet. Failing eyesight and prolonged bouts with alcohol took their toll on him in his last years. His second wife (Leonard) divorced him in 1963, owing to his drinking problem, and his brother George Sanders broke off all contact with him because of it.

Conway underwent cataract surgery during the winter of 1964–65. In September 1965, he briefly returned to the headlines, having been discovered living in a $2-a-day room in a Venice, Los Angeles flophouse. Gifts, contributions and offers of aid poured in for a time.

His last years were marked with hospitalizations. It was there that former sister-in-law Zsa Zsa Gabor paid Conway a visit and gave him $200. "Tip the nurses a little bit so they'll be good to you," she told him. The following day, the hospital called her to say that Conway had left with the $200, gone to his girlfriend's house, and become gravely sick in her bed. It was 22 April 1967, and he died from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 62 due to alcoholism. His funeral was held in London.



  1. ^
  2. ^ (deaths)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Sanders, George (1960). Memoirs of a Professional Cad. Hamish Hamilton. p. 8. 
  5. ^ Obituary Variety, 26 April 1967.
  6. ^ Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time and Cable TV Shows, 1946 – present. New York City: Random House Publishing Co., 2003. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 

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