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George Sanders

in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Born George Henry Sanders
3 July 1906(1906-07-03)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died 25 April 1972 (aged 65)
Castelldefels, Barcelona, Spain
Occupation Actor, author, singer
Years active 1929–1972
Spouse(s) Susan Larson (1940–1946) (divorced)
Zsa Zsa Gabor (1949–1954) (divorced)
Benita Hume (1959–1967) (her death)
Magda Gabor (1970–1971) (divorced)
Domestic partner(s) Lorraine Chanel

George Henry Sanders (3 July 1906 – 25 April 1972) was an Academy Award-winning English film and television actor.


Early life

Sanders was born in Saint Petersburg, Imperial Russia at number 6 Petrovski Ostrov. His English parents were Henry Sanders (1873-1961) and Margaret Sanders (1875-1967). His elder brother was actor Tom Conway (1904-1967). His younger sister Margaret Sanders was born in 1912. Sanders was 11 when, in 1917 at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the family went back to England. Like his brother he attended 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. [1]


in the trailer for Alfred Hitchcock's
Foreign Correspondent (1940)

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-crust English accent and sleek British manner along with a suave, snobbish and somewhat threatening air put him in demand for American films throughout the next decade. He played supporting roles in high end productions such as Rebecca (in which he and Judith Anderson played cruel foils to Joan Fontaine's character). He had leading roles in somewhat lower budget pictures such as Rage in Heaven. He was also the lead in both The Falcon and The Saint film series. In 1942 Sanders handed off the Falcon role to his brother Tom, in the The Falcon's Brother. The only other film in which the two brothers appeared together was Death of a Scoundrel (1956), in which they also played brothers.

Sanders played Lord Henry Wotton in the 1945 film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. In 1947 he co-starred with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. That same year he gave one of his most critically noted performances starring with Angela Lansbury in director Albert Lewin's little-known film taken from an 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami.

as Addison DeWitt in the trailer for
All About Eve (1950)

In 1950 Sanders drew his greatest popular and commercial success as the acerbic, cold-blooded theatre critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Sanders went into television with the successful series The George Sanders Mystery Theater. He played an upper crust English villain, G. Emory Partridge, in the 1965 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair" and reprised the role later in that same year in "The Yukon Affair." He also portrayed Mr. Freeze in two episodes of the widely seen 1960s live-action Batman TV series.

In 1967 Sanders voiced the malevolent Shere Khan in the Walt Disney production of The Jungle Book. In 1969 Sanders had a supporting role in John Huston's The Kremlin Letter, in which his rather notorious first scene showed him dressed in drag and playing piano in a snooty San Francisco gay bar. One of Sanders' final screen roles was in a 1972 feature film version of the popular television series Doomwatch.

Sanders' smooth voice, urbane manner and upper-class British accent inspired Peter Sellers' character "Hercules Grytpype-Thynne" in the famous 1950s BBC radio comedy series The Goon Show. In 1964 Sellers and Sanders appeared together in the Pink Panther sequel A Shot in the Dark.

Sanders garnered two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures at 1636 Vine Street and for television at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard. He is mentioned in The Kinks' song "Celluloid Heroes" and his ghost makes an appearance in Clive Barker's 2001 novel Coldheart Canyon as well as the animated feature from 2007 Dante's Inferno.



Two crime novels were published under his name. The first was Crime on My Hands (1944), written in the first person and mentioning his "Saint" and "Falcon" movies, followed by Stranger at Home in 1946. Both were ghostwritten by women, the former by Craig Rice and the latter by Leigh Brackett, meant only to draw more income from his screen success.


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. 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. 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 found the ongoing stage production highly demanding and resigned when his wife Benita Hume found she had terminal bone cancer.

Personal life

as Lord Henry Wotton in the trailer for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

On 27 October 1940 Sanders married Susan Larson. They divorced in 1949. From later that year until 1954 Sanders was married to Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (with whom he starred in the 1956 film Death of a Scoundrel after their divorce). On 10 February 1959 Sanders married actress Benita Hume, widow of actor Ronald Colman. She died in 1967.

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.

Sanders last marriage was on 4 December 1970 to Magda Gabor, the elder sister of his second wife. This marriage lasted only six weeks, after which he began drinking heavily.

In his later years Sanders suffered from bewilderment and bouts of anger, worsened by waning health. He can be seen teetering in his last films, owing to a loss of balance. According to the biography written by Aherne he also had a minor stroke, which is likely why Sanders' speech sounds impaired in the low-budget film horror Psychomania, his last film performance. Sanders couldn't bear the notion of losing his health or needing help from someone else and he became deeply saddened. 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, asked Sanders to sell his beloved house in Majorca, Spain and he felt bitter regrets after having done so. From then on he drifted.


George Sanders as Captain Billy Leech

On 23 April, 1972 Sanders checked into a hotel in Castelldefels, a coastal town near Barcelona. He was found dead two days later, having taken five bottles of Nembutal.[2] Sanders was 65 years old. He left behind a suicide note 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."

Sanders' body was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the English Channel.

David Niven wrote in his autobiography The Moon's A Balloon that his friend Sanders, in 1937 at the age of 31, had predicted he would commit suicide when he was 65.[citation needed]





  1. ^ Sanders, G: Memoirs of a Professional Cad, page 54. Avon Press, 1960.
  2. ^ Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (May 8, 1992). "Bored to Death". Entertainment Weekly.,,310396,00.html. Retrieved 30 April 2009 and 


  • Aherne, Brian (1979), A Dreadful Man, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0671247972 
  • Sanders, George (1960), Memoirs of a Professional Cad, G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 0810825791 
  • Vanderbeets, Richard (1990), George Sanders: An Exhausted Life, Madison Books, ISBN 0819178063 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

George Sanders (July 3, 1906April 25, 1972) was an English actor in British and American films.


  • "A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they be."
  • "Acting is like roller-skating. Once you know how to do it, it is neither stimulating nor exciting."
  • "I am not one of those people who would rather act than eat. Quite the reverse. My own desire as a boy was to retire. That ambition has never changed."
  • "I don't ask questions. I just take their money and use it for things that really interest me."
  • "I was beastly but never coarse. A high-class sort of heel."
  • "I never really thought I'd make the grade. And let's face it, I haven't."
  • "The important thing for a star is to have an interesting face. He doesn't have to move it very much. Editing and camerawork can always produce the desired illusion that a performance is being given."
  • (when asked if there was a part left he'd like to play) "Well, no one has asked me to play God. I suppose that's what I would like."
  • "I am always rude to people. I am not a sweet person. I am a disagreeable person. I am a hateful person."

Suicide Note

  • 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.
    • suicide note, harkening back to a 1937 statement to David Niven that he intended to commit suicide when older; according to IMDb

External links

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