As mentioned yesterday, there have been few Hollywood actors who could match George Sanders for supercilious nastiness onscreen (and perhaps off as well).
He almost stole the show in his most widely remembered performance — as the dyspeptic theater critic Addison de Witt in 1950’s All About Eve — and won an Oscar in the process. The movie was easily the best of Sanders’ 36-year film career, which spanned more than 110 films stretching from 1936, shortly after he emigrated to Hollywood, to 1972, the year he took his own life.
Enjoying Sanders at his best is something akin to a guilty pleasure. You can delight in his performances and at the same time feel a bit guilty. But we say, resist the guilt and admire.
In any case, yesterday’s Quiz — drawn from previously published blogs and author Richard VanDerBeet’s 1990 biography, George Sanders — hopefully will fill you in on some things you may not know about the actor. To check how you made out, here are the Quiz answers (to refresh yourselves on the questions, just scroll down one blog).
1) Answer: (d) Tom Conway, George’s older brother by two years, was dubbed “the nice George Sanders.” (He was born Thomas Charles Sanders, but changed his surname. That’s the brothers above.) Conway had a low-key but decent career, and is best remembered for his appearances in 1942’s Cat People and 1943’s I Walked With A Zombie, two Val Lewton productions not to be missed.
2) Answer: (c) Benita Hume, a British-born actress who was married to her second husband, Ronald Colman, for 20 years until his death in 1958. She then married Sanders and was with him for eight years until her death in 1967. Sanders was devastated by her departure.
3) Answer: (a) Sanders and ex-wife Zsa Zsa Gabor appeared together in just one movie, RKO’s 1956 crime drama, Death of a Scoundrel. Both are delightful, and their onscreen interplay is fun to watch. Worth checking out this title.
4) Answer: (a) True. Sanders was a pretty good singer ( his was a mellifluous baritone voice) and piano player. He enjoyed (privately) singing all manner of show tunes, and even opera. Sanders also was an admirer of Greco-Roman wrestling , and used to confer often on the subject with 6-foot 5-inch character actor Mike Mazurki.
5) Answer: Sanders and Ingrid Bergman costarred in 1953’s Journey To Italy (recently re-issued on upgraded DVD). The picture, about the marital woes of an upper class couple in Italy, is excellent. Sanders disliked Bergman’s lover at the time, Roberto Rossellini, who directed the picture, because of the Italian’s unorthodox and loosely organized work habits.
6) Answer: (d) Director King Vidor’s biblical epic, Solomon and Sheba, filmed in Spain and released in 1959. After several strenuous sword fights with Sanders, Tyrone Power collapsed complaining of pains in his chest and arms. He shortly thereafter on Nov. 15, 1958. Power, a close friend of Sanders, was just 44 years old.
7) Answer: (b) False. Sanders killed himself by downing a fatal dose of Nembutal and vodka in a seaside resort hotel near Barcelona, Spain in the spring of 1972. He was 65. He left more than one note, one of which included the statement — “I am leaving because I am bored.” The actor did what he did, though, after a long period of depression, financial losses and serious health problems. Boredom was the least of it.
8) Answer: The 1942 crime drama, The Falcon’s Brother. Both Sanders and his brother, Tim Conway, starred in the picture, a hand-off by George of a popular film series he had been starring in to his less-well-known older brother.
9) Answer: (a) Enzio Pinza.
10) Answer: (c) Marilyn Monroe.