There have been few Hollywood actors who could match George Sanders for supercilious nastiness onscreen (and perhaps off as well).
As drama critic-narrator Addison de Witt in 1950’s All About Eve, he gave what critic David Thomson describes as a supreme demonstration of soft-spoken, tranquil caddishness.
He also stole the show, 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.
Although he put time in studio costume clunkers and productions that went nowhere (he played in drag in John Huston’s 1970 misadventure, The Kremlin Letter), he worked in movies from a roster of distinguished directors including: Alfred Hitchcock, George Cukor, John Ford, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini and John Ford.
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, today’s Quiz — drawn from previously published blogs and author Richard VanDerBeet’s 1990 biography, George Sanders — will hopefully tell you some things you may not know about the actor. (As usual, answers tomorrow.)
1) Question: Which one of the following is George Sanders’ older brother, who became famous in his own right apart from his sibling? a) Tim Conway; b) Michael Wilding; c) Donald Sumpter or d) Tom Conway.
2) Question: Which one of Sander’s four wives was the widow of a another famous actor? a) Susan Larson; b) Magda Gabor; c) Benita Hume; or d) Zsa Zsa Gabor.
3) Question: Sanders and ex-wife Zsa Zsa Gabor appeared in only one movie together. Which one? a) Death of a Scoundrel; b) The Scarlet Coat; c) Never Say Goodbye; or d) That Certain Feeling.
4) Question: Beneath his facade of world weary British sophistication, Sanders was simple in his tastes, adoring Broadway musicals and professional wrestling. a) True; or b) False.
5) Question: Perhaps the best movie Sanders ever made costarred Ingrid Bergman and was directed by her lover, whom the actor intensely disliked. Can you name this director and the title of the movie?
6) Question: Sanders played a key role in the “death scene” of Tyrone Power’s last movie. Can you name the movie? a) Nightmare Alley; b) Abandon Ship; c) Untamed; or d) Solomon and Sheba.
7) Question: In his suicide note, Sanders wrote that he ended his life because “I am bored.” a) True; b) False.
8) Question: Sanders and his brother costarred in a 1942 crime drama, part of a successful series that made George famous before he turned over the leading role to his brother. Can you put a title to this picture?
9) Question: Sanders was slated to replace this famous Italian singer in the Broadway musical, South Pacific. Who is this singer? a) Ezio Pinza; b) Giuseppe Di Stefano; c) Mario Lanza; or d) Tito Gobbi.
10) Question: Who played George Sanders’ girlfriend in All About Eve? a) Mamie Van Doren; b) Anne Baxter; c) Marilyn Monroe; or d) Bette Grable.