Spotlight on George Sanders
Before he took a fatal overdose of Nembutal in a Barcelona hotel in 1972, George Sanders had racked up over 150 film credits, many in largely forgotten films. For trivia buffs, perhaps his most well-known role is as film critic, Addison DeWitt, in “All About Eve” (1950), which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar; or maybe, as Professor Gordon Zellaby in “Village of the Damned (1960). However, anyone who has seen Walt Disney’s “Jungle Book” (1967) knows his voice as the villainous Bengal tiger, Shere Khan.
For classic film buffs, TCM featured Sanders in their Summer under the Stars series on 8/30/2017, showing a few of the films where Sanders amply demonstrated that villains were the roles that he excelled at.
In “Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons” (1960), Sanders plays Henri Landru, notorious for marrying and murdering at least that many women. The title is a bit of a stretch as Sanders doesn’t bother to marry his victims. The first one was actually an accidental death. After that, he kills wealthy women as soon as they turn over control of their financial assets to him. it would have been more aptly named “Bluebeard’s Obsession” because he fell in love with a lounge singer named Odette (Corinne Calvet). She is a hustler and doesn’t really give a damn about him. Sanders’ character is so methodical, meticulously jotting down every transaction he makes, that it’s really quite odd that he is so blind to Odette’s machinations until he overhears the proof of it. By then, he has bestowed 30,000 francs of his ill-gotten gains on her.
It is also comical to a large extent because of the way Sanders delivers his lines, apparently unintentionally, since it is listed as a mystery on IMDB.
In “Death of a Scoundrel” (1956), Sanders played Clementi Sabourin, who finds out that his brother told everyone he was dead and married his sweetheart while he was a prisoner of the Germans. Sabourin turns his brother into the Italian police in exchange for a ticket to America where he embarks upon a career as a big-time swindler in the stock market.
Yvonne DeCarlo and Victor Jory played his accomplices. Sanders’ real life brother, Tom Conway, played his brother. Sanders’ ex-wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor, played a wealthy widow Sanders’ takes up with until he sets his sights on her secretary.
These films will be available on TCM on Demand until September 6th and 7th, respectively. They are also showcasing Sanders in a number of other films, including:
“Cairo” (1963) – In Egypt, the Major (Sanders) is the ringleader a ragtag group planning to rob King Tut’s tomb. Omar Sharif’s then wife and Egyptian superstar, Faten Hamama, had a role as a belly dancer.
“Foreign Correspondent” (1940) – Sanders plays a reporter helping Joel McCrea unmask a traitor in London in the prelude to World War II. Another trivia item on Sander’s scorecard: he had roles in this film and “Rebecca” (1940), both nominated for Best Picture in 1941. “Rebecca” won the Oscar.
“Lured” (1947) – Lucille Ball works undercover in London to help the police nab a serial killer who murdered her best friend. After she gets engaged to George Sanders’ character, Robert Fleming, it appears that he may be the killer.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945) – Sanders plays Lord Wotton, a terrible influence on young Dorian Gray.
“Village of the Damned” (1960) – As a professor, Sanders has to contend with a whole tribe of spooky-eyed platinum blonde children all born on the same day in a small English village. “Beware the stare.”
You can search for films by title or by actor on TCM on Demand.