George being German

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George played the role of a German, and at times  a Nazi, in several films during the late thirties and early forties. The 1937 film, Lancer Spy,  was designed by Fox as a starring vehicle for George. I quote from Tony Thomas’ annotated filmography in the 1992 re-issue of George’s book Memoirs of a Professional Cad ”  [George] came across with a fine performance as a British naval officer involved in World War I espionage. As Lieutenant Michael Bruce, he proceeds to Germany in the guise of a captured German officer for whom he is an exact look-alike. Feted as a hero by the German public, he nonetheless is viewed with suspicion by the German secret service, which places an operative (Del Rio) in his path. But she falls in love with him [naturally] and helps him escape with plans for the 1917 campaign. A taut and interesting coverge of its material, Lancer Spy won Sanders critical and public approval, and set him up as an actor with a future in the picture business.”

George’s next role as a Nazi was in the 1941 Fritz Lang movie Man Hunt
in which George gave probably his best Nazi performance.  He plays Major Quive-Smith, a particularly nasty Nazi, responsible for the imprisonment and torture of the Englishman played by Walter Pidgeon . Much as I hate it when George dies in a movie the character he played here deserved it.

 In 1943 George made  four WWII movies. All were good, of course, but two are particular favorites of mine. In the first,  They Came To Blow Up America,
  George plays the role of Carl Steelmann, a secret FBI agent of German descent, who is assigned by his chief to infiltrate the German-American Bund. He assumes the identity of a Nazi agent who is about to return to Germany to attend a school for saboteurs but who is shot by the police. Once in the school he excels and is sent to lead a ring of Nazis to blow up important American war industries. Of course he has informed the FBI of all this and the plot is foiled. Naturally there is a love interest .   A very good synopsis  can be found on the IMDb.  The second, Appointment In Berlin, is sad because George dies in the end, but he dies a hero. I quote here from Tony Thomas’ annotated filmography in the 1992 re-issue of George’s book Memoirs of a Professional Cad  “One of the more unusual of Hollywood’s wartime Nazi yarns, this one has Sanders as an RAF officer named Keith Wilson, who is cashiered after bitterly criticizing the British peace pact with Hitler in 1938. He becomes a member of the British secret service and ends up in Berlin as an apparent traitor willing to give propaganda broadcasts for the Germans. However, his talks, though seemingly anti-British, actually contain coded messages for his own people.  The Germans eventually catch on and he tries to escape in a stolen plane but dies in the attempt. In one of the few films to tackle wartime propaganda broadcasting, Sanders gives  a good [excellent] performance, probably because he was attracted to the nature of the man he was playing. With Sanders that factor was always of importance.”   Thomas doesn’t mention that George was trying to get the message to the British that the Germans were about to invade England and that he flys the plane into  a large gasoline storage tank so that the British planes in the area (Holland) can see the flames and know where the attack will originate. Also, Thomas does not mention the love interest, played by Marguerite Chapman , who is the sister of the Nazi director of communications and who falls in love with George. She is killed escaping with George.

I am going on vacation and won’t be publishing any posts for about two weeks.  I hope everyone enjoys this one.

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nora
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 21:12:04

    As much as I love THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA, APPOINTMENT IN BERLIN remains one of my favorites because of the appearance of George’s father in the film. It is a treat.


  2. Nora
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 22:53:35

    We voted and decided Tom resembles his father more than George. As to the German accent, it’s the brother-in-law.


    • Judy Robinson
      Aug 17, 2011 @ 23:00:52

      I think you all are right about Tom favoring his father more than George. In my eyes George is the most handsome of the lot, by far. I wondered if Margaret ‘s husband was German, but with the name Bloecker I figured so. Didn’t she and her family settle finally in England?


  3. Nora
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 15:42:48

    George is indeed the best looking in the family, but those working on Tom believe he deserves another look. Not because he’s a nicer person than George or a better actor or as handsome, but simply because when he was found in the flophouse and asked about George, Tom refused to be drawn into making negative statements about his brother. And this, as you know, was a difficult time for both brothers. Tom could possibly have made some easy money trashing George (whether it was the truth would not have mattered to the press), but he didn’t.

    Yes. Margaret and family did return to England.


    • Judy Robinson
      Aug 18, 2011 @ 16:20:27

      Thank you. I did not have that information about Tom. Indeed, it puts him in a good light. I know that there was a problem between them, I thought George was upset with Tom about his drinking. How is it that you know so much about George and Tom?


  4. Nora
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 19:08:21

    A parent with a film industry background and an informal group of fans, family and friends who like to swap stories and do research.


  5. Kathy
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 20:14:08

    May i put my ‘or’ in here… there must have been some sibling rivalry with George and Tom… may be even Tom was jealous of George? Even so Tom clearly had a profound loyalty to George he must have understood his ‘privacy’ clause. Like Nora commented he could have trashed George at any point in their hollywood careers… but dont you both think that this would have made Tom look pretty damn fickle to the hollywood gossip columnists? OR do you both think it could have done them more good than harm to be seen as Brothers at logerheads with each other?


    • Judy Robinson
      Aug 19, 2011 @ 11:48:09

      Well, I don’t have any siblings so I can’t say that I understand the relationship. However, I have noted from my own children that even when they are angry with each other they don’t badmouth each other to other people. I am sure there must have been some jealousy or envy of George on Tom’s part but that would seem to be normal considering their careers. I know as the younger brother George must have felt he had to “measure up’ to the older brother. In VanDerBeet’s book he quotes from one of George’s letters to his mother in which he writes that there was a trial for a cross-country run and that “I daresay you won’t believe it but I beat Tom hopelessly.” After George’s stay in South America, when George and Tom met again Tom commented that George was now taller than he was and George said “I guess I just got tire of being the short brother”. I think it is great that Tom didn’t trash George, but I think if he had it would have been seen by others as “sour grapes” if he had. I don’t think it would have done them more good than harm to have been seen as brothers at logerheads with each other.


    • Judy Robinson
      Aug 20, 2011 @ 19:28:30

      By the way, Kathy, regarding your YouTube presenting George’s biography, if you remember which film you took the clip from where George is following different girls around and finally sits down with one please let me know. I can’t figure out how I missed it when I have seen most films of his. I might mention, also, another fan of George’s, a very devout one, has posted a link to your video on her facebook page and praised it highly.


      • Kathy
        Aug 22, 2011 @ 18:16:24

        I can not for the life of me remember which film the clip came from. like i said i watched so many of his films that I had to find clips to fit into the phases of his life… eventually the problem will get solved.

        And thank you again for the praise on my video it was a lot of hard, worthwhile work to try and get his entire life into 9 minutes, but i think I acheived my goal. The problem with viedo work is when to stop, and as it was george, naturaly, i didnt want to!!!

      • Judy Robinson
        Aug 23, 2011 @ 12:10:25

        You definitely achieved your goal! I was thinking last night about you editing out the non-George scenes in a movie. I was watching “Paris After Dark” and had to keep fast-forwarding through the non-George scenes. If George isn’t in the scene then it is boring. 🙂

  6. Nora
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 17:04:13

    George and Tom were dreamers. They were both inventive and creative. Neither was superior in handling money. George masked his feelings of worthlessness and sense of vulnerability as best he could. Tom didn’t do as well.

    George surpassed Tom in many, if not all, endeavors. This apparently intensified Tom’s problems, particularly when The Falcon series drew to a close. George tried to help, but in the end there was nothing he could do.

    A friend of George’s said Tom was much like his father and Henry was not particularly successful. It must have both angered and distressed George to watch his brother’s decline because they were so close earlier in their lives.

    Perhaps they have returned to those happy days of pretending to be one another on the telephone and greatly annoying their mother.


    • Judy Robinson
      Aug 20, 2011 @ 19:23:59

      From all I have read about George your analysis is right on point. I have not read about Tom, except what was mentioned in material about George that I have read. I know that Tom apparently developed a drinking problem later in life which George found to be very distressing. I also read somewhere that George pretty much cut Tom out of his life at that point. Rather ironic that since George was drinking heavily the last year of his life. I understand that George had not been drinking anything for two years because of his health, but when Helga Moray entered his life she induced him to begin drinking again–and convinced him to sell his home. What a dreadful woman she was!


      • Kathy
        Aug 22, 2011 @ 18:27:36

        George was at a very vulnerable time in his life when Helga came along… but George didnt like being on his own and he always seemed to pursue women at great lengths (in some cases especially after ZZ) so Helga filled the gap as did lorraine. The problem was George was not firing on all 4 cylinders..if he had, Helga would have bit the dust in pursuit of another. He was aware Helga wasnt right for him, BUT he was in such a dark place that he just couldnt climb out andHelga could see this…she was without doubt praying on George. The boozy session SHE instigated gradually getting George to drink more and more. In my view she was killing George. As we a know drink makes depression and problems worse, and she was quite aware of this. Im wondering if there was a motive … could she have been trying to get George to change his will so that she would aquire his estate????


      • Judy Robinson
        Aug 23, 2011 @ 12:18:28

        I absolutely agree that she was praying on George and it HAD occurred to me that she was after his money and was probably attempting to be named as his beneficiary. I guess he didn’t dump her and pursue other women because he was simply too tired. A pursuit would have taken too much effort and being depressed would have added to the fatigue. When you are depressed everything seems to be too much of an effort and you simply take the easy way out.
        I once commented on how much I hate it that he died alone and you replied that he probably didn’t care and just wanted peace. I have thought of that often. When he died I was an adult and so much wish that I could have known about him and gone to that hotel to “save him”. Of course he was beyond saving at that point…

      • Nora
        Aug 23, 2011 @ 19:50:46

        That Helga gave Margaret such a difficult time after George’s death, may speak volumes about her motives.

        On the suicide, could it have been prevented? Or was it as Juliet, I believe, stated, something George was determined to do? And was he really that determined?

        And finally, was it only a coincidence that George killed himself almost five years to the day that Tom died? Even siblings who have broken all ties with one another still share a bond that can never be truly severed.

      • Judy Robinson
        Aug 24, 2011 @ 13:47:49

        Yes, I believe it is fairly clear that Helga was in this for what she could get out of it financially. How awful that George should have such an dreadful woman in his final days.
        You pose some interesting questions. Most of what I have read seems to support the idea that George was set on this after it became clear to him that his health was going to continue to decline and he might become dependent on another person. He was a proud man and I don’t believe he could face what he would have seen as the humiliation of, as he put it, “having someone wipe my bum”. I would like to believe that if he had met a woman who loved him devotedly and whom he loved, as he had Benita, he would have had a reason to live. However, that may be wishful thinking on my part. He was so tired and depressed by that time that he may not have had the emotional strength to accept or give love. As I have mentioned before, I was alive and young at that time and SO wish I could have been the agent of his salvation, but that is my romantic
        nature taking charge.
        I have little knowledge of Tom’s death so I had not realized the time coincidence. With all the pills George had save up and the ready availability of the vodka he could have taken his life at any time. Perhaps thoughts of Tom’s death and, possibly, feelings of guilt that he and Tom had been estranged and therefore he didn’t not provide any help to his brother motivated George in his choice of the day he took the pills. As sensitive as George was it seems likely that he would have had such thoughts.
        Whatever the motivation it remains a tragedy that George’s life should have ended this way.

  7. Kellie Malone
    Dec 20, 2012 @ 12:17:11

    How did Sanders become fluent in German? He speaks beautifully, with no accent.


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