HAPPY 106th BIRTHDAY, GEORGE!!

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It is difficult to believe that a whole year has gone by since I published a post to celebrate George’s 105th birthday.   Ah well, time does fly when one is having  fun and it is fun for me to have this blog to George.  My goal is to try to present the real George to  people instead of the caddish facade he presented to the public. George was a very private and a very vulnerable man and he sought shelter from the public eye within his cad facade. George was so very private and averse to publicity that he was married to his first wife for TWO years before the marriage was discovered.

George arrived in this world early on the morning of Tuesday, July 3, 1906 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  This will be somewhat lengthy, but I want to give George’s account  of his birth as, using rather British tongue in cheek humor,  he describes it on the first page of  his wonderful, well-written, and witty memoir,  Memoirs of a Professional Cad (New York: Putnam, 1960).

“On July 3, 1906, the world was at peace.  Nothing of any consequence seemed to be happening in the capital cities of any of its countries.  Nothing disturbed the summer lethargy of its population.  Everywhere people dozed contentedly, unaware that an event of major importance was taking place in St. Petersburg, Russia.  At number 6 Petroffski Ostroff, to Margaret and Henry Sanders, a son of dazzling beauty and infinite charm was being born.  It was I.

I emerged somewhat reluctantly from my mother’s womb at 6 o’clock in the morning.  My father, who had been warned of the impending event only a short time prior to its occurrence, had rushed off to get the midwife who lived across the Neva on the Vassilsky Ostroff.  He drove in a droshky to the Toochkoff Bridge, a wooden bascule, or drawbridge, which was opened sometimes in the summer to let the river traffic through.  It was opening when he reached it.  Alighting from the carriage and disregarding the warning cries of the boatmen, he leapt across the widening gap and ran the rest of the way to the midwife’s house.  He brought her back across the river in a rowboat, and in a state of exhaustion, pushed her into my mother’s room, where she accomplished a successful delivery.”

I know we fans are all very thankful for the successful delivery!  I hope all of you will join me in toasting George with a dry vodka martini  on his 106 Birthday next Tuesday, July 3rd!  Cheers, George, and the “best of British luck” to you!

The slide show is called “Some Happy George Photos, Plus a Few More” (Did your recognize Gene Tierney in the photo where she is dancing with George? She is 5’7″ and you know she must be wearing heels and George still dwarfs her! He is just so tall and magnificient!)

“April is the cruellest month…”

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“The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain…”

The Waste Land

T.S. Eliot

 

This post is in memoriam to the most handsome, marvelous, intelligent, and talented man who ever lived, George Henry Sanders.  George was what all men should be and so few are.

Next week April 24/25 will mark the 40th anniversity  of George’s death.  To those of us who love him so devotedly  he is still very much alive in our minds, our hearts, and our souls.  Please pray for his soul, as I do every night.

“Remember, O Lord, this your servant, George,  who has gone before us with the sight of faith, and now rests in the sleep of peace.” ( paraphrase from the Book of Common Prayer) 

I refer you to the beautiful YouTube tribute to George posted last year by wobble 108. Thank you for that wonderful biography of George’s life.

This slideshow is entitled “George Through the Years”

George’s career as a screen detective, part 3, “The Saint’s Double Trouble”

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The first Saint film that George made in 1940,“The Saint’s Double Trouble” , was filmed from November to late December 1939 and released on 26 January 1940.   I love all of George’s Saint films but I think this is my favorite for two reasons: (1) George plays a dual role so he is on the screen almost all the time (which is a visual delight), and (2) in my opinion George is his most handsome self in late 1939 and 1940.  The movie is also intriguing because  Bela Lugosi has a role and it is not as Dracula!  Interestingly, in 1947 George  made a non-Saint film “Lured”  in which another movie monster actor, Boris Karloff, aka Frankenstein, was featured.

“The Saint’s Double Trouble” is the first Saint film which wasn’t based directly on one of Leslie Charteris’ novels. However, Charteris did contribute to the developing of the story for the film. The second Saint film which George made in 1940, “The Saint Takes Over” (which I will discuss in my next post), was also not based on one of the novels.  In this film Saint George, master criminal turned crime-fighter, also plays the role of his doppelganger, Duke Bates, who has smuggled some diamonds into the U.S.  One of members of Bates’ “gang” , “”The Partner”,  played by Lugosi had cleverly concealed the diamonds in a mummy encased in a coffin. The mummy was sent to Professor Bitts who was a sort of mentor of Saint George’s when George was in college and to whom Saint George had promised to send the best specimen of a mummy he could find.  A note in the coffin tells Professor Bitts that the mummy comes from Saint George who is making good on his promise.  Consequently when the smuggled diamonds are discovered and several murders are perpetrated Saint George is blamed.  Saint George has his hands full proving his own innocence and getting the diamonds back.  Of course, he does accomplish this task beautifully and also regains the love of Professor Bitt’s daughter. You will see another familiar cast member of The Saint series in the film since Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale) is on vacation and visiting the Police Department in Philadelphis where the story is set.  You can find a more detailed overview of the plot at Turner Classic Movies.

Sorry not to have added “live links” to this post, but I wanted to publish it before I go on holiday tomorrow.   I wish George were here to enjoy the holidays with his dedicated fans.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,  Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year to all you George fans!

George’s career as a screen detective, part two–“The Saint In London”

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In “The Saint” movies George plays Simon Templar , known as “The Saint”.  Rumor has it that he got this nickname because, althought he acts primarily outside the law, his efforts often help the police.  Another rumor is that he got the nickname because of his initials “ST”.

 The second “Saint”  movie that George filmed, “The Saint In London” was released in the U.S. on 30 June 1939, just a few days before George’s thirty-third birthday on July 3.  George had  recently finished filming Confessions of a Nazi Spy  ( George filmed eight movies in 1939 and I am constantly amazed at his versatility as an actor) during which his hair had been cut very short, a sort of crew-cut, and bleached for his portrayal of a Nazi officer. Because of this he was forced to wear a hairpiece while filming  “The Saint In London”. If you look closely you will see that the hairline of the hairpiece is staight across whereas George’s real hairline grows a little further down on the left side of his forehead.   A rare little treat that one gets in this movie is to see George changing shirts. He is lovely!  Another little aside, Saint George is a scotch and water drinker, but in this movie he has a dry martini. When I watch this movie I drink a dry martini with him. In reality vodka was George’s drink of choice.

Lynn Root and Frank Fenton wrote the screenplay for “The Saint In London” based on Leslie Charteris’ short story, “The Million Pound Day”, which was published in the 1932 collection The Holy Terror , also known as The Saint vs. Scotland Yard.  In an unusual move for filming a lower-budget movie RKO filmed “The Saint In London” on location in England, using a largely British cast.

 Here is a brief synopsis of the plot. In the movie  Saint George, newly back in London, is tipped by a friend in the Secret Service to a mystery involving one Bruno Lang , seemingly a Society card-sharp, but really involved in a plot to print and pass a million pounds worth of foreign currency. Also involved are various sinister characters; an innocent murder victim Count Duni; the Saint’s attractive admirer Penny Parker (Sally Gray ); and his old nemesis Scotland Yard Inspector Teal (Gordon Mcleod).  Sally helps Saint George in foiling the villians and attempts to seduce him, but Saint George  is too much of a gentlemen and eludes her traps.  There is a longer more detailed overview at the website for Turner Classic Movies .

 Also, this last June in order to  publicize the release of George’s five Saint films, WarnerArchive posted a YouTube video of a clip from the movie. Happily for us,  they selected a clip which gives a brief glimpse of George changing shirts so take a look while it is still posted and enjoy yourself!

Sorry, I only had two photos from “The Saint In London” (wonder how that happened?) to put in the slide show so I supplemented with some other charming photos from my collection. Hope you enjoy them!

My next post will be about George’s third, and probably my favorite, Saint movie: “The Saint’s Double Trouble” . In this movie George gets to play two roles so he is on screen twice as much. Yummy!

George as the “Consummate Cad”, Part III

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George played two different types of cads in the 1947 movies The Private Affairs of Bel Ami and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. In the first he plays a woman-manipulating cad and in the second a “gentle” womanizing cad.

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami is based on the story Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant . In the movie George plays Georges Duroy, a Parisian journalist, who rises to the top through the “kindnesses” of the various influential women whom he seduces, uses and abandons. There is a very amusing plot summary at the IMDb.  Incidentally, there is a wonderful analysis of this movie and two other of George’s movies, directed by Albert Lewin, at the blog of the Self-Styled Siren , which is well-worth reading.  George is one of her favorites and she has published several posts about him.
Because of the moral climate of the time, the ending to the movie was changed from that in the story.  In the story Duroy marries the daughter of a rich fellow, buys himself a title, and lives happily ever after, having no regrets for the way he has live. However, in the movie Duroy is killed in a dual and, as he dies, displays some remorse for his behavior.  Also, in the movie there are some scenes where George shows a softer, gentler side. One being where he is at the piano with the young daughter of Anglela Lansbury (who plays the woman who loves him in spite of his ways).  As George plays the piano, while Angela’s daughter sits next to him, he  sings a song softly to the child. It is very touching and George is wonderful in it.  In the scene in the carriage with Lansbury, as he is dying from the gunshot wound, George’s behavior shows that he really loves Lansbury and regrets his rejection of her. Then he dies—I hate it when he does that!

I think most of George’s fans are familiar with the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir , but for those of you who have not seen it I will give a brief synopsis.  A young English widow,played by Gene Tierney, takes her daughter and moves to a seaside cottage. It turns out that the cottage is haunted by the deceased owner, played by Rex Harrison.  He tries to frighten Gene into leaving but she refuses. She meets Miles Fairlie, a gentle, but womanizing, cad, played by the irresistible GEORGE SANDERS  and of course falls madly in love with him.  In order to have his way with her, George tells her they will be married.  Well, Gene goes to his house one day and who should be there but his wife!  Horrors! Gene is devastated!  Meanwhile, George, the gentle cad, has fallen for her. To make a long story short, if it isn’t too late, Ghost Rex wins her in the movie, but George “wins” her in real life.  There is a more complete plot synopsis at the IMDb.

Incidentally,  in the slideshow I am including a picture of George and Gene dancing in a night club. Gene is 5’7” tall and I am sure she has on high heels but George is so big and tall he dwarfs her…

How did she know George??

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Before I publish the post “George as the “Consummate Cad”, Part III, I want to share something with you. I had occasion to be reading a translation of some of the ancient Greek poet  Sappho’s (circa 630 B.C.)  poetry yesterday and I came across what I think is a very intriguing poem. I read it and I thought “how did she know George”?  I am going to offer to you two translations of  Sappho’s poem number 31.  See if you can figure out how she knew about George’s effect on women. Remember that these are fragments that have been discovered over time.  The  first translation is that of Anne Carson found on page 63 in her book “If Not Winter” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002). The second translation is that of Willis Barnstone on page 73 of his book “Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho” (Boston and London: Shambhala, 2006).  I have printed in italics the parts that I think voice the female response to George.  

He seems to me equal to gods that man 
whoever he is who opposite  you
sits and listens
close
to  your sweet speaking
 and lovely laughting–oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me
no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears
and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all,  greener than grass
I am and dead—or almost
I seem to me.

SECOND TRANSLATION 

To me he seems equal to gods,
the man who sits facing you
and hears you near as you speak and laugh
in a sweet echo that jolts
the heart in my ribs. Now
when I look at you a moment
my voice is empty
and can say nothing as my tongue
cracks and slender fire races
under my skin. My eyes are dead
to light, my ears
pound, and sweat pours over me.
I convulse, greener than grass
and feel my mind slip as I go
close to death.

This poem seems to me so lovely and, from my perspective, so relevant to George that I had to post it. I hope you enjoyed it.  I prefer the Carson translation myself.
I have embroidered this post with a slide show of a few, a very few, of what I find to be particularly handsome photos of George at different ages. There are many more equally handsome ones that I had to leave out…

George, the traveller…

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George did a good bit of travelling in his life. As a young boy in St. Petersburg he traveled with his family on trips to Italy, Finland, the family summer home in Estonia, and, of course, England. As you may have seen, I devoted an entire post to his travels in South America.  Naturally, in his career as an actor he made many movies in foreign locations such as   Italy (Journey To Italy (1954)), Spain ( Solomon and Sheba(1959)) and even Japan (The Last Voyage (1960)). I thought it might be fun to show a few photographs of him on his travels.  And, of course, after the dreadful girlfriend Helga persuaded him to sell his home in Majorca in 1971, he was virtually a gypsy until his death the next year.

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