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!)

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…

George loved women, really.

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George got a reputation as a “woman hater” because of some lines he spoke in The Moon and Sixpence (and they were Somerset Maugham’s words, not George’s)  The words were something to the effect that the more you beat women the better they are for it.  Well, when the film was released women were up in arms against him about it. As he says in his memoirs “In the course of several newspaper interviews, I facetiously embroidered on this theme. I said I approved of the oriental idea of keeping women in harems. I also said that you could treat women like dogs and they would still love you. Personally I always treat dogs with infinite courtesy…” George also wrote “…the two [feminine attributes] which have caused me the greatest exasperation and anguish are, one, that they [women] are irresistible, and two, that they are irreplaceable.”

Indeed, he did find women irresistible, as they did him, as shown by all the affairs he had with his leading ladies (and other ladies such as Doris Duke). Just to name a few, Hedy Lamarr, Gene Tierney , Dolores del Rio, Lucille Ball, and Debra Paget.

George married four times. His first wife, whose professional name was Susan Larson, he met on a set at Twentieth Century Fox in 1938 when he was making Mr Moto’s Last Warning , which was released in January 1939.  They were married on October 27, 1940 in a Methodist Church but the marriage was kept secret. Susan gave up acting and stayed at home. The marriage was revealed late in 1942. Richard VanDerBeets discusses the marriage in depth and gives a penetrating analysis on pages 65-71 of his book George Sanders: An Exhausted Life.   The marriage lasted until 1947.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who upon seeing George in “The Moon and Sixpence”
told her mother “There is my next husband”, was wife number two. She finally met George at a cocktail party. As VanDerBeets writes on page 99 of his book about George, Zsa Zsa saw him across the room “Tanned and fit, elegantly attired in formal black silk dinner clothes and surrounded by admiring women George sat ‘like a pasha’ and she found him ‘as irresistible in person’ as she had found him on the screen. ‘Take me to him. I must meet him,’ she begged her host–and then gushed, ‘Mr. Sanders, I’m madly in love with you.’ With a condescending smile George replied, ‘How well I understand, my dear'”.On April 1,1949 (appropriately on Aprils Fools Day) George married her and on April 1, 1954 they divorced. However, they remained friends for life.

On February 10, 1959 George married Benita Hume or as I call her “the Good Wife”.  He had know her off and on for more than 20 years.  On page 158 of his book about George, VanDerBeets quotes Benita  as having written to a friend  that “George is the kind of man who makes it a joy to wake up in the morning and find he is there.”  And to another friend she wrote “George has been the kindest and most gentle man who brought me out of the depths of despair and helped me to start living again.”  Indeed, George and Benita made each other very happy until her death in 1967.

After Benita’s death, George was devastated and although he  tried to get on with his life he was never the same again. He had several girlfriends over the last five years of his life.  Zsa Zsa persuaded him to marry her sister Magda, but this fourth marriage only lasted  a month.  He could never replace Benita and his health declined seriously. We all know what tragedy happened in the end…