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…