A Paean To George Sanders, A True Renaissance Man

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I am reposting this from my first two posts to George, because many new viewers may not have seen them and don’t realize how truly talented, brillant, and accomplished he was.

It is difficult to find enough superlatives to describe George Sanders. He was tall (6′ 3 1/2″), handsome, sexy, brilliant, talented, artistic and blessed with the most marvelous deep seductive voice and a gorgeous English accent.  He was incredibly gifted–able to speak five languages, played at least four musical instruments, composed music for the piano as well as at least two beautiful love songs. One of these “Such Is My Love” was included on the album of love songs he released in 1958.   George could build anything and drew up the blue prints for his first house as well as building the furniture. His friends were amazed at his mechanical abilities and he held several patents at the US Patent Office.   He loved to invent things and was a genius with anything involving electricity.  He was even good at rewiring houses.  When George bought a car he would often take the engine apart to arrange the steering to suit his needs.  He was a noted amateur astronomer and built several telescopes, including the large 9″ one that Universal Pictures bought from him and used in the 1945 movie “The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry” in which Sanders starred.

Although presenting himself as a non-physical man George was actually a natural athlete. When in college he was an inter-scholastic heavyweight boxing champion. He was so physically fit he was made a PT (Physical Trainer) in the Officers Training Corps in college.  George was also very good in the water, winning many diving and swimming competitions. This was a gift which he put to good use when he dove into the Thames and saved a man’s life. For this he was given a medal by the British Humane Society.
In addition to being blessed with all of these physical gifts,  he was a natural actor and an amazingly versatile one. He was equally effective as a sweet cad (“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, 1947) or an unscrupulous one (“Rebecca”, 1940), as a hero (“Appointment In Berlin”, 1943, and “They Came to Blow Up America”, 1943), as a “nice chap” (“Rage In Heaven”, 1941, and “Foreign Correspondent”, 1940) and, my favorite, as a “hen-pecked” brother and lover in “The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry”, 1945. Although he finally received some of  the recognition he deserved for his role as Addison DeWitt in “All About Eve” (1950), receiving an Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor”, he was equally as good in all his movies–for example “The Moon and Sixpence”(1942).  It is a pity that he was not featured as the leading man in more pictures for he was a splendid one. After seeing George in “Rage In Heaven” (1941) and “Her Cardboard Lover”, (1942).  Louie B. Mayer wanted to make him into a romantic leading man, a role for which he was incredibly fitted.  This was of no interest to George who claimed he didn’t want to worry about eternally maintaining his looks.

George’s career as a screen detective, part 4 “The Saint Takes Over”

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The Saint Takes Over  is the second Saint movie Most Handsome George filmed in 1940.  In this movie Simon Templar, played of course by Gorgeous George Sanders , known to the police of two continents as The Saint , is returning to New York from London when he discovers that his old friend and sometimes foe, Inspector Fernack ( Jonathan Hale ), a detective on the New York police force, is in trouble.  Fernack is unable to explain the presence of fifty thousand dollars in his safe. He had just arrested a character known as Rocky Weldon on charges of race fixing, but the case had blown up when the chief witness  for the state, Johnnie Summers, had been killed.  It now appears that someone had bribed Fernack to try to convict Rocky.  Astute Saint George (no dummy he) realizes at once that Fernack is being framed.  The Saint had become interested in a pretty girl (naturally) named Ruth ( Wendy Barrie ) on the ship from London.  When the ship docks, two thugs try to kidnap her.   Able-bodied Saint George prevents this, but Ruth disappears during the scuffle.

Fernack has been framed by a combination of crooks headed by Big Ben Egan ( Pierre Watkin). Others in the gang are Rocky Weldon (Roland Drew ), Max Bremer ( Cyrus W. Kendall), Sam Reese (Morgan Conway),  and Leo Sloan ( Robert Emmett Keane).  Egan collects ninty thousand dollars from the gang members to cover the cost of framing Fernack and protecting Weldon, which he then places in his safe.

That night, Rocky sends his stooge, Pearly Gates ( Paul Guilfoyle (who also is with George in “The Saint In Palm Springs)), to rob Egan’s safe. Pearly is surprised by Egan who sends him back to Rocky with instructions for Rocky to come to Egan’s. When stealthy Saint George breaks into the house a little later he finds Egan killed. Fernack comes in a second later.  Observant Saint George finds a hidden camera rigged up near the safe and when he and Fernack develop the exposed film it shows Pearly in the act of opening the safe.  With this evidence they force Pearly to help them in their efforts to clear Fernack.

Rocky is killed before Good-Looking Saint George can question him.  With Pearly’s  assistance, Saint George and Fernack then kidnap Sloan, but the unknown assailant kills Sloan while he is being held in Fernack’s  basement.  Suave Saint George meets with Ruth and from her takes the gun with which she has killed Egan, Sloan, and Rocky.  Savvy Saint George finds, as he expected (not being born yesterday), that Ruth’s name is Summers, and that she is avenging the murder of her brother, Johnnie Summers, by Egan’s gang.  She agrees to let Saint George try to convict the rest of the gang.

However, the police arrest Fernack who had been left with Sloan’s corpse.  Agile Saint George  wrests a gun from one of the officers and escapes. Pearly and Crafty Saint George then fool Reese and Bremer into confessing that they killed Johnnie Summers and framed Fernack.  A radio tuned to the police wave-length and hidden by Shrewd Saint George picks up their speech and the police locate the source.  When the police close in on the gang, Bremer escapes but is killed by Ruth. In the process Bremer shoots Ruth who then dies in Saint George’sarms. He is devastated.  Fernack is cleared and, as he is wont to do, Eye-Candy Saint George quietly disappears again.

In my next post I will be talking about  classy George’s last Saint movie “The Saint in Palm Springs” (1941)