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 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…