George Sanders (1906-1972)

George Sanders
George Sanders

George Sanders George Sanders was an English actor, particularly prominent in the 1940's and 1950's. He had a distinctive rich baritone voice, and is best known for his portrayal of Addison DeWitt in 'All About Eve' in 1950, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Sanders is well known for having taken his own life in 1972, leaving a famous suicide note referring to life as " this sweet cesspool."


George Sanders was born on July 3, 1906 in Saint Petersburg, Russia to British parents. He had an elder brother, who became the actor Tom Conway, and a younger sister, Margaret. His life was that of a privileged upper class child until at the age of 11 in 1917, on the eve of the Russian Revolution, he and his family had to return to England.

He was educated at Bedales School in Hampshire, one of the most expensive schools in the UK. He continued his education at Brighton College on the south coast of England, then went on to Manchester Technical College. He worked in the textile and tobacco industries before becoming an advertising copywriter. His distinctive baritone voice got him noticed and he took up a colleague's suggestion to switch careers to acting. That colleague was aspiring actress, Greer Garson.

The Young Actor

After starting out as a chorus boy in London's West End, he went on to work in cabaret, radio, and as a theatrical understudy. He had a rich baritone voice and took singing lessons to develop it. It paid off and in 1933 he appeared with Dennis King in the musical 'The Command Performance'.

His first film was also as a singer, a small role in 'Love, Life and Laughter' in 1934. He followed it up with 'Things to Come' and then two films which would have a strong impact on his career. Both 'Strange Cargo' and 'Find the Lady' were British films but both were financed by Hollywood studios. As a result Sanders's strong performances got him noticed and he was signed up to a contract with 20th Century Fox Studios in America. It was the break he needed.


His first role in America was as Lord Everett Stacy in 'Lloyd's of London' in 1936. His distinctive voice and smooth English accent gained him instant recognition in America and he was an actor in demand for the rest of his career.

He used his cutivated tones to good effect on loan to RKO, as the star of the thriller detective series 'The Saint' starting with 'The Saint Strikes Back' in 1939 and ending after four more 'Saint' movies with 'The Saint in Palm Springs' in 1941. Most of his Fox pictures were in supporting roles but he returned to RKO to star once again in a thriller detective series, this time as Gay Lawrence, a.k.a. 'The Falcon', beginning with 'The Gay Falcon in 1940. After 'The Falcon's Brother' in 1942, Sanders left the series in favour of his real life brother, Tom Conway, who went on to appear in nine more 'Falcon' films.

Hollywood Star

As his career continued to prosper, Sanders specialized more and more in cads and rotters, such as Jack Favell in 'Rebecca' in 1940, when he played the cruel foil to Joan Fontaine. He is creepily good as a bibliopohile in the tiny 'Quiet Please; Murder' in 1942, a rare Sanders star vehicle. and also showed he was well suited to Wildean epigrams as Lord Henry Wotton in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' in 1945.

Director Albert Lewin, who cast Sanders in 'Dorian Gray', combed literature to find him perfect roles such as the caddish journalist in 'The Private Affairs of Bel Ami' in 1947, co-starring Angela Lansbury, one of his most critically well received roles. Also in 1947 he co-starred with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir'.

1947 saw one of Sanders' finest achievements in 'Forever Amber', directed by Otto Preminger. In it his portrayal of Charles II captures the essence of an utterly disillusioned man but who still possesses the self-knowledge to understand his own emptiness.

Sander's career high point came as the acidic critic Addison DeWitt in 'All About Eve' in 1950. He performed the difficult feat of upstaging Bette Davis, and desrvedly won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Later Career

In the 1950's Sanders made the transition to television with the successful series 'The George Sanders Mystery Theater' and he played an upper class English villain in a 1965 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' episode. He also played Mr. Freeze in two episodes of the 1960s 'Batman' TV series.

He was offered less choice roles later in his career. In 1964 he appeared with Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther sequel 'A Shot in the Dark'. In 1967 he was the voice of the malevolent Shere Khan in Walt Disney's 'The Jungle Book' and in 1969 he notoriously had a small role in 'The Kremlin Letter', in which he was dressed in drag in a San Francisco gay bar. One of Sanders' final screen roles was in 1972 in a movie version of 'Doomwatch'.


Sanders was a tall, good-looking man who enjoyed cultivating a caddish image offscreen as well as on. He was married four times.

He first married Susan Larson in 1940 and divorced in 1949. He then married actress, Zsa Zsa Gabor from 1949 to a 1957 divorce, then Ronald Colman's widow Benita Hume from 1959 until her death in 1967. His last marriage was in December 1970 to Magda Gabor, the older sister of his second wife. This marriage lasted only six weeks, after which he began to rely more and more on drink

His health was failing and it is possible he had had a minor stroke. He became deeply depressed and on 23 April, 1972 he checked into an hotel room in Barcelona, and took five bottles of Nembutal. His body was found two days later. He was 65 years old. He left behind a suicide note which has become famous: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck."

George Sanders Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Supporting Actor ... All About Eve (1950)
No Unsuccessful Nominations:

George Sanders Filmography

Love, Life & Laughter
Things to Come
Strange Cargo
Find the Lady
The Man Who Could Work Miracles
Dishonour Bright
Lloyd's of London
Love Is News
Slave Ship
The Lady Escapes
Lancer Spy

International Settlement
Four Men and a Prayer
Mr. Moto's Last Warning
The Outsider
So This Is London
The Saint Strikes Back
Confessions of a Nazi Spy
The Saint in London
Nurse Edith Cavell
The First Rebel
The Saint's Double Trouble
Green Hell
The House of the Seven Gables
The Saint Takes Over
Foreign Correspondent
Bitter Sweet
The Son of Monte Cristo
The Saint in Palm Springs
Rage in Heaven
Man Hunt
The Gay Falcon
A Date with the Falcon
Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake
The Falcon Takes Over
Her Cardboard Lover
Tales of Manhattan
The Falcon's Brother
The Moon and Sixpence
The Black Swan
Quiet Please: Murder
This Land Is Mine
They Came to Blow Up America
Appointment in Berlin
Paris After Dark
The Lodger
Action in Arabia
Summer Storm
Hangover Square
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Uncle Harry
A Scandal in Paris
The Strange Woman
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Forever Amber
Lady Windermere's Fan
Samson and Delilah
All About Eve
Captain Blackjack
This Is My Affair
The Light Touch
Assignment: Paris
Call Me Madam
Witness to Murder
King Richard and the Crusaders
Journey to Italy