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George Sanders

Actor who played Simon Templar, alias The Saint, in the Movies

George Sanders as The SaintGeorge Sanders played The Saint in a five RKO motion pictures from 1939 to 1941.

Biography

Throughout much of his screen career, actor George Sanders was the very personification of cynicism, an elegantly dissolute figure whose distinct brand of anomie distinguished dozens of films during a career spanning nearly four decades. Born in St. Petersburg on July 3, 1906, Sanders and his family fled to the U.K. during the Revolution, and he was later educated at Brighton College. After first pursuing a career in the textile industry, Sanders briefly flirted with a South American tobacco venture; when it failed, he returned to Britain with seemingly no other options outside of a stage career. After a series of small theatrical roles, in 1934 he appeared in Noel Coward's Conversation Piece; the performance led to his film debut in 1936's Find the Lady, followed by a starring role in Strange Cargo.

After a series of other undistinguished projects, Sanders appeared briefly in William Cameron Menzies' influential science fiction epic Things to Come. In 1937, he traveled to Hollywood, where a small but effective role in Lloyd's of London resulted in a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. A number of lead roles in projects followed, including Love Is News and The Lady Escapes, before Fox and RKO cut a deal to allow him to star as the Leslie Charteris adventurer the Saint in a pair of back-to-back 1939 features, The Saint Strikes Back and The Saint in London. The series remained Sanders' primary focus for the next two years, and in total he starred in five Saint pictures, culminating in 1941's The Saint at Palm Springs. Sandwiched in between were a variety of other projects, including performances in a pair of 1940 Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Foreign Correspondent and the Best Picture Oscar-winner Rebecca.

After co-starring with Ingrid Bergman in 1941's Rage in Heaven, Sanders began work on another adventure series, playing a suave investigator dubbed the Falcon; after debuting the character in The Gay Falcon, he starred in three more entries — A Date With the Falcon, The Falcon Takes Over, and The Falcon's Brother — before turning over the role to his real-life brother, Tom Conway. Through his work in Julien Duvivier's Tales of Manhattan, Sanders began to earn notice as a more serious actor, and his lead performance in a 1943 adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Moon and Sixpence established him among the Hollywood elite. He then appeared as an evil privateer in the Tyrone Power swashbuckler The Black Swan, followed by Jean Renoir's This Land Is Mine. A pair of excellent John Brahm thrillers, 1944's The Lodger and 1945's Hangover Square, helped bring Sanders' contract with Fox to its close.

With his portrayal of the world-weary Lord Henry Wooten in 1945's The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Sanders essayed the first of the rakish, cynical performances which would typify the balance of his career; while occasionally playing more sympathetic roles in pictures like The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, he was primarily cast as a malcontent, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his venomous turn in 1951's All About Eve. The award brought Sanders such high-profile projects as 1951's I Can Get It for You Wholesale, 1952's Ivanhoe, and Roberto Rossellini's 1953 effort Viaggio in Italia. However, his star waned, and the musical Call Me Madam, opposite Ethel Merman, was his last major performance. A series of historical pieces followed, and late in the decade he hosted a television series, The George Sanders Mystery Theater. In 1960, he also published an autobiography, Memoirs of a Professional Cad.

Sanders spent virtually all of the 1960s appearing in little-seen, low-budget foreign productions. Exceptions to the rule included the 1962 Disney adventure In Search of the Castaways, the 1964 Blake Edwards Pink Panther comedy A Shot in the Dark, and 1967's animated Disney fable The Jungle Book, in which he voiced the character of Shere Khan the Tiger. After appearing on Broadway in the title role of The Man Who Came to Dinner, Sanders appeared in John Huston's 1970 thriller The Kremlin Letter, an indication of a career upswing; however, the only offers which came his way were low-rent horror pictures like 1972's Doomwatch and 1973's Psychomania. Prior to the release of the latter, Sanders killed himself on August 25, 1972, by overdosing on sleeping pills while staying in a Costa Brava hotel; his suicide note read, "Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored." He was 66 years old.

The Saint Strikes Back movie poster1939 The Saint Strikes Back

RKO Radio Pictures-USA, 64 minutes, 5799 feet. Released in the USA on March 10, 1939.

Adapted from the Leslie Charteris novel The Saint Meets His Match (7-B36, 1931). Directed by John Farrow. Produced by Robert Sisk. Screenplay by John Twist.

Starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, Wendy Barrie as Val Travers, and Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack.

The Saint in London movie poster #1The Saint in London movie poster #21939 The Saint in London

RKO Radio Pictures-USA, Elstree-UK, 73 minutes, 6909 feet. Released in the USA on June 30, 1939.

Adapted from the Leslie Charteris short story The Million Pound Day from The Saint versus Scotland Yard (8-B13, 1932). Directed by John Paddy Carstairs. Produced by William Sistrom. Screenplay by Lynn Root and Frank Fenton.

Starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, Sally Gray as Penny Parker, David Burns as Dugan, and Gordon McLeod as Inspector Teal.

The Saint's Double Trouble movie poster1940 The Saint's Double Trouble

RKO Radio Pictures-USA, 67 minutes, 6062 feet. Released in the USA on January 26, 1940.

An original story not used in any book, Charteris didn't particularly like the film. Directed by Jack Hiveley. Produced by Cliff Reid. Screenplay by Leslie Charteris and Ben Holmes.

Starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, Helene Whitney as Anne Bitts, Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack, and Bela Lugosi as Partner.

The Saint Takes Over movie poster1940 The Saint Takes Over

RKO Radio Pictures-USA, 69 minutes, 6225 feet. Released in the USA on June 7, 1940.

Leslie Charteris had nothing to do with the storyline for this film. Directed by Jack Hiveley. Produced by Howard Benedict. Screenplay by Lynn Root and Frank Fenton.

Starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, Wendy Barrie as Ruth, Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack, and Paul Guilfoyle as Pearly Gates.

The Saint in Palm Springs movie poster1941 The Saint in Palm Springs

RKO Radio Pictures-USA, 66 minutes, 5964 feet. Released in the USA on January 24, 1941.

Palm Springs is based on an orginal story by Leslie Charteris, but the plot was so changed that the final version of the movie hasn't any of Charteris' plot intact. The photoplay that appeared in the May 19, 1941 issue of Life magazine, and the subsequent short story were written afterward, and are completely different than the movie or the orginal plot outline. Later adapted into a short story by Leslie Charteris as Palm Springs from The Saint Goes West (23-B24, 1942). Directed by Jack Hiveley. Produced by Howard Benedict. Screenplay by Leslie Charteris and Jerry Cady.

Starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, Wendy Barrie as Elna Johnson, Paul Guilfoyle as Pearly Gates, and Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack.

IMDB Mini Biography

George Sanders was born of English parents in St. Petersburg, Russia. He worked in a Birmingham textile mill, in the tobacco business and as a writer in advertising. He entered show business in London as a chorus boy, going from there to cabaret, radio and theatrical understudy. His film debut, in 1936, was as Curly Randall in Find the Lady (1936). His U.S. debut, the same year, with Twentieth Century-Fox, was as Lord Everett Stacy in Lloyd's of London (1936). During the late 1930s and early 1940s he made a number of movies as Simon Templar--the Saint--and as Gay Lawrence, the Falcon. He played Nazis (Maj. Quive-Smith in Fritz Lang's Man Hunt (1941)), royalty (Charles II in Otto Preminger's Forever Amber (1947)), and biblical roles (Saran of Gaza in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949)). He won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as theatre critic Addison De Witt in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950). In 1957 he hosted a TV series, "The George Sanders Mystery Theater" (1957). He continued to play mostly villains and charming heels until his suicide in 1972.

Selected Filmography for George Sanders

  • Things to Come (1936)
  • The Saint Strikes Back (1939)
  • Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
  • The Saint in London (1939)
  • Allegheny Uprising (1939)
  • The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
  • The House of the Seven Gables (1940)
  • Rebecca (1940)
  • The Saint Takes Over (1940)
  • Foreign Correspondent (1940)
  • The Son of Monte Cristo (1940)
  • The Saint in Palm Springs (1941)
  • Rage in Heaven (1941)
  • The Gay Falcon (1941)
  • Tales of Manhattan (1942)
  • The Falcon's Brother (1942)
  • This Land Is Mine (1943)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
  • The Strange Woman (1946)
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
  • Forever Amber (1947)
  • Samson and Delilah (1949)
  • All About Eve (1950)
  • Ivanhoe (1952)
  • Call Me Madam (1953)
  • Witness to Murder (1954)
  • Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) (1954)
  • Moonfleet (1955)
  • While the City Sleeps (1956)
  • Death of a Scoundrel (1956)
  • Never Say Goodbye (1956)
  • Village of the Damned (1960)
  • The Rebel (1961)
  • Operation Snatch (1962)
  • A Shot in the Dark (1964)
  • The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
  • Warning Shot (1967)
  • The Jungle Book (1967) (Voice)
  • Good Times (1967)
  • The Kremlin Letter (1970)
  • Endless Night (1971)
  • Doomwatch (1972)

    Other Actors Who've Played The Saint

    Portrals of Simon Templar on Film in Movie Motion Pictures:

    Louis Hayward, George Sanders, Hugh Sinclair, Jean Marais, and Val Kilmer

    The Saint Radio shows on Old-Time Radio:

    Vincent Price, Barry Sullivan, Brian Aherne, Edgar Barrier, Felix Marten, Lawrence Dobkin, Paul Rhys, Terence De Marney, Tom Conway, and Tom Meehan

    Actors who played The Saint on Television TV Programs:

    Roger Moore, Ian Ogilvy, Andrew Clarke, Simon Dutton, and Adam Rayner

    Starring as The Saint in Photoplay:

    Leslie Charteris
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