July 3, 1906
St Petersburg, Russia
April 25, 1972
Benita Hume, Magda Gabor, Zsa Zsa Gabor
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With his imperious gaze and resonant speaking voice, debonair British expatriate George Sanders was a perfect fit in Hollywood before and after World War II, playing cads, bounders, rogues and even the occasional hero. A contract with 20th Century Fox gave Sanders a home base in Tinseltown but he often did his best work for other studios, including the villains of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca" (1940) for United Artists, Joe May's "The House of the Seven Gables" (1940) for Universal, and as swank soldier of fortune Simon Templar in "The Saint Strikes Back" (1940) and its sequels at RKO Radio Pictures. After the war, Fox slotted the epicene actor into a string of handsomely-mounted period pieces, including John Braham's "Hangover Square" (1945), Albert Lewin's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1945) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (1947). Sanders won an Oscar for playing an acerbic theatrical critic in Mankiewicz's show biz satire "All About Eve" (1950), and his collaboration with neorealist pioneer Roberto Rossellini on the undervalued "Viaggio in Italia" (1954) marked what many considered to be his last great film performance. Widowed in 1969 and hobbled by a debilitating stroke that affected his speech, Sanders took his own life in Spain in 1972, drawing closed the curtain on the life of a consummate actor who could never completely camouflage his own fierce intelligence.George Henry Sanders was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 3, 1906. The second son of rope manufacturer Henry Sanders and his wife, Margaret Kolbe, a renowned horticulturist who gave up her career to support her husband's business affairs in Imperial Russia, Sanders was the beneficiary of a privileged and cultured childhood. He began his formal education at a Russian grade school but with the Communist overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II in October 1917, the Sanders family, which included older son Tom and younger daughter Margaret, fled to England. Educated at the Bedales School, Brighton College and later at Manchester Technical College, Sanders was primed to follow his father into the textile business. After a brief sojourn in South America and a failed bid to break into the tobacco trade, Sanders returned to the United Kingdom. While working as a copywriter for a London advertising agency, he took the advice of a fellow employee to pursue acting - Sanders' prescient co-worker was none other than future Hollywood leading lady Greer Garson.Adept at playing piano, guitar and saxophone, and boasting a plummy baritone singing voice, Sanders made his stage debut in a 1932 London production of E. Y. Harberg and Lewis E. Gensler's Broadway revue "Ballyhoo of 1932" (which had failed, two years earlier, to launch the career of vaudevillian Bob Hope). That same year, he made his film debut with an uncredited bit as a pub singer in "Love, Life, and Laughter" (1934) starring Gracie Fields as a lowly publican's daughter who falls impossibly in love with visiting prince John Loder. Sanders had another walk-on as a pilot in William Cameron Menzies' science fiction classic "Things to Come" (1936), the first British film to cost more than $1 million. Following his casting in the short-lived Broadway production of Noel Coward's musical "Conversation Piece" in 1934, Sanders achieved co-star status in two British films underwritten by Hollywood studios - in the Fox Film Company's con man comedy "Find the Lady" (1936) and in Paramount British Pictures' smuggling drama "Strange Caro" (1936).Signed to a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox in the States, Sanders first appeared for the studio in Henry King's Academy Award-nominated costumer "Lloyds of London" (1936), in support of stars Tyrone Power and Madeleine Carroll. His naturally aristocratic comportment and haughty mien made him a perfect fit for all manner of barons, dukes, and viscounts as well as doomed Sanders to play more than his fair share of cads. The actor was a member of a foreign spy ring in "