An Exhausted Life
by Richard Vanderbeets. Madison Books. Hardback,
272 pages. Currently out of Print.
In truth, a biography was sorely needed to explain
what made George Sanders tick. His autobiography "Memoirs of a Professional
Cad" published in 1960 is more of an account of his observations of those
around him rather than a work keen to blow his own trumpet. As expected, George writes in
a very suave and witty manner with an aloofness and indifference to the inner workings of
the film industry.
Vanderbeets' biography published in 1990
gives us a tremendous insight into George's unique persona with the aid of reminiscences
from his friends in and out of the business including his former wives and the surviving
members of his family who granted Vanderbeets access to George's private papers.
Acting was something George Sanders drifted
into as a means to keep himself financially stable. After turning his hand to many
professions, he was persuaded by Greer Garson to try for a part in her amateur theatrical
troupe. This led to legitimate stagework and eventually to his brief film debut as the god
"Indifference" in Korda's The Man Who Could
Work Miracles (1936). His other genre appearances before his Academy Award winning
performance of a cynical theatre critic in ALL ABOUT EVE in 1951 include The Lodger (1944) and Hangover Square (1945) both starring Laird Cregar. Later in 1945
George appeared as Lord Henry Wotton in The
Picture of Dorian Gray, a role that afforded him dialogue that dripped wonderfully with venom. George's other films from this period should
not be overlooked...his dual role in LANCER SPY (1938), MR. MOTO'S LAST WARNING (1940) and
of course, REBECCA (1940). George also became known for his appearances as "The
Saint" in a series of films for RKO. that he described as the nadir of his career. He
developed the character further by appearing as "The Falcon" in another film
series which finally starred his brother Tom Conway when George became tired of the role.
From his affluent life as a child in Russia
until a suicidal mixture of Nembutal and vodka ended his suffering in 1972, the life of
this confused, articulate and highly intelligent man is painstakingly researched in this
portrait of the consumate cad.
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