These films are airing the morning of August 30 on George Sanders’ day:
George Sanders collaborated with Wolf Rilla again, the same director he had worked with three years earlier on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. This time around George plays a British major who plans a daring heist in Cairo. The goal is to rob a museum which houses King Tut’s jewels and various other artifacts. A cast of shady characters is in on the deal, and the caper goes off perfectly until an alarm inside the museum is triggered. They make a getaway but not before one of the men has been shot. The police close in on several suspects, and things really fall apart when a double cross is attempted. By the end of the picture, practically everyone is dead except George. Eventually he gets caught during a police raid, while he’s admiring a belly dancer. His best laid plans to flee the country have suddenly gone belly up.
BLUEBEARD’S TEN HONEYMOONS (1960)
If you’re a producer and you’ve got a script where the main character seduces and kills lonely middle-aged women for their money, and it’s 1960, you know which actor to call and offer the part to. Yes, you dial 1-800-SANDERS. You hope he’s home and willing to answer the phone. You tell him there’s a decent salary. Plus he can work with gorgeous leading ladies like Corinne Calvet, Patricia Roc and Jean Kent. You tell him the director will be Billy Wilder’s brother and it will be filmed in England. You tell him he will have as much fun as he can possibly imagine. You tell him, by George, he is just perfect for this role and he must agree to do it. And if he doesn’t do it, then Vincent Price will be more happy to step in.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960)
At the end of 1960 George Sanders returned to motion picture screens in a big way. He was headlining a British science fiction horror film that would quickly become a cult classic, lead to a sequel and inspire countless rip-offs. The MGM production was directed by Wolf Rilla, was written by noted screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, and made back seven times its budget. To say VILLAGE was a runaway hit is a gross understatement. In the story George plays Gordon Zellaby, a man who’s concerned when local women start producing children that grow fast and have similar eerie characteristics. Within a short period of time, the entire community begins to experience several strange phenomena. Because of the kids’ deep penetrating eyes, people start doing things they wouldn’t normally do. Moviegoers were under their spell too– the children kept telling people to come back and watch the film again.
THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1939)
This was George Sanders’ first film at RKO, and his first one playing Simon Templar (a.k.a. The Saint). It also paired him with leading lady Wendy Barrie for the first time, and they would make five movies together– in this franchise and in the follow-up franchise known as The Falcon. Sanders had taken over the crime fighter role from Louis Hayward and would make four films as the Saint and four more as the Falcon.
THE GAY FALCON (1941)
A contractual dispute with the writer of the source material prevented the studio from making any more Saint films for a while. But in the meantime, RKO decided it could use a story idea from another author and fashion it into a new franchise that vaguely resembled the Saint. So in late October, the first one of these titles premiered. Again, George was cast as the lead crime solver, and Wendy Barrie– who had played his leading lady several times before, was also featured. THE GAY FALCON did very well with audiences and earned a tidy profit. As a result, the studio forged ahead and many sequels were produced. Though George would only appear in four of the Falcon films.
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945)
One of his most memorable screen roles. He was cast in a handsomely mounted production based on Oscar Wilde’s well-known story. The title role was played by Hollywood newcomer Hurd Hatfield, but George practically stole the picture away from him as the corrupt Lord Henry Wotton. The story begins simply enough, but gains traction when George’s character meets Dorian and becomes an evil influence on him. Things spiral out of control from here, leading to the suicide of a singer played by Angela Lansbury. This was the first motion picture George made with Lansbury; they would go on to make two more together in the 1940s, plus another one in the mid-60s.
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)
An Alfred Hitchcock thriller which starred Joel McCrea and Laraine Day. While REBECCA had been produced by David Selznick (and became the year’s Best Picture Oscar recipient), FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT was a United Artists release from producer Walter Wanger. George plays a reporter named Scott ffolliott, who somewhere along the way lost the capital letter of his last name. The picture was a hit with audiences and critics, and in addition to its nomination for Best Picture, it had nominations in five other categories. Unfortunately, it did not win any.
These films are airing the evening of August 30 on George Sanders’ day:
A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964)
George Sanders may have earned an Oscar for dramatic work but one gets the feeling he enjoyed making comedies a bit more. In the 60s he had the chance to play a variety of amusing characters, usually in farces that involved some sort of major crime. In the sequel to THE PINK PANTHER, he gets to share scenes with Peter Sellers, who as Clouseau, is inspecting a series of murders that take place on George’s lavish estate. A SHOT IN THE DARK was rushed into production on the heels of the first film’s overwhelming success and it was actually not intended to be a sequel (the main character was not Clouseau), but it was revised to fit the Pink Panther format. It was a huge success– probably George’s biggest film of the decade after VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED.
DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL (1956)
This film was kind of a ‘family affair.’ It featured George Sanders’ older brother, actor Tom Conway, in a minor role. Previously they costarred in THE FALCON’S BROTHER. Another notable cast member in this RKO production was George’s ex-wife Zsa Zsa Gabor. She portrayed one of the women that his character went through like water. Not sure if Zsa Zsa ever considered George a scoundrel in real life; it’s doubtful since she was willing to make a movie with him after their divorce. DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL was based on the life of noted financier Serge Rubinstein who died under very mysterious circumstances.
JOURNEY TO ITALY (1954)
George Sanders took a break from Hollywood studio filmmaking when he went off to Europe to make this independent production with Ingrid Bergman and her husband Roberto Rossellini. He had previously costarred with Ingrid in 1941’s RAGE IN HEAVEN. This time around they’re more mature, wiser. They play a couple on vacation in Italy, dealing with the fact their marriage is falling apart. In the beginning they tour the Italian countryside together in a 1950 Bentley but soon separate. She then explores Naples on her own, and he goes off to Capri to be with other women. The absence of romance between them is a sore spot, and both are haunted by demons in their relationship– including the fact they are childless. In the end, he comes back from Capri and they reunite, willing to start over as a couple and recapture the magic they once shared. This is one of George Sanders’ very best films and is included in Steven Schneider’s ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.’
A TOUCH OF LARCENY (1960)
This film was released at the end of 1959 in Britain and found its way to North American screens in early 1960. James Mason plays a military officer who makes it seem like he’s selling secrets to the Russians so he can sue the newspapers for libel. He falls in love with a woman (Vera Miles) who happens to be engaged to a stuffy English aristocrat– you guessed it, George Sanders. When George’s character catches wind of the scheme, he sets out to expose Mason in order to keep the guy away from Miles. The clever screenplay was nominated for a BAFTA award. Critic Pauline Kael describes it as a pleasant adult comedy that should be better known.
A United Artists release directed by Douglas Sirk. George Sanders had collaborated with Sirk before, but this was the first (and only) time he worked with Lucille Ball and Charles Coburn. The film is a remake of a French film called PIEGES which was directed by Robert Siodmak and starred Maurice Chevalier. George is a dashing man about town who falls for a dancer (Ball) that is assisting the police. It is her job to nab a killer, and though she begins to fall in love with George, she is not sure of his innocence.
CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939)
A Warner Brothers tale about espionage. In this tense pre-war drama an FBI investigator (Edward G. Robinson) looks into suspicious activities sponsored by the Nazi party in America. Other costars included Francis Lederer and Paul Lukas. But it was George who stole the show as one of the villainous Nazis.