Most of us probably remember British actor George Sanders, who had a long, celebrated career and a colorful life that sadly ended with his suicide in 1972. But what you might not realize is that in addition to being an Oscar-winning actor who specialized in playing heels, he was also a writer, a composer, and a pretty good singer.
Although his parents were English, George Henry Sanders was actually born in St. Petersburg, a decade or so before the revolution that ended the Russian Empire and forced his family to flee back to England. He and his siblings (older brother Tom would also become a well-known actor, under the name Tom Conway) spent most of the rest of their childhood in British boarding schools, as was typical of the era.
Young George grew into a tall, broad-shouldered, deep-voiced adult, who scuffled at odd jobs for a while before embarking on a career on the London stage in the late 1920s. By the middle of the following decade he was beginning to get some movie work too, first in British cinema and then in Hollywood. He was soon well known as the quintessential villain, a type of part he would ably fill again and again.
But along the way he tried to stretch himself in other ways and that included singing. It didn’t always go smoothly — he dropped out of South Pacific because of his anxiety about singing — but he did very well in the occasional part, like his appearance in the 1953 film, Call Me Madam (video below). A few years later he even recorded a whole album full of songs, including one he’d written himself.
Of course, Sanders would be more remembered for his acting roles, like his Oscar-winning performance as Addison De Witt in All About Eve. Or for his five marriages — two of them to Gabor sisters — or even for his suicide, which he’d predicted years before. But he could sing.