George Sanders was a man who had everything: four wives (including Zsa Zsa Gabor and her sister Magda), seven psychiatrists, more than 90 film appearances, and an Oscar. But all that wasn’t enough to keep him interested. On April 25, 1972, at age 65, Sanders swallowed five bottles of Nembutal in a hotel room in Castelldefels, Spain, and took his final curtain. He left a legacy in the form of his suicide note: By early May, when the message had made headlines all over, the world knew it had a classic farewell on its hands. ”Dear World,” Sanders wrote in part, ”I am leaving because I am bored.”
Boring he was not. Frequently cast as the witty heavy, Sanders was a dedicated crank. In fact, he called his 1960 autobiography Memoirs of a Professional Cad. ”I am always rude to people,” he once said. ”I am not a sweet person. I am a disagreeable person. I am a hateful person.”
A man of many trysts, he was especially hateful when it came to women. ”A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree — the more you beat them the better they be,” he once said, and he joked that ”a woman is never worth what she costs, even if she costs nothing.” While living in Hollywood, he even advocated a 25 percent tax for actresses so they might avoid making more than their husbands. Oddly, little gossip about his marriages made it into the press, although Zsa Zsa proclaimed, following the dissolution of their five-year union in 1954, that Sanders was not ”a gentleman.”
Born in 1906 to British parents living in St. Petersburg, Sanders fled Russia with his family during the Communist revolution and landed at age 11 in Britain, where he began his acting career. His crowning moment came in 1950 when he won the Best Supporting Actor award as the cynical drama critic who escorted Marilyn Monroe in All About Eve. Yet even with this and memorable performances in Rebecca, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and A Shot in the Dark, Sanders still felt underutilized. When asked shortly before his death if there was a part left he’d like to play, he replied, ”Well, no one has ever asked me to play God. I suppose that’s what I would like.”
Time Capsule: May 8, 1972
Roberta Flack’s ”The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was growing familiar on the music charts, Irving Wallace’s The Word Play It Again, Sam opened to rave reviews, and All in the Family was a part of every family’s living room.