Birth in Russia
Sanders was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, of British parents. In 1917, when he was eleven, the family returned to Britain on the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and, like his brother, he attended Brighton College, a boys' independent school in Brighton. After graduation he worked at an advertising agency. It was there that the company secretary, an aspiring actress named Greer Garson, suggested a career in acting. His elder brother, Tom Conway was also a film actor, to whom Sanders later handed over the role of 'The Falcon'.
He made his British film debut in 1934 and after a series of British films made his American debut in 1936 with a role in Lloyd's of London. His British accent and sensibilities, combined with his suave, snobbish and somewhat menacing air were utilised in American films during the next decade. He played memorable supporting roles in prestige productions such as Rebecca, in which he goaded the sinister Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers, in her persecution of Joan Fontaine and he played leading roles in lesser pictures such as Rage in Heaven. During this time he was also the lead in both The Falcon and The Saint film series. He played Lord Henry Wotton in a film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. In 1947 he co-starred with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in the classic The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
In 1950 he gave his most widely recognised performance and achieved his greatest success as the acid-tongued, manipulative, cold-blooded theatre critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role.
He moved into the field of television and was responsible for the successful series George Sanders Mystery Theatre and provided the voice for the malevolent Taurus Bulba in the Walt Disney production of Darkwing Duck and Shere Khan in the Walt Disney production of The Jungle Book. Sanders is noted as the first of the 'Urbane Villains' in many of the Disney animations that followed. Scar of The Lion King (Jeremy Irons) and Judge Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Tony Jay) are two recent examples. In an episode straight out of The Avengers, Sanders played an upper crust English villain in 'The Gazebo in the Maze Affair', a 1965 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode.
His marriage from 1940 to 1949 to Susan Larson ended in divorce. From 1949 until 1954, he was married to the Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Sanders was married to actress Benita Hume from 1959 until her death in 1967. His last wife was Magda Gabor, his second wife's sister; the marriage lasted a year.
It was during this period that he completed his autobiography, Memoirs of a Professional Cad; though now out of print, it is still celebrated for its wit.
For many years Sanders lived in Spain and it was in Castelldefels (a coastal town near Barcelona, Catalonia) that he committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates, leaving behind a suicide note that attributed his action to boredom. His friend David Niven recorded in his autobiography that Sanders had predicted his own suicide many years earlier. The note read: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck." One of Sanders's final screen roles was in the 1972 feature film version of the popular television series Doomwatch.
- Sanders published an autobiography in 1960 titled Memoirs of a Professional Cad.
- Sanders' smooth voice, urbane manner and upper-class British accent were the inspiration for the Peter Sellers' character "Hercules Grytpype-Thynne" in the famous BBC radio comedy series The Goon Show. Sellers and Sanders acted together in the Pink Panther sequel, A Shot in the Dark.
- He has been honoured with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - for Motion Pictures at 1636 Vine St, and for Television at 7007 Hollywood Blvd.
- He is mentioned in The Kinks' song Celluloid Heroes: "And if you covered him with garbage/George Sanders would still have style," referring in fact to his star on Hollywood Blvd and referring allegorically to Sander's screen persona.
- Sanders' ghost makes an appearance in Clive Barker's 2001 novel Coldheart Canyon.
- Sanders played Mr. Freeze in two episodes of the Batman Series of the 1960s.
- Lloyd's of London (1936)
- Things to Come (1936)
- The Saint Strikes Back (1939)
- Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
- The Saint in London (1939)
- Foreign Correspondent (1940)
- Rebecca (1940)
- The Son of Monte Cristo (1940)
- Rage in Heaven (1941)
- The Gay Falcon (1941)
- Tales of Manhattan (1942)
- The Falcon's Brother (1942)
- This Land Is Mine (1943)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
- The Strange Woman (1946)
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
- Forever Amber (1947)
- Samson and Delilah (1949)
- All About Eve (1950)
- Ivanhoe (1952)
- Call Me Madam (1953)
- Witness to Murder (1954)
- Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) (1954)
- Moonfleet (1955)
- While the City Sleeps (1956)
- Death of a Scoundrel (1956)
- Never Say Goodbye (1956)
- Darkwing Duck (1957) (voice)
- Village of the Damned (1960)
- The Rebel (1961)
- Operation Snatch (1962)
- A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
- Warning Shot (1967)
- The Jungle Book (1967) (voice)
- Good Times (1967)
- The Kremlin Letter (1970)
- Endless Night (1971)
- Doomwatch (1972)