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Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees • Location: Athens, Georgia
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Fantasy Box Set #2: George Sanders
June 3rd, 2005 5:16PM

Is there any actor now working who can do suave like George Sanders? I doubt it. In films like Rebecca, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and especially All About Eve--all of which, thankfully, are available on DVD--Sanders perfected the role of the smooth-talking, urbane schemer. He was an expert at playing outright villains, which he did in a number of films, including Son of Fury (1942) and Ivanhoe (1952), but he brought the same relish and panache to many of his less-remembered good-guy roles. He had style and wit, and that makes him stand out all the more in contrast to todayís ďstars.Ē

Here are five titles Iíd love to see released as a George Sanders DVD box set. I donít think itís coincidence that so many of the films Iíve included have period settings; unlike some male actors, Sanders looked right at home in the elegant costumes of earlier times--and he also handled period dialogue with aplomb. Pour yourself a dry martini and dive into these Sanders films...if you can find them.

1. The Saint Strikes Back, 1939. Sanders took over the role of the ďRobin Hood of modern crimeĒ with this entry in the series of films based on Leslie Charterisís books. His suave charm was never better displayed than in these adventurous tales. He later left the series for a very similar one about a character called the Falcon. The Saint movies themselves would make a great boxed set; studios, are you listening?

2. The House of the Seven Gables, 1940. ďGod has given him blood to drink!Ē An effective gothic drama based on the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, featuring Sanders in a wonderfully wicked performance as Jaffrey Pyncheon, who frames his good-hearted brother Vincent Price for murder. Price also turns in a great performance--as the good guy, for once. Their final showdown is a doozy.

3. The Lodger, 1944. Iím being a bit disingenuous in including this film in my fantasy set, since I understand that itís on its way to DVD. And thatís something to be glad of: Itís a suspenseful Jack the Ripper story featuring creepy Laird Cregar as the titular lodger and Sanders on the side of law and order, trying to keep showgirl Merle Oberon safe from harm. If you like seeing Sanders represent the law, check out the flawed but interesting thriller Lured, with Lucille Ball, available on VHS.

4. The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945. This is a genuine movie classic, and the fact that itís not already out on DVD just makes the whole industry look bad. Hurd Hatfield plays the beautiful young man of the title in this excellent adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel; Sanders is the smooth, morally bankrupt Lord Henry Wotton, whose influence leads Gray to depart from the path of virtue--but the depths of Grayís depravity end up shocking even his mentor. Young Angela Lansbury is touching as the innocent singer who falls for Gray.

5. The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, 1947. Sanders plays the lead for once in this interesting mixture of comedy and drama about a turn-of-the-century French womanizer whose philandering ways catch up with him. Based on the story by Guy de Maupassant, it also features Angela Lansbury. Itís been far too long since Iíve seen this one, but I remember it as being unusual--and featuring an effective death scene.

Coming soon: Fantasy Box Set #3...


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