Cinema: George Sanders, a very endearing dirty guy

By George Sanders, moviegoers will never forget his performance in “Eve”, by Joseph Mankiewicz, in the shoes of a critic of the sneering genre, which won him an Oscar in 1950. Other films like “Rebecca” and ” Correspondent 17″, shot in 1940 by Alfred Hitchcock; “Manhunt”, by Fritz Lang in 1941 or even “The portrait of Dorian Gray”, by Albert Lewin in 1945, participated in the legend of this actor subscribed to the roles of elegant and arrogant dirty guys, “kinds aristocratic scoundrels, foul but never rude,” he wrote.

The legend has put aside the significant number of turnips who ended a career that went down the drain in the 1960s before George Sanders, depressed and alcoholic, committed suicide in Barcelona, ​​​​in a palace – let’s stay chic – in 1972, at the age of 65. The actor told himself in a classic iconoclastic autobiography, now reissued under the title “Profession scoundrel”. Born in Russia into a family of Scottish origin, George Sanders was a sales agent in South America before dabbling in the theater and approaching film sets, an environment he watched from afar, as a claimed dilettante.

“The driving force of my life has always been laziness; to practice this, in reasonable comfort of course, I was even ready, punctually, to work”, he admits. The book is full of these ironic confessions. On his supposed machismo, George Sanders replies: “On screen, I am usually suave and cynical, cruel to women and immune to their contempt and whims. This is my mask. […] In reality, I am a sentimentalist, especially about myself.” When he recounts a shoot, the actor uses the same sarcastic tone. The pages devoted to that of “Journey to Italy” (1954), by Roberto Rossellini (mad about Ferrari and scuba diving but a director with little concern) is a model of the genre, among so many others who, against the grain, devilishly pique our curiosity.

“Profession rascal”, by George Sanders (translation and epilogue Romain Slocombe, preface Eric Neuhoff, Séguier, 276 pages, 20 €).