We have a soft spot for urbane, smooth-talking movie characters. A character like that is as much of a treat as a second helping of dessert.
The person who tops our list in that department is British actor George Sanders. Tall, witty, and with a voice like a chocolate fountain, he is the person we always cheer for on screen, even if he’s not the good guy.
Especially if he’s not the good guy.
We’ve gained a new appreciation for Mr Sanders after reading his un-put-down-able autobiography, Memoirs of a Professional Cad (1960). This book has been recently re-released by Dean Street Press after being out of print for many years.
Now, this is not an autobiography that is entirely trustworthy. That is to say, we suspect Mr Sanders may not have been as careful with his life’s details as a scholarly biographer might have been. But have you ever read a memoir that was completely truthful? Exactly.
Sanders’ memoirs are breezy, well-written, and very, very funny. True story: We read part of this book while waiting in a public area and actually guffawed – yes, out loud – several times. The people around us, staring at boring Facebook updates, were envious of our lively reading material.
Sanders’ memoirs touch on his early childhood in Russia, his schooling in England, and his years working for tobacco companies in South America. He also talks about his marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor in an amusing and generous way. He’s not entirely a cad, that Sanders.
But he’s not without his faults, either, which he merrily exploits. “Perhaps,” he writes, “my curious indifference to success will be more understandable if I explain that the driving force of my life has always been laziness; to practice this, in reasonable comfort, I have been been prepared, from time to time, to work” (pg. 47).
As you can see, even as a writer, Sanders plays to his audience by delivering his wry observations with perfect timing and giving us the occasional wink.
However, he does give us some valuable insights into the ways of Hollywood. “The truth of the matter,” he says, “is that while Hollywood admires people who win Oscars, it employs people who make money…” (pg. 60).
Sanders, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the 1950 drama, All About Eve, had no illusions about the roles for which he was sought. “[M]y features had become irrevocably and irreparably molded into the expression of elegant villainy which I am assured I possess today…” (pg. 46).
If you’re a George Sanders fan, and even if you’re not, we recommend this delightful book. It’s like a scintillating dinner party with a host who insists on second helpings of dessert.
Memoirs of a Professional Cad is available from Dean Street Press.
Note: The publishers sent us a copy of this book for reviewing.
Ruth, you’re just the gal to review Memoirs of a Professional Cad, and your witty post is a delight! Now I must get my own copy! Sanders was so urbane that even his suicide was classy, bless him! We’ll not see his like again!
True, Dor. We shall not see his like again. And yes – you must get your own copy of this book! I think you’d really enjoy it.
Added to my list of books that deserve a place on my shelf.
Mike, this book definitely belongs on your bookshelf! I bet you & Kristina would do a great video episode on this & other Hollywood memoirs. (Hint hint.)
lol. That is a subject I am quite sure we’ll tackle at some point. Thanks.
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Does he discuss his relationship with his brother, Tom Conway? I liked them both as actors. So sad how their lives ended.
Sadly, there is very little mention of his brother. 😦
Sounds like a fun read – your review definitely was!
This is such a fun book. I hope you have the chance to read it. I was a little sad when it was finished.
Uh-oh, another tome to add to my already straining bookshelf 🙂
I like autobiographies because, for me, it’s not about the truth – it’s about what the star and the reader wants to be the truth… and if that’s not what really happened that’s ok with me.
For the most part, I don’t read celebrity memoirs because there are some things I just don’t want to know. However, Mr Sanders’ book is a quick, delightful read…and I bet there’s just enough room for it on your straining bookshelf. 🙂
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I love how you write, Ruth! You have such a way with words and are always making me chuckle. This sounds like an interesting book and that it would make me chuckle, too. Thanks for the recommendation!
Thanks, Shari! This is a delightful book. You can just hear George Sanders’ speaking voice in his writing style. It was so much fun, I was sad when it was finished.