George Sanders…big grump or a person who brings joy to
According to the Internet Movie Database (Imdb.com), in 1937 actor George Sanders told
David Niven that he intended to commit suicide when he got older.
In 1972, he fulfilled his promise, leaving this note: “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.”
While it’s nice that he wished those of us left to toil on this planet “Good Luck”, from what I can gather
George Sanders was not the nicest man on the planet.
And he was the first to admit it.
He once said (again according to Imdb.com), “A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more you beat them, the
better they be.”
Now while the above sentence is a “proverb” from the 16th Century, Sanders seemed to
wholeheartedly ascribed to its sentiment.
He once joked that ”a woman is never worth what she costs, even if she costs nothing.”
What’s more he once said ”I am always rude to people. I am not a sweet person. I am a disagreeable person. I am
a hateful person.”
Whether these statements were an act of self-deprecation or how he really felt, one may never know without reading
his 1960 autobiography “Memoirs of a Professional Cad ” - and even then you probably wouldn’t know
for sure. Sanders, as the title of his autobiography suggests, was often referred to as a “cad” -
a man whose behavior is unprincipled or dishonorable.
Whatever he was off screen, Sanders was a compelling on screen presence. He had kind of
aristocratic way about him.
His most famous role was as drama critic Addison Witt in the 1951 film All About
Eve. Sanders won and best supporting actor Oscar for his performance
where after winning he broke down into tears backstage.
Another of his great screen performances was in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film
Rebecca in which Joan Fontaine was nominated for a best actress Academy
Upon hearing him speak, you’d probably assume he was born in England. He was actually born in
St. Petersburg, Russia (in 1906).
In the 1930’s after being kicked out of Argentina for being involved in a gun duel for a “very
charming widow” he wound up in England working for an advertising agency. There he met the
secretary-soon-to-be-actress Greer Garson who asked him if he wanted to join her amateur
He said “yes” and his acting career was off and running. He appeared in his first film 1934’s Love, Life
and Laughter in an uncredited role as the “singer in a public bar”.
Five years later, the George Sanders story takes a slightly bizarre detour.
If you check his Imdb.com profile and scroll down to “Soundtrack”, (you can see print screen of it here) you’ll see
that he’s credited with writing the famous nursery rhyme I’m a Little Teacup. To refresh your
memory here it is:
I’m a little teapot, short and stout
Here is my handle, here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up hear me shout.
Tip me over and pour me out.
I’m a very special pot, it’s true,
Here, let me show you what I can do.
I can change my handle and my spout,
Tip me over and pour me out.
As it turns out, George Sanders(along with someone called Clarence Kelly) wrote this in
The song was written in New York City’s Tin Pan Alley. Kelly ran a dance school.
Sanders at the time played piano accompaniment at the school’s dance recitals. They created the
song with the idea that children could sing it and it would help them remember their dance moves. (As I’m sure
you know, as you recite it the idea is to make motions like you’re a teapot.)
So Sanders couldn’t have been that much of cad if he found it in his heart to come up something as
enduring and sweet as I’m a Little Teapot could he?
Well actually, he probably could of.
It turns out, Imdb.com got it wrong.
“I’m a Little Teacup” was co-written by George Harry Sanders, not the actor
George Henry Sanders.
As proof, I offer an except from Ronald Sander’s book Reflections on a Teapot: The
Personal History of Time where he talks about how his father wrote the famous ditty. You can read it by
However even without I’m a Little Teapot on his resume, the actor George
Sanders remains a compelling and unique film personality.