Short Ends and Leader

Dripping with Insouciance: 'The George Sanders Saint Movies Collection'

The cad is a Saint.

The George Sanders Saint Movies Collection

Director: John Farrow, Jack Hively
Cast: George Sanders
Distributor: Warner Archives
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1939-41
USDVD release date: 2011-8-9

"I'm very sorry, but under certain conditions I simply can't resist the temptation to be a cad," says George Sanders in The Saint Strikes Back, and he clearly isn't sorry at all. Sanders would spend the rest of his career living up to this maxim. Memoirs of a Professional Cad is the title of his autobiography. He's most famous for his Oscar-winning portrayal of acidulous critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, though he shouldn't be overlooked in Douglas Sirk's marvelous A Scandal in Paris or as the seductive Lord Henry in Albert Lewin's version of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

In this two-disc set from Warner Archive's made-on-demand factory, we see Sanders' persona fully formed and on the cusp of the stardom he began to find in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940). The best thing about these five briskly entertaining B-pictures is Sanders' almost insufferable savoir-faire as a shady hero in senselessly complicated plots. He's always two or three steps ahead and at the point of looking bored by it all.

As the title of the set tells you, it's only those films in the Saint series that star Sanders. Louis Hayward had starred in the debut film, The Saint in New York. Hugh Sinclair took over for two more films after Sanders quit the series. Simon Templar, the private troubleshooter who calls himself the Saint, was created by novelist Leslie Charteris in 1928. Roger Moore played the character in a 1960s British TV series, and Ian Ogilvy revived him in a 1970s version. There were also radio series, including one starring Vincent Price.

But in these five RKO films that run about 70 minutes each, it's all about the tall, breezy, patrician Sanders, dripping with insouciance and never seeming to be in real trouble. Jonathan Hale appears in four of the films as Inspector Henry Fernack, a good-natured yet somewhat doddering New York police detective whom Templar winds around his finger. Wendy Barrie plays the female lead in three films, although always as a different character.

The farthest-fetched is The Saint's Double Trouble, which allows Sanders a dual role. The best are the last two, The Saint Takes Over (in order to clear Fernack of a series of murders) and The Saint in Palm Springs (delivering valuable stamps in none too credible a manner). Paul Guilfoyle shows up in these last two as "Pearly" Gates, a crook who throws in his lot with the Saint and makes an excellent comic apprentice.

John Farrow directed the earliest, least interesting film here (though its tone is darkest) while the rest are handled by Jack Hively. It's all painless and inessential. Even when Sanders threatens to be overbearing, the 40s fashions and lingo remain seductive.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.