Thomas Charles Sanders
15 September 1904
|22 April 1967 62) (aged
Washington Hospital, Culver City, California, U.S.
(m. 1958;div. 1963)
(m. 1941;div. 1953)
|George Sanders (brother)
Tom Conway (born Thomas Charles Sanders; 15 September 1904 – 22 April 1967) was a British film, television, and radio actor remembered for playing detectives (including The Falcon, Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond, and The Saint) and psychiatrists, among other roles.
Conway played "The Falcon" in 10 episodes of the series, taking over from his brother, George Sanders, in The Falcon's Brother (1942), in which they both starred. He also appeared in several movie thrillers produced by Val Lewton, notably Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie .
Conway was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. His younger brother was fellow actor George Sanders.The family moved from Russia to Britain when Tom was thirteen. He was educated at Brighton College then moved to Africa to find work. He returned to England, worked as a glass salesman, then became interested in acting.
He started by appearing in amateur theatre, then joined a repertory company for a year and a half. After this he appeared in touring productions of plays like Dangerous Corner, Private Lives and By Candlelight as well as acting on radio. Then Conway's brother George suggested Tom join him in Hollywood.
In May 1940 it was announced Tom had signed a contract with MGM. During this time, he changed his last name from Sanders to Conway.He had small roles in Waterloo Bridge (1940), with only his voice heard, Sky Murder (1940) with Walter Pidgeon, and The Wild Man of Borneo (1941). He had a bigger part in The Trial of Mary Dugan (1941) with Robert Young, then was back to small parts in Free and Easy (1941), The Bad Man (1941) with Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore, The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1941) with Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore, and Lady Be Good (1941) with Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton.
Conway was a villain in Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941) with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, Mr. and Mrs. North (1941) with Gracie Allen, and Rio Rita (1942) with Abbott and Costello. He was a murder suspect in Grand Central Murder (1942) with Van Heflin and had an uncredited bit in Mrs. Miniver (1942) with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.
At RKO, Conway's brother George Sanders had starred in three popular "B" movies as The Falcon, eligible man-about-town and amateur detective, constantly being accused of crimes and using his wits to trap the guilty parties and clear his name. Sanders had tired of the role, so the pencil-mustached Conway took over as The Falcon's Brother (1942), co-starring with Sanders (Sanders's character was killed off, leaving his brother to assume the mantle of The Falcon). Producer Maurice Geraghty later revealed that RKO executives recruited Conway so they could induce Sanders to make one more Falcon picture, after which the series would end. "So it was astonishing to them when Tom Conway caught on right away and carried the series on -- even outgrossing the pictures George had made."RKO signed Tom Conway to a long-term contract.
Conway followed this success with an excellent role in Cat People (1942), the first of producer Val Lewton's legendary horror cycle. He had the male lead in a second film for Lewton, I Walked with a Zombie (1942), now regarded as a horror classic.Conway was top-billed in Lewton's The Seventh Victim (1943) playing the same role he did in The Cat People though his character was apparently killed in that film.
In April 1943 he said "what I should really like to play is sophisticated comedy."Between his Falcon and Val Lewton assignments, RKO starred Conway in B mysteries: A Night of Adventure (1944), Two O'Clock Courage (1945), and Criminal Court (1946).
Conway was borrowed by United Artists for Whistle Stop (1946), in which he supported George Raft, Ava Gardner, and Victor McLaglen. In June 1946, Conway obtained a release from his RKO contract. His next film was to be Strange Bedfellows at United Artists.
On radio, Conway played Sherlock Holmes during the 1946–1947 season of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes , following Basil Rathbone's departure from the series. : 302 In spite of a similarly refined England accent, Conway was not as well-received as Rathbone by audiences; he played Holmes for only one season.
He was a leading support actor in Lost Honeymoon (1947) and Repeat Performance (1947) for Eagle-Lion, Fun on a Weekend (1947) for United Artists, and One Touch of Venus (1948) for Universal.
Bernard Small, the son of independent producer Edward Small, had secured the film rights to the Bulldog Drummond character and made two Drummond mysteries for Columbia Pictures release. In 1948, he moved the franchise to his father's Reliance Pictures, an independent company distributing through Fox, and hired Tom Conway to play Bulldog Drummond in The Challenge (1948) and 13 Lead Soldiers (1948). Independent producer, Sam Baerwitz, cast Conway in low-budget crime stories released by Fox; The Checkered Coat (1948), Bungalow 13 (1948), I Cheated the Law (1949), and The Great Plane Robbery (1950).
When George Sanders married Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tom Conway joined the wedding party on April Fool's Day, 1949. She recalled in her memoir, "With an unexpected generosity, George chartered a plane and flew the wedding party [to Las Vegas]. His brother, Tom Conway, as warm and outgoing as George was cool and restrained, was best man, and came on the plane with a shotgun over his shoulder. 'Just in case the old boy gets cold feet,' he said."Conway appeared on the early television panel show Bachelor's Haven (1951), an advice-to-the-lovelorn forum patterned after the successful New York-based series Leave It to the Girls . He recruited his sister-in-law Zsa Zsa to join him on the program.
In 1951, he replaced Vincent Price as star of the radio mystery series The Saint ,portrayed by Sanders on film a decade earlier.
Back in the movie studios, Conway had supporting parts in Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) and Bride of the Gorilla (1951). Apart from a lead in Confidence Girl (1952), he played supporting roles: Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953), Paris Model (1953), and Prince Valiant (1954).
Conway went to England to star as Berkeley Gray's private detective Norman Conquest in Park Plaza 605 (released in America as Norman Conquest, 1953), and (using his own name instead of the Conquest tag) Blood Orange (1953). He also had leads in the British Barbados Quest (1955), Breakaway (1955), and The Last Man to Hang (1956). In 1956, brothers Tom Conway and George Sanders appeared (as brothers) in the film Death of a Scoundrel , with the star Sanders killing supporting player Conway. Conway's last British project was Operation Murder (1957).
In America, Conway co-starred in The She-Creature (1956) and Voodoo Woman (1957). He was featured in The Atomic Submarine (1959), and 12 to the Moon (1960). He provided his voice for Disney's 101 Dalmatians (1961) as a quizmaster in What's My Crime?—a parody of the game show What's My Line? —and as a collie that offers the dalmatians shelter in a barn, later guiding them home. His wife at the time, Queenie Leonard, voiced a cow in the barn. His final feature-film assignment was the all-star comedy What a Way to Go! (1964).
From 1951 to 1954, Conway played debonair British police detective Mark Saber in Inspector Mark Saber – Homicide Detective ,produced by Roland D. Reed. In 1957, the series resumed on NBC, now filmed in England and renamed Saber of London , with Donald Gray in the title role.
Conway performed in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Glass Eye" (1957) as Max Collodi, receiving critical praise. He had a supporting role in The Betty Hutton Show television series (1959–60). In 1964 he appeared on the top-rated Perry Mason series in "The Case of the Simple Simon," playing Guy Penrose, leading actor in a traveling repertory company.
Another actor made his network-television debut as "Tom Conway" on The Steve Allen Show in 1961, while the established actor Tom Conway was still working. To avoid confusion, the younger Tom Conway changed his professional name to Tim Conway in June 1962.
Conway's health began to fail in the mid-1950s. In 1956, he was briefly hospitalised for an operation.Weakened eyesight and alcoholism took their toll on him in later years. A 1960 drunk-driving arrest was reported in the national press; "I can't take a drunk test -- I'm too drunk", Conway stated after crashing his vehicle into a parked car.
His first marriage to New York model Lillian Eggers ended in divorce in 1953.His second wife (Leonard) divorced him in 1963 because of his drinking problem. His alcoholism also cost him his relationship with his brother, George Sanders, who broke off all contact with him.
Conway's career was finally stalled by health problems. He underwent cataract surgery in both eyes during the winter of 1964–1965, and his mobility was affected by a swollen left ankle. In September 1965, he briefly returned to the headlines when he was living in a $2-a-day room (monthly $60, equivalent to $557in 2022) in a small Venice, Los Angeles hotel at 23-1/2 Windward Avenue, operated by former vaudevillian Agnes Lavaty. Conway's friend, Mary Robison of Venice, notified the local newspaper of the actor's troubles, and a reporter visited Conway. "I find myself this way after many years of making considerable amounts of money", he told the reporter, who noted, "Mr. Conway still appears well-groomed, with a mustache and neat appearance. He is 60 years old. He said Mr. Sanders knew little or nothing about his plight because they had not been close in recent years."
The immediate aftermath brought phone calls "every five minutes," in Conway's words, but none from showbusiness colleagues with only one exception; "I looked up, and coming through the door was Lew Ayres, whom I hadn't seen in years and years. It was a very nice feeling."Conway commented, "I have a place where I'll be able to live, and it looks as if there may be a job in the offing for me." Gifts, contributions, and offers of aid poured in for a time, but offers only hinted at soon fell through or never came to fruition. He refused to consider living at the Motion Picture Country Home, a haven for retired actors. "There you're retired completely and have to give everything up. You're simply through. It's only a question of time until I'll be well. Then I want to operate a retreat in Baja California. I think I can get backers interested. It'll be like a sleepy Mexican fishing village."
Conway estimated he had earned $900,000 in his career -- "Fairly high living. Keeping up a front." -- but was now subsisting on small amounts of federal aid. His Perry Mason appearance proved to be his last; "I don't particularly want to act," he said.He said he lost his last $15,000 to swindlers in a lumber deal.
Hospitalized in April 1966 after being diagnosed with a liver ailment, he lapsed into a coma. In July he emerged from his comatose condition, his doctor saying he was "remarkably improved."Former sister-in-law Zsa Zsa Gabor claimed that she visited Conway in the hospital and gave him $200. "Tip the nurses a little bit so they'll be good to you," she told him. According to Gabor, the hospital called her to say that Conway had left with the $200, gone to his girlfriend's house, and become gravely sick in her bed. Gabor's account differs from published reports, which state that Conway was transferred from the hospital to a convalescent sanitarium, where he stayed three months.
He emerged in late 1966 with new health and spirit. He had given up drinking "completely. I'm on the wagon and I find the old brain works better... [I want to develop] a couple of gimmicks I devised while lying in the hospital. I've got a million things cooking." He even contemplated a return to acting: "It'll be a cold start, but acting-wise I think I'm at my peak." equivalent to $1,218in 2022) on Wilshire Boulevard. He decided against installing a telephone, and greeted visitors in person.His living conditions, while still modest, had also improved; he was back in Los Angeles, living in a modern, $135-a-month apartment (
Conway never could capitalize on his plans. His rally came to a halt three months later, when he died of liver damage at Washington Hospital in Culver City, California on Saturday, April 22, 1967, at the age of 62.His funeral was held in London, and his ashes were inurned inside a private vault at Chapel of the Pines Crematory.
Despite his up-and-down professional and personal fortunes, Conway remained optimistic until the end. In his last newspaper interview, he said, "You've got to hang on and wait for the breakthrough."
Edward Dmytryk was a Canadian-born American film director and editor. He was known for his 1940s noir films and received an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Crossfire (1947). In 1947, he was named as one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals who refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their investigations during the McCarthy-era Red Scare. They all served time in prison for contempt of Congress. In 1951, however, Dmytryk testified to the HUAC and named individuals, including Arnold Manoff, whose careers were then destroyed for many years, to rehabilitate his own career. First hired again by independent producer Stanley Kramer in 1952, Dmytryk is likely best known for directing The Caine Mutiny (1954), a critical and commercial success. The second-highest-grossing film of the year, it was nominated for Best Picture and several other awards at the 1955 Oscars. Dmytryk was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.
George Henry Sanders was a British actor and singer whose career spanned over 40 years. His heavy, upper-class English accent and smooth, baritone voice often led him to be cast as sophisticated but villainous characters. He is remembered for his roles as wicked Jack Favell in Rebecca (1940), Scott ffolliott in Foreign Correspondent, The Saran of Gaza in Samson and Delilah, theater critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, Sir Brian De Bois-Guilbert in Ivanhoe (1952), King Richard the Lionheart in King Richard and the Crusaders (1954), Mr. Freeze in a two-part episode of Batman (1966), and the voice of Shere Khan in Disney's The Jungle Book (1967). Fans of radio detective stories know Sanders as Simon Templar, The Saint, (1939–41), and the suave crimefighter The Falcon (1941–42).
Charles Drake was an American actor.
Cat People is a 1942 American supernatural horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced for RKO by Val Lewton. The film tells the story of Irena Dubrovna, a newly married Serbian fashion illustrator obsessed with the idea that she is descended from an ancient tribe of Cat People who metamorphose into black panthers when aroused. When her husband begins to show interest in one of his coworkers, Irena begins to stalk her. The film stars Simone Simon as Irena, and features Kent Smith, Tom Conway, and Jane Randolph in supporting roles.
The Falcon is the nickname for two fictional detectives. Drexel Drake created Michael Waring, alias the Falcon, a freelance investigator and troubleshooter, in his 1936 novel, The Falcon's Prey. It was followed by two more novels – The Falcon Cuts In, 1937, and The Falcon Meets a Lady, 1938 – and a 1938 short story. Michael Arlen created Gay Stanhope Falcon in 1940. This Falcon made his first appearance in Arlen's short story "Gay Falcon", which was originally published in 1940 in Town & Country magazine. The story opens with the words "Now of this man who called himself Gay Falcon many tales are told, and this is one of them." Arlen's Falcon is characterized as a freelance adventurer and troubleshooter – a man who makes his living "keeping his mouth shut and engaging in dangerous enterprises."
William Brian de Lacy Aherne was an English actor of stage, screen, radio and television, who enjoyed a long and varied career in Britain and the United States.
Lawrence James Tierney was an American film and television actor who is best known for his many screen portrayals of mobsters and tough guys in a career that spanned over 50 years. His roles mirrored his own frequent brushes with the law. In 2005, film critic David Kehr of The New York Times described "the hulking Tierney" as "not so much an actor as a frightening force of nature".
Mark Robson was a Canadian-American film director, producer, and editor. Robson began his 45-year career in Hollywood as a film editor. He later began working as a director and producer. He directed 34 films during his career, including Champion (1949), Bright Victory (1951), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), Peyton Place (1957), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), Von Ryan's Express (1965), Valley of the Dolls (1967), and Earthquake (1974).
Nicholas Musuraca, A.S.C. was a motion-picture cinematographer best remembered for his work at RKO Pictures in the 1940s, including many of Val Lewton's series of B-picture horror films.
James Craig was an American actor. He is best known for appearances in films like Kitty Foyle (1940) and The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and his stint as a leading man at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1940s where he appeared in films like The Human Comedy (1943).
Royden Denslow Webb was an American film music composer. One of the charter members of ASCAP, Webb has hundreds of film music credits to his name, mainly with RKO Pictures. He is best known for film noir and horror film scores, in particular for the films of Val Lewton.
Death of a Scoundrel is a 1956 American film noir drama film directed by Charles Martin and starring George Sanders, Yvonne De Carlo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Victor Jory and Coleen Gray. It was distributed by RKO Pictures. This film and The Falcon's Brother are the only two to feature real-life lookalike brothers George Sanders and Tom Conway, who portray brothers in both pictures. The movie's music is by Max Steiner and the cinematographer is James Wong Howe.
Cecil Lauriston Kellaway was a South African character actor. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice, for The Luck of the Irish (1948) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
Roy Paul Harvey was an American character actor who appeared in at least 177 films.
The Falcon's Brother is a 1942 American crime drama film in which George Sanders, who had been portraying "The Falcon" in a series of films, appears with his real-life brother Tom Conway; with Sanders handing off the series to Conway, who would play the new Falcon in nine subsequent films. Jane Randolph was featured in a supporting role. The Falcon's Brother, the only one to feature two Falcons, was directed by Stanley Logan.
The Gay Falcon is a 1941 B film, the first in a series of 16 films about a suave detective nicknamed The Falcon. Intended to replace the earlier The Saint detective series, the first film took its title from the lead character, Gay Laurence. George Sanders was cast in the title role; he had played The Saint in the prior RKO series. He was teamed again with Wendy Barrie who had been with him in three previous Saint films. The first four films starred Sanders as Gay Lawrence and the rest featured Tom Conway, Sanders' real-life brother, as Tom Lawrence, brother of Gay.
The Falcon Strikes Back is a 1943 American crime film directed by Edward Dmytryk and stars Tom Conway as the title character, the amateur sleuth, the Falcon. Supporting roles are filled by Harriet Hilliard, Jane Randolph, Edgar Kennedy, with Cliff Edwards filling in for Allen Jenkins as the Falcon's sidekick, "Goldie" Locke. It is the fifth film in the Falcon series and the second for Conway, reprising the role that his brother, George Sanders had initiated.
Russell Wade was an American actor.
The Falcon and the Co-eds is a 1943 film under the direction of William Clemens, and produced by Maurice Geraghty, the same team that had worked on The Falcon in Danger (1943) and would stay together for the next film in the Falcon series. The Falcon and the Co-eds was the seventh of 16 in the Falcon series. The story and screenplay was by Ardel Wray, a frequent collaborator with Val Lewton in his RKO horror series, who added supernatural elements to the proceedings.
Frank Redman was an American cinematographer from the end of the silent era through the 1960s. During his almost 40-year career, he shot over 60 feature films, as well as several film shorts and serials. In the 1950s, he transitioned to the smaller screen, where he was most well known for his work on the iconic television show, Perry Mason from the end of the 1950s through 1965.