Tom Conway (born Thomas Charles Sanders, 15 September 1904 – 22 April 1967) was a British film, television, and radio actor remembered for playing private detectives (including The Falcon, Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond, and The Saint) and psychiatrists.
Thomas Charles Sanders
15 September 1904
|Died||22 April 1967 (aged 62)|
Venice, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1958; div. 1963)
(m. 1941; div. 1953)
|Family||George Sanders (brother)|
Conway played "The Falcon" in 10 episodes of the series, taking over for his brother, George Sanders, in The Falcon's Brother (1942), in which they both starred. He also appeared in several Val Lewton films.
Conway was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. His younger brother was fellow actor George Sanders (1906–1972). Their younger sister, Margaret Sanders, was born in 1912. At the outbreak of the Russian Revolution (1917), the family moved to England, where Conway was educated at Bedales School and Brighton College. He travelled to Northern Rhodesia, where he worked in mining and ranching, then returned to England, appearing in several plays with the Manchester Repertory Company and performing on BBC Radio.
When he joined his brother George in Hollywood, Conway became a contract player for 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 (1941), and The Wild Man of Borneo (1941). He had a bigger part in The Trial of Mary Dugan (1941), then was back to small parts in Free and Easy (1941), The Bad Man (1941), The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1941), and Lady Be Good (1941).
Conway was a villain in Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941), Mr. and Mrs. North (1941), and Rio Rita (1942). He was a murder suspect in Grand Central Murder (1942) and had an uncredited bit in Mrs. Miniver (1942).
RKO: The Falcon and Val LewtonEdit
At RKO, Conway's brother George Sanders had starred in three popular "B" movies as The Falcon. Sanders was tiring of the role, so 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 merely 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.
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 similar vocal timbre, Conway was not as well-received as Rathbone by audiences; he played Holmes for only one season.
Reliance Pictures, a small outfit that distributed through Fox, hired Conway to play Bulldog Drummond in The Challenge (1948) and 13 Lead Soldiers (1948). Fox cast him in the lead of some B movies: The Checkered Coat (1948), Bungalow 13 (1948), and I Cheated the Law (1949). Conway had a support part in One Touch of Venus (1948). He had the lead in The Great Plane Robbery (1950).
Conway had support parts in Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) and Bride of the Gorilla (1951). He went back to leads for Confidence Girl (1952), and was a villain in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953).
From 1951 to 1954, Conway played debonair British police detective Mark Saber, who worked in the homicide division of a large American city, in the ABC series entitled Inspector Mark Saber – Homicide Detective. In 1957, the series resumed on NBC, renamed Saber of London, with Donald Gray in the title role.
Conway went to England to star in Park Plaza 605 (1953), and Blood Orange (1953) using his own name for the private detective he played. He had a support part in Paris Model (1953) and a minor role in Prince Valiant (1954), but leads in the British Barbados Quest (1955), Breakaway (1955), and The Last Man to Hang? (1956).
In 1956, the brothers both featured (as brothers) in the film Death of a Scoundrel, though Sanders had the starring role.
Conway performed in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Glass Eye" (1957) as Max Collodi, receiving critical praise.
Conway had supporting roles on The Betty Hutton Show television series (1959–60) and in the feature films 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 television appearance was in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Simple Simon" (1964), playing the role of Guy Penrose.
Decline and deathEdit
Despite having been financially successful in his 24-year film career, Conway later struggled to make ends meet. Failing eyesight and alcoholism took their toll on him in his last years.
His first marriage 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 underwent cataract surgery during the winter of 1964–1965. In September 1965, he briefly returned to the headlines, having been discovered living in a $2-a-day room in a Venice, Los Angeles flophouse. Gifts, contributions, and offers of aid poured in for a time. Conway estimated he had earned $900,000 in his career, but was broke. "I don't particularly want to act", he said. He said he lost his last $15,000 to swindlers in a lumber deal. Lew Ayres paid his rent.
His last years were marked with hospitalizations. Former sister-in-law Zsa Zsa Gabor paid Conway a visit there and gave him $200. "Tip the nurses a little bit so they'll be good to you", she told him. The following day, 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. It was 22 April 1967, and he died from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 62. His funeral was held in London.
- Waterloo Bridge (1940) (film debut) (voice)
- Sky Murder (1940) as Andrew Hendon
- The Great Meddler (1940) as Henry Bergh
- The Wild Man of Borneo (1941) as Actor in Film Scene (uncredited)
- The Trial of Mary Dugan (1941) as Edgar Wayne
- Free and Easy (1941) as Captain Ferris
- The Bad Man (1941) as Morgan Pell
- The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1941) as Mr. Channing
- Lady Be Good (1941) as Mr. Blanton
- Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941) as Medford
- Mr. and Mrs. North (1942) as Louis Berex
- Rio Rita (1942) as Maurice Craindall
- Grand Central Murder (1942) as Frankie Ciro
- Mrs. Miniver (1942) as Man (uncredited)
- The Falcon's Brother (1942) as Tom Lawrence
- Cat People (1942) as Dr. Louis Judd
- The Falcon Strikes Back (1943) as Tom Lawrence
- I Walked with a Zombie (1943) as Paul Holland
- The Falcon in Danger (1943) as Tom Lawrence
- The Seventh Victim (1943) as Dr. Louis Judd
- The Falcon and the Co-eds (1943) as Tom Lawrence
- The Falcon Out West (1944) as Tom Lawrence
- A Night of Adventure (1944) as Mark Latham
- The Falcon in Mexico (1944) as Tom Lawrence
- The Falcon in Hollywood (1944) as Tom Lawrence
- Two O'Clock Courage (1945) as Ted 'Step' Allison
- The Falcon in San Francisco (1945) as Tom Lawrence
- Whistle Stop (1946) as Lew Lentz
- The Falcon's Alibi (1946) as Tom Lawrence
- Criminal Court (1946) as Steve Barnes
- The Falcon's Adventure (1946) as Tom Lawrence
- Lost Honeymoon (1947) as Dr. Robert 'Bob' Davis
- Fun on a Weekend (1947) as Jefferson Van Orsdale Jr.
- Repeat Performance (1947) as John Friday
- The Challenge (1948) as Capt. Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond
- 13 Lead Soldiers (1948) as Capt. Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond
- The Checkered Coat (1948) as Dr. Michael Madden
- One Touch of Venus (1948) as Whitfield Savory
- Bungalow 13 (1948) as Christopher Adams
- I Cheated the Law (1949) as John Campbell
- The Great Plane Robbery (1950) as Ned Johnson
- Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) as Bennington Lansing
- Bride of the Gorilla (1951) as Dr. Viet
- Confidence Girl (1952) as Roger Kingsley
- Peter Pan (1953) as Narrator (voice)
- Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953) as Fidel
- Park Plaza 605 (1953) as Norman Conquest
- Blood Orange (1953) as Tom Conway, private investigator
- Paris Model (1953) as Maharajah of Kim-Kepore
- Prince Valiant (1954) as Sir Kay
- Barbados Quest (1955) as Tom Martin
- Breakaway (1955) as Tom 'Duke' Martin
- The She-Creature (1956) as Timothy Chappel
- The Last Man to Hang? (1956) as Sir Roderick Strood
- Death of a Scoundrel (1956) as Gerry Monte aka Sabourin
- Operation Murder (1957) as Dr. Wayne
- Voodoo Woman (1957) as Dr. Roland Gerard
- The Atomic Submarine (1959) as Sir Ian Hunt
- 12 to the Moon (1960) as Dr. Feodor Orloff
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) as Quizmaster / Collie (voice)
- What a Way to Go! (1964) as Lord Kensington (final film) (uncredited)
- Obituary Variety, 26 April 1967.
- Mayer, Geoff (2012). Historical Dictionary of Crime Films. Scarecrow Press. p. 94. ISBN 9780810879003.
- Maurice Geraghty to David Zinman, Saturday Afternoon at the Bijou, Castle Books, 1973; p. 222.
- "Screen News Here and in Hollywood". The New York Times. 24 March 1942. ProQuest 106288290.
- "George Montgomery is chosen for a lead role with Gene Tierney in 'China Girl'". The New York Times. 12 May 1942. ProQuest 106446031.
- "Paulette Goddard is Signed by Korda: Will Be Seen in 'True Story of Carmen,' Based on Merimee Novel – Henry V' Due Dietrich in Paramount Film of Local Origin". The New York Times. 17 June 1946. p. 32.
- Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. p. 293.
- Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7. p. 656.
- Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time and Cable TV Shows, 1946 – present. New York City: Random House Publishing Co., 2003. 2010. ISBN 978-0307483157. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
- "Tom Conway has operation". Los Angeles Times. 5 October 1956. ProQuest 166991571.
- "Tom Conway sued by wife". Los Angeles Times. 16 June 1953. ProQuest 166481167.
- "Offers of aid deluge actor tom Conway". Los Angeles Times. 15 September 1965. ProQuest 155289621.
- Maldin, D. (16 September 1965). "Offers pour in for actor". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155293842.
- Mauldin, D. (23 September 1965). "Letters still pouring in for actor Conway". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155298637.
- "Actor Tom Conway of movies and TV". The Washington Post, Times Herald. 26 April 1967. ProQuest 143266294.
- "Tom Conway, star of nearly 300 movies, dies in hospital". Los Angeles Times. 25 April 1967. ProQuest 155633849.