Tom Conway (D. 1919-22)

Sometimes credited as Thomas Charles Sanders II - he is the brother of actor George Sanders.

Born: September 15th, 1904, St. Petersburg, Russia
Died: April 22nd, 1967 in Culver City, California

He was the Falcon in ten of that series' entries. He starred in three Val Lewton horror classics. He appeared in comedies, musicals, two Tarzan films, and even science fiction films. He was early television's Detective Mark Saber - Tom Conway will probably be remembered as George Sander's (D. 1922) brother.

Born to a wealthy family in pre-Bolshevik Revolution Russia, 'Thomas Charles Sanders' might have followed his father as a rope manufacturer and inherited several estates. Had the family not been forced to flee to England, the brothers Sanders might never have added their names to the Hollywood saga. But the Revolution came, and Tom (age 13) and George (age 11), together with their parents and sister Margaret (age 5) emigrated to England, leaving most of their wealth in the hands of the Bolsheviks. The brothers attended Dunhurst and Bedales, private schools, and eventually Brighton College.

After college, Tom went to Northern Rhodesia where he worked in gold, copper and asbestos mines and even attempted ranching. Frustrated and "pretty well fed to the teeth" with his failures, he borrowed passage home. In England, Conway worked as an engineer in a carburator company and later sold safety glass. He was discovered by a representative from a little theater group who persuaded him to join them. Conway eventually worked for the Manchester Repertory Company and toured with them in twenty-five or thirty plays. He also appeared in BBC radio broadcasts.

Brother George persuaded him to go to Hollywood. To prevent confusion on the part of the public, they tossed a coin to see who would have to change his name. Tom lost, thereby becoming Tom Conway. Conway began work for MGM, eventually appearing as a contract player in twelve films there, including a bit part in "Mrs. Minniver". Brother George, tiring of B-film appearanced in RKO'S Falcon series, offered Tom his first big break. In "The Falcon's Brother" (1942), George conveniently eliminated by a Nazi sniper so that Tom, as Tom Lawrence can inherit the role. Conway played the role with even greater success in the next ten series entries, concluding with "The Falcon's Adventure" (1946). During those years, he also appeared in Val Lewton's "Cat People" (1942), "I Walked With A Zombie" (1943) and "The Seventh Victim" (1943). These led to two major film appearances, Universal's "One Touch of Venus" (1948), with Ava Gardner and Eve Arden and Warner Brothers "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" (1951).

Amidst the collapse of the studio system, Tom found his opportunities shrinking. There were to be no further major series or roles for him. His next film was "Bride of the Gorilla" (1951). Alert to new possibilities for work, he accepted the part of homicide detective Mark Saber in Mystery Theater (1951 - 1956). Conway also made several mystery films in England during the same period. He played a cameo role as a bearded and be-wigged Sir Kay in "Prince Valiant" with two brief lines. Back in the states, there were guest appearances on Rawhide, Adventures in Paradise, and Perry Mason. In October, 1957, Tom turned in a brilliant performance as ventriloquist Max Collodi in Alfred Hitchcock Presents chilling tale "The Glass Eye". He appeared regularly as the boyfriend on the Betty Hutton show (1959 - 60). Conway lent his voice to "101 Dalmations". His final appearance was an uncredited part, in "What A Way To Go" (1964). Failing eyesight and prolonged bouts with alcohol took their toll on Tom Conway in his last years. His second wife, Queenie Leonard divorced him in 1963.

George Sanders broke off all contact with him over his drinking. Conway underwent cataract surgery during the winter of 1964 - 65. In September, 1965 Tom briefly returned to the headlines when he was discovered living in a $2-a-day room in a Venice, California flophouse. Gifts, contributions and offers of aid poured in - for a time. Conway, still standing tall and trim, hair white, peered owl-like through thick-lensed glasses at the newspaper cameras. His last years were marked with further visits to the hospital. It was there that former sister-in-law Zsa Zsa Gabor visited him one day and gave him $200. "Tip the nurses a little bit so they'll be good to you", she told him. On the following day, the hospital called to say that he had left with the $200, gone to his girlfriend's, and died in her bed!

Tom Conway (IMDB) >>

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