Am I cheating by including an actor who had but one role of note that occurred during my lifetime? Nah, film is forever! I'll keep this one brief, because I'm by no means the first person of my generation to have identified this overlooked gem. Please allow me this not-so-overlooked entry for I have worked hard to uncover many other gems that were previously far from our culture's collective radar.
George Sanders was a character actor who specialized in cads and creepy, scheming runners up to the affections of leading ladies. What set Sanders apart was the ounce of sympathy with which he could invest his creeps. There was a lurking sense that, as PiL might have said, he only wanted to be loved. Not quite a Creep with a Heart of Gold, but often a creep with a heart of some sort.
The voice of George Sanders was seared into my brain from childhood as the villain of The Jungle Book movie, Shere Khan. In real life, as I would discover years later, he looked about as lionine as that voice sounded. Not enough people look the way their voice sounds. It turns out, as I read up on him, that he also put that trained voice to use as a singer, releasing albums that were met with better regard than, say, those that would be released by William Shatner's.
Rebecca, All About Eve, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, are the human roles with which I've come to most associate him. You probably know about the first two. Not enough people I talk to know The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, a relatively recent discorvery from a previous lifetime that I recommend checking out (especially those of you who are fans of life after death romances of the Heaven Can Wait ilk). Sanders' ability to infuse a little soul in a character you really don't want anything to do with is at its most subtle in this performance. Other movies that display this actor's detatched, sad magic include Foreign Correspondent and The Picture of Dorian Gray, the latter a film in which his decadence was allowed full reign.
The guy's biography alone is interesting. Born to English parents in Russia. Married to both Zsa Zsa Gabor and, for a brief time toward the end of his life, one of her sisters, Magda. At one point, he was reported to have been under the simultaneous care of seven psychiatrists. Truly, Sanders seemed to have a real interest in matters of the psyche. In 1937, he announced to David Niven that he would commit suicide when he grew old, which he carried out in 1972. I've read a few reports of his suicide note, but each variation rings true to the spirit of his characters. Who knows, regarding these warmed-over bios, but you'll find more of this good stuff if you poke around.
Now, if you didn't read that link I provided at the beginning of this entry, please do so now. Let 'em know I sent you.