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Sir Christopher Lee: 1922-2015
By James Whittington, Thursday 11th June 2015

CL Image 1“I don’t play villains, I play people”

Today the world lost a true screen icon, Sir Christopher Lee.

Born in 1922, Lee appeared in almost 300 movies, originally contracted to the Rank Organisation he started off playing small supporting roles but as his career progressed he went on to bring to life countless iconic characters such as Scaramanga in Man With The Golden Gun (1974), Saruman The White in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003) and Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973) to name but three.

But it is without doubt his association with Hammer and the role of Dracula, which he first played in 1958 for which he will always be remembered.  His graceful yet preditorial take on the classic character, coupled with a magnetic screen presence (he only had 13 lines in the first film) introduced his name to the world. He would play the Count seven times for Hammer and alongside Peter Cushing helped forge a screen partnership which was loved by millions and an off-screen friendship which lasted until Cushing died in 1994.

Though his characters often had a dark and sometimes unnatural side to them, he was more versatile than people gave him credit for and was at home in comedies such as 1941 (1979) and The Return Of Captain Invincible (1983), or melodrama such as Airport ’77 (1977) and The Three Musketeers (1973) as he was in gritty horror movies such as To The Devil A Daughter (1976) and I, Monster (1971).

CL Image 2Lee continued to reach new audiences thanks to his appearance as Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and Tim Burton who cast him in Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice In Wonderland (2010). Hard working right up until the end -he had just begun work on a movie - Lee was also a noted baritone and had released several albums including heavy metal collaborations and also contributed to a cast recording of The Rocky Horror Show.

Let us not forget his role before he became an actor, working as an Intelligence Officer and becoming attached to the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) in 1940. This brave band penetrated deep behind enemy lines on countless covert missions, and here he witnessed the true horrors of war. The full details of his missions and what he did remain classified.

On a personal note it was during the early 70s that I first became aware of his work, spending many memorable Friday nights with my father watching classic horror double-bills on BBC 2. These precious memories of mine give Lee’s passing a cause for these cherished memories to flood back. Lee, alongside Peter Cushing, opened the door of horror cinema to me and those evenings watching them with my late father maybe long gone but will remain oh so precious.

It is hard to think he has departed, and this is a dark day for his family, friends and fans but we should not mourn but celebrate his legacy, for it will outlive us all and his spirit will no doubt inspire generations to come.

Goodbye Sir Christopher, the world has lost a true star and a true gentleman.


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