Born: 27th May 1922
Mention the name Christopher Lee to any moviegoer before 1959
and you'd have probably got a response along the lines of "Who?". This
was not because he had never appeared in a film. Quite on the contrary.
His current record of having made the most films of any other living
actor was helped along quite considerably by the number of times he
was inserted as a one-line wonder in movies such as Hamlet and
That Lady from 1947 onwards. The reason for his apparent lack
of success in the British film industry was not due to his talent or
otherwise for acting. It was more to do with the fact that he was a
head taller than most of the leading men and too foreign-looking. While
this made him an excellent candidate to play a German soldier in Ill
Met By Moonlight it didn't do much else for his career. Until he
found out that Hammer Films meant to remake the horror classic
Despite the fact that he had no lines, and one critic wrote that he
"looked like a road accident", the film was a great success and he was
immediately signed on to play another old favourite - Dracula.
His popular success with the role meant that Lee was practically forced
by Hammer to do a series of increasingly corny sequels, finally concluding
with The Satanic Rites Of Dracula in 1973 when he decided that
enough was enough. Although he consequently took on many diverse roles,
the character of the vampiric Count is the one that he has always been
During his time at Hammer, Lee appeared in much of their horror output,
usually alongside his good friend Peter Cushing. However, he
did not always play the baddie, as in The Hound Of The Baskervilles,
although his characters were typically shady. He also made horror movies
for companies other than Hammer, such as Theatre Of Death, The
Creeping Flesh and Circus of Fear, but the public did not
care - the name Christopher Lee had become synonymous with horror.
When Lee left Hammer for good in 1973, he made what he regards as the
best film of his career - a little movie set on a remote Scottish island.
It was called The Wicker Man and is today still regarded as one
of the greatest horror movies ever made.
Lee's next stop was Hollywood, and the varied roles of Bond baddie
Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun, Rocheforte in The
Three Musketeers and a gay biker in Serial. In recent years
he has gone back to the horror genre in Panga and Funnyman
and sent up his scary image in Gremlins 2 and The Stupids.
He has also made a rare television appearance as the Grand Master of
the Knights Templar in the BBC production of Ivanhoe and will
soon be seen in both the upcoming film of his favourite book, The
Lord Of The Rings, as Saruman and a television adaptation of Gormenghast.
It seems that the Prince of Darkness is rather unwilling to lie back
down in his coffin.
Why We're Talking About Him:
Christopher Lee may not be the popular handsome leading man
of the nineties like the Tom Cruises and Kevin
Costners of this world, but he is one of the most proficient
and prolific character actors any director could hope to have in a production.
Despite his typecasting in previous years, his roles since his horror
years in the sixties have proved him to be capable of playing any role
that is thrown at him, in any genre. This, perhaps, explains why despite
the fact that most filmgoers were not born when he made Horror Of
Dracula in 1960, he remains a popular and cult figure in the modern
film industry. This, plus his 250+ movie credits makes him the ideal
actor to hold very long discussions on...
[Christopher Lee Movie Picks]