Christopher Lee

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films and cult saga. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it...

Born on May 27, 1922

Belgravia, London, England, UK

Height 1.96m / 6' 5"

Biography

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films and cult saga. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it be Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), or Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), or as the title monster in the Hammer Horror film, The Mummy (1959).Lee was born in 1922 in London, England, where he and his older sister Xandra were raised by their parents, Contessa Estelle Marie (Carandini di Sarzano) and Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a professional soldier, until their divorce in 1926. Later, while Lee was still a child, his mother married (and later divorced) Harcourt George St.-Croix (nicknamed Ingle), who was a banker. Lee's maternal great-grandfather was an Italian political refugee, while Lee's great-grandmother was English opera singer Marie (Burgess) Carandini.After attending Wellington College from age 14 to 17, Lee worked as an office clerk in a couple of London shipping companies until 1941 when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Following his release from military service, Lee joined the Rank Organisation in 1947, training as an actor in their "Charm School" and playing a number of bit parts in such films as Corridor of Mirrors (1948). He made a brief appearance in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), in which his future partner-in-horror Peter Cushing also appeared. Both actors also appeared later in Moulin Rouge (1952) but did not meet until their horror films together.Lee had numerous parts in film and television throughout the 1950s. He struggled initially in his new career because he was discriminated as being taller than the leading male actors of his time and being too foreign-looking. However, playing the monster in the Hammer film The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) proved to be a blessing in disguise, since the was successful, leading to him being signed on for future roles in Hammer Film Productions. Lee's association with Hammer Film Productions brought him into contact with Peter Cushing, and they became good friends. Lee and Cushing often than not played contrasting roles in Hammer films, where Cushing was the protagonist and Lee the villain, whether it be Van Helsing and Dracula respectively in Horror of Dracula (1958), or John Banning and Kharis the Mummy respectively in The Mummy (1959).Lee continued his role as "Dracula" in a number of Hammer sequels throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. During this time, he co-starred in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), and made numerous appearances as Fu Manchu, most notably in the first of the series The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), and also appeared in a number of films in Europe. With his own production company, Charlemagne Productions, Ltd., Lee made Nothing But the Night (1973) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). By the mid-1970s, Lee was tiring of his horror image and tried to widen his appeal by participating in several mainstream films, such as The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974), and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).The success of these films prompted him in the late 1970s to move to Hollywood, where he remained a busy actor but made mostly unremarkable film and television appearances, and eventually moved back to England. The beginning of the new millennium relaunched his career to some degree, during which he has played Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and as Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lee played Count Dooku again in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) and as Johnny Depp's character's father in the Tim Burton film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).On 16 June 2001, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to drama. He was created a Knight Bachelor on 13 June 2009 in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama and charity. In addition he was made a Commander of the Order of St John on 16 January 1997.Lee died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 7 June 2015 at 8:30 am after being admitted for respiratory problems and heart failure, shortly after celebrating his 93rd birthday there. His wife delayed the public announcement until 11 June, in order to break the news to their familyRead More

Known For

TradeMarks

Deeply melodic basso voice

His beard which he grew in his later years

Towering height and slender frame

Roles in Hammer Horror films

Frequently played imposing, menacing villains

Trivia

Turned down Donald Pleasence's role as Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978) (He later remarked that this was his biggest mistake).

In a radio interview in South Africa, Lee claimed that he held the record for number of film roles by an actor (2001).

Is listed as the Center of the Hollywood Universe by the Oracle of Kevin Bacon website at the University of Virginia, because he can be linked to any one in Hollywood on average in 2.59 steps. That is less than either Charlton Heston or Kevin Bacon himself.

The blooddripping fangs worn by Lee in many of his vampire films were created by Irish dental technician Sean Mulhall.

Was one of the judges for the 1995 Miss World beauty pageant.

Vincent Price and Christopher Lee were born on the same day (27th May) and Peter Cushing was born on the 26th.

Uncle of Harriet Walter.

A distant cousin and frequent golfing partner of Bond creator Ian Fleming, Lee was the author's personal pick for the role of Dr. No (1962) in the first 007 film. The role, of course, went to actor Joseph Wiseman, who was brilliant. However, fans of the literary Bond might want to check out Lee's portrayal of Chinese master criminal Fu Manchu, for an idea of how Ian Fleming himself envisioned Dr. No.

One of the few actors who has portrayed three different Sherlock Holmes characters: Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes and Sir Henry Baskerville.

Classically trained singer.

Quotes

I stopped appearing as Dracula in 1972 because in my opinion the presentation of the character had deteriorated to such an extent, particularly bringing him into the contemporary day and age, that it really no longer had any meaning.

[on the Rhapsody DVD documentary special edition of "The Dark Secret"] One should try anything he can in his career, except folkdance and incest.

When you're involved in a war it's the old saying "If your name's written on the bullet, there's nothing you can do about it." So you just banished it from your mind. Of course, I was scared on some occasions and anyone who says they aren't scared during an operation probably isn't telling the truth. I know about six people who had no fear. Literally none. Whether that was due to a lack of imagination or because they'd conquered it, I don't know. In fact, one was Iain Duncan Smith's father, who was one of my closest friends. But during a war, people are taught to kill and they have the blessings of the authorities to do so, so if it's your life or somebody else's, you want to be quite sure it's not yours.

I've seen many men die right in front of me - so many in fact that I've become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise, we would never have won.

Some of the films I've been in I regret making. I got conned into making these pictures in almost every case by people who lied to me. Some years ago, I got a call from my producers saying that they were sending me a script and that five very distinguished American actors were also going to be in the film. Actors like José Ferrer, Dean Jagger and John Carradine. So I thought, "Well, that's alright by me." But it turned out it was a complete lie. Appropriately, the film was called End of the World (1977).

[on doing Military Intelligence in World War II] When people say to me, you know, were you in this? Were you in that? Did you work in this? Did you work in that? I always used to say "Can you keep a secret?". And they would say "Yes, yes" and I would say "So can I".

(on his friendship with Peter Cushing) I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again.

In Britain, any degree of success is met with envy and resentment.

There are many vampires in the world today - you only have to think of the film business.

Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff didn't like the word "horror". They, like I, went for the French description: "the theatre of the fantastique".

Spouses

Gitte Lee Gitte Lee March 17, 1961 - June 07, 2015 (his death) (1 child)

Salaries

Horror of Dracula  Horror of Dracula  $ 1,360

Filmography

Corridor of Mirrors  Corridor of Mirrors  Charles
Hamlet  Hamlet  SpearCarrier(uncredited)
One Night with You  One Night with You  Pirelli'sAssistant
Penny and the Pownall Case  Penny and the Pownall Case  JonathanBlair
Scott of the Antarctic  Scott of the Antarctic  BernardDay
The Gay Lady  The Gay Lady  Hon.BongoIcklesham
Prelude to Fame  Prelude to Fame  Newsman
They Were Not Divided  They Were Not Divided  ChrisLewis
Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.  Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.  SpanishCaptain
Valley of the Eagles  Valley of the Eagles  Det.Holt
Babes in Bagdad  Babes in Bagdad  Slavedealer
The Crimson Pirate  The Crimson Pirate  Joseph-MilitaryAttaché
Innocents in Paris  Innocents in Paris  LieutenantWhitlock(uncredited)
Moulin Rouge  Moulin Rouge  GeorgesSeurat(uncredited)
Mr. Potts Goes to Moscow  Mr. Potts Goes to Moscow  RussianAgent(uncredited)
Rheingold Theatre Rheingold Theatre Antonio/...(16episodes,1953-1956)
The Vise The Vise EdgarBrookes/...(3episodes,1955)
Cross-Roads  Cross-Roads  HarryCooper
Police Dog  Police Dog  Johnny,aconstable
Alexander the Great  Alexander the Great  Nectenabus(voice)(uncredited)
Private's Progress  Private's Progress  MajorSchultz(uncredited)
Assignment Foreign Legion Assignment Foreign Legion ElAbba/...(2episodes,1956-1957)
The Errol Flynn Theatre The Errol Flynn Theatre ComptedeMerret/...(4episodes,1956-1957)
O.S.S. O.S.S. Dessinger(1episode,1958)
Sailor of Fortune Sailor of Fortune Carnot/...(2episodes,1956)
The Curse of Frankenstein  The Curse of Frankenstein  TheCreature/Creature
Stowaway Girl  Stowaway Girl  Voice(voice)(uncredited)
Ivanhoe Ivanhoe SirOttofromtheRhine(1episode,1958)
The Scarlet Pimpernel The Scarlet Pimpernel Louis(uncredited)(1episode,1956)
Missiles from Hell  Missiles from Hell  Brunner
Corridors of Blood  Corridors of Blood  ResurrectionJoe
Horror of Dracula  Horror of Dracula  Dracula/CountDracula
A Tale of Two Cities  A Tale of Two Cities  MarquisSt.Evremonde
One Step Beyond One Step Beyond WilhelmReitlinger(1episode,1961)
The Hound of the Baskervilles  The Hound of the Baskervilles  SirHenry
The Man Who Could Cheat Death  The Man Who Could Cheat Death  Dr.PierreGerrard
The Mummy  The Mummy  TheMummy/Kharis
Uncle Was a Vampire  Uncle Was a Vampire  BaronRodericodaFrankurten
Tales of the Vikings Tales of the Vikings LordRoderick(1episode,1959)
The City of the Dead  The City of the Dead  AlanDriscoll
The Avengers The Avengers ColonelMannering/...(3episodes,1967-1969)
The Devil's Agent  The Devil's Agent  BaronFerdivonStaub
The Terror of the Tongs  The Terror of the Tongs  ChungKing
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour The Alfred Hitchcock Hour KarlJorla(1episode,1964)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Himself-Guest(1episode,1974)
Wild for Kicks  Wild for Kicks  KennyKing
Lolita  Lolita  Frankenstein'sCreature(archivefootage)(uncredited)
The Pirates of Blood River  The Pirates of Blood River  Capt.LaRoche
Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace  Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace  SherlockHolmes
Crypt of the Vampire  Crypt of the Vampire  CountLudwigKarnstein
Castle of the Living Dead  Castle of the Living Dead  CountDrago
The Devil-Ship Pirates  The Devil-Ship Pirates  CaptainRobeles
Dracula: Prince of Darkness  Dracula: Prince of Darkness  Dracula
The Face of Fu Manchu  The Face of Fu Manchu  FuManchu
Rasputin: The Mad Monk  Rasputin: The Mad Monk  GrigoriRasputin
She  She  Billali
The Skull  The Skull  SirMatthewPhillips
The Brides of Fu Manchu  The Brides of Fu Manchu  FuManchu
Island of the Burning Damned  Island of the Burning Damned  GodfreyHanson
The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism  The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism  CountFredericRegula/GrafvonAndomai
Blood Fiend  Blood Fiend  PhilippeDarvas
The Blood of Fu Manchu  The Blood of Fu Manchu  FuManchu
Curse of the Crimson Altar  Curse of the Crimson Altar  Morley
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave  Dracula Has Risen from the Grave  Dracula
Sax Rohmer's The Castle of Fu Manchu  Sax Rohmer's The Castle of Fu Manchu  FuManchu
Eugenie  Eugenie  Dolmance
The Magic Christian  The Magic Christian  Ship'sVampire
The Bloody Judge  The Bloody Judge  JudgeJeffries
Scream and Scream Again  Scream and Scream Again  Fremont
Taste the Blood of Dracula  Taste the Blood of Dracula  Dracula
The House That Dripped Blood  The House That Dripped Blood  JohnReid(segment3"SweetstotheSweet")
Julius Caesar  Julius Caesar  Artemidorus
One More Time  One More Time  Dracula(uncredited)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes  The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes  MycroftHolmes
Umbracle  Umbracle  TheMan
Scars of Dracula  Scars of Dracula  Dracula
The Creeping Flesh  The Creeping Flesh  JamesHildern
Hannie Caulder  Hannie Caulder  Bailey
The Butcher, the Star and the Orphan  The Butcher, the Star and the Orphan  Satanus/VanKrig
The Satanic Rites of Dracula  The Satanic Rites of Dracula  CountDracula
The Wicker Man  The Wicker Man  LordSummerisle
The Three Musketeers  The Three Musketeers  Rochefort
Saturday Night Live Saturday Night Live Doctor/...(1episode,1978)
Space: 1999 Space: 1999 CaptainZantor(1episode,1975)
The Diamond Mercenaries  The Diamond Mercenaries  Maj.Chilton
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels DaleWoodman(1episode,1980)
Starship Invasions  Starship Invasions  CaptainRameses
How the West Was Won How the West Was Won TheGrandDuke(3episodes,1978)
Caravans  Caravans  SardarKhan
Return from Witch Mountain  Return from Witch Mountain  Victor
1941  1941  Capt.WolfgangvonKleinschmidt
Arabian Adventure  Arabian Adventure  CaliphAlquazar
Bear Island  Bear Island  Lechinski
Captain America II: Death Too Soon  Captain America II: Death Too Soon  Miguel
Dracula and Son  Dracula and Son  Dracula
Jaguar Lives!  Jaguar Lives!  AdamCaine
Nutcracker Fantasy  Nutcracker Fantasy  UncleDrosselmeyer/StreetSinger/ThePuppeteer/TheWatchmaker(voice)
The Passage  The Passage  TheGypsy
Fade to Black  Fade to Black  (archivefootage)(uncredited)
Wetten, dass..? Wetten, dass..? Himself(1episode,1987)
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