SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE
May 27th 1922 – June 7th 2015.
There are few actors who could be referred to as true icons of the motion picture industry; yet one such actor has achieved the sort of iconic status which eclipses that of his contemporaries. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, a Knight Commander of the British Empire had been nominated for 30 awards of which he won 22, including the BAFTA Fellowship Award in 2011, the British Film Institute's Fellowship award in 2013 and in 1995 he was awarded the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award.
His filmography is extraordinary, having earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for being in 281 productions during a span of 70 years. He has played such diverse roles as a spear carrier in a production of Hamlet, the painter George Seurat in Moulin Rouge and so many other performances that just to list them would take several pages.
Aside from the role of the evil Saruman in the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, which has given him global modern-day exposure, he has played villains such as Francisco Scaramanga in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, he was the villainous Count Dooku in two of the Star Wars prequels and a singing super villain in The Return of Captain Invincible, however In spite of his major success in the motion picture industry in general it is for many of us of a certain age the field of horror movies for which Christopher Lee is truly notable
I do believe it would be difficult to argue a stronger case for a greater movie villain as Christopher Lee is globally acknowledged as the personification of Count Dracula. (Meaning no disrespect to Bela Lugosi.) It is Christopher Lee's portrayal of Dracula, which firmly cemented his place in horror history and I believe that role to have been crucial in the re-popularisation of the Horror Movie genre. The Hammer Film company for a while was synonymous with horror, and Sir Christopher Lee was undoubtedly the huge draw for that company and for the movie-goers alike.
The Curse of Frankenstein was Christopher Lee's first horror for Hammer film productions bringing together two of the all-time greats as Lee's co-star was the late Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein to Lee's Monster. It was Hammer's second horror production Dracula which broke box office records in the UK and established Christopher Lee as the Zeus in the Hammer Horror Pantheon. It was an astonishing performance which still holds up so well that modern horror junkies still get his snarling visage as tattoos. The film also starred Lee's Curse of Frankenstein co-star Peter Cushing, only this time in the role of Dracula's nemesis Van Helsing. This was a match made in heaven and forged in the flames of hell as they appeared in several more offerings from the Hammer franchise until the mid-70s. Christopher Lee appeared in a total of 8 Dracula movies epitomising the very essence of elegant and intelligent evil.
The same intelligent evil is clearly apparent in the cult classic film The Wicker Man in which he played Lord Summerisle, the leader of a very unusual island community.
In recent years, Christopher Lee brought his tall, dark and twisted gravitas to the role of Saruman in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, his award-winning performance so powerful that no one would suspect that he was an ailing 79-year-old, not as though that stopped him, he was still working up until his death. It says a lot for Sir Christopher's character that at a time when most people are drawing a pension he was still on screen, drawing blood.
Suave and erudite Christopher Lee was and always will be a colossus of the silver screen, I would say that I will miss him, but I watch his films so often that he will always be a part of my life.
Rest In Peace Sir Christopher Lee.