Christopher Lee


Actor
Christopher Lee

About

Also Known As
Sir Christopher Lee, Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
Birth Place
Belgravia, London, City of, GB
Born
May 27, 1922
Died
June 07, 2015
Cause of Death
Heart Failure

Biography

Self-described with typical good humor as "tall, dark and gruesome," Christopher Lee was a remarkably prolific leading man and character actor whose six decades-long film career made him among the world's most popular and recognizable performers. He languished in bit roles for almost a decade before achieving instant fame as an elegant and sexually charged Count Dracula in "Horror of Dra...

Photos & Videos

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave - Movie Posters
Horror of Dracula - Lobby Cards
The Mummy (1959) - Lobby Cards

Family & Companions

Birgit Kroencke
Wife
Model. Married in 1961.

Bibliography

"Lurking Shadows: An Anthology"
Christopher Lee with Michael Parry, W.H. Allen & Co. (1979)
"The Great Villains"
Christopher Lee (1979)
"Tall, Dark, and Gruesome"
Christopher Lee, W.H. Allen & Co. (1977)
"Christopher Lee's New Chamber of Horrors"
Christopher Lee, Souvenir Press (1974)

Notes

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 2001.

Christopher Lee's staggering number of screen credits represents "more than any other international actor still performing his or her craft, according to the Guiness Book of World Records." Of course, Lee is careful to add, "That may or may not be true, I have no idea." --Christopher Lee, quoted in press material for "Alistair MacLean's Death Train"

Biography

Self-described with typical good humor as "tall, dark and gruesome," Christopher Lee was a remarkably prolific leading man and character actor whose six decades-long film career made him among the world's most popular and recognizable performers. He languished in bit roles for almost a decade before achieving instant fame as an elegant and sexually charged Count Dracula in "Horror of Dracula" (1958) for England's legendary Hammer Studios. Its success led to almost two decades of fright fare, during which he brought elegance and devilish charm to some of the most memorable figures in horror, including the Frankenstein Monster, the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Fu Manchu. In the 1970s, he grew weary of the typecasting and successfully distanced himself from the genre with roles in Richard Lester's "Three Musketeers" (1973), "Airport '77" (1977), "1941" (1979) and even a deftly comic appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). He remained exceptionally active into the 1980s and 1990s in American and international productions and television, and enjoyed a spectacular third act with significant parts in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" (1998), Episodes II and III of the "Star Wars" saga, and Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-03). An icon to several generations of fans and filmmakers, Lee's acting career continued into his ninth decade. His death from heart failure at the age of 93 on June 7, 2015, provoked outpourings of warm remembrances from generations of fans and fellow actors.

Born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee in Belgravia, London, England on May 27, 1922 - ironically, the same month and day as fellow horror icon Vincent Price, and one day after his friend and frequent co-star Peter Cushing - Lee was born to Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, a descendant of Italian nobility, and Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a lieutenant colonel in the 60th King's Rifle Corps. Artists were also in his bloodline; his great-grandparents founded the first opera company in Austria, and in later years, Lee demonstrated a proficiency at singing in a variety of styles, including light opera.

His parents separated when he was very young, so he relocated to Switzerland with his mother and sister Xandra for several years. While there, he enjoyed his first acting experiences in school, including performing his first villain, Rumpelstiltskin. During Lee's pre-teen years, the family returned to London, where his mother married a banker named Harcourt St.-Croix Rose, who was a distant relative of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming (Lee would later befriend the author, who recommended him to play Dr. No in the 1962 film version of his novel). Lee attended Wellington College, where he won scholarships in the study of classics, before working as a clerk in various shipping companies. When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force and reportedly served as a member of the Special Operations Executive, which performed counter-intelligence during the war. He also volunteered to fight as a partisan in Finland against the Soviet Union during the Winter War in 1939.

Lee began to pursue his acting career after returning to civilian life. He signed with the Rank Organization in 1947 and made his film debut in 1948's "Corridor of Mirrors" before playing minor roles in numerous English productions for the next decade. He appeared with his future friend and frequent co-star Peter Cushing in two films during this period - as a spear carrier in Laurence Olivier's Oscar-winning "Hamlet" (1948), and later as painter Georges Seurat in John Huston's Oscar-nominated "Moulin Rouge" (1952). An exceptionally tall man who stood 6'5" with an angular face and a deep, resonant voice, he essayed numerous authority figures or menacing types during this period. However, his height and dark complexion also prevented him from playing the leading man - something the actor eventually became resigned to.

In 1957, Lee was cast in a loose adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" by Hammer Films, a small English independent company which had achieved modest success with thrillers, light comedies and science fiction films. "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) was to be their first effort at the sort of Gothic horror films made by Universal during the 1930s, but with an added dash of violence and mature themes, and shot in lush color photography so blood read very red on screen. Lee was cast as the Creature, and though he was buried under layers of makeup and had no speaking lines, he offered an extremely sympathetic and memorable performance that invited comparison to the greatest of screen Monsters, Boris Karloff in the original Universal film. His "creator" in "Frankenstein" was Peter Cushing, who later became his greatest nemesis on-screen and one of his dearest friends when the cameras stopped rolling.

The worldwide success and controversy that followed "Frankenstein" (critics lambasted the film for its graphic violence) led to more work with Hammer for Lee, and in 1958, he was cast in the lead for "Horror of Dracula." His take on the infamous count stood in marked contrast to the 1931 portrayal by Bela Lugosi, who, up until then, was the actor most identified with the role. Whereas Lugosi's Dracula was courtly - if somewhat stiff and formal - Lee fairly burst with unholy vigor and an animalistic bloodlust. The sexual overtones of the role were also placed at the forefront of Lee's portrayal; his attack on Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh) is as much a seduction as a fearsome assault. Lee's fresh take on Dracula helped to make the film a success across the globe - and typecast him as a horror star in the vein of Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price for years to come.

Lee turned down the chance to reprise Dracula in Hammer's "Brides of Dracula" (1960), but pressure from the studio forced him to don the cape and fangs six more times, starting with 1965's "Dracula, Prince of Darkness" and ending on a sour note with "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" (1972), which unsuccessfully attempted to bring the Vampire King into the present. A devout fan of the source material by Bram Stoker (and fantastic fiction as a whole), Lee cringed at how far afield the Hammer franchise strayed from the original novel, and fought hard (but failed) to bring some elements from the story into the films. He also played Dracula or vampire types in several low-budget European productions, including two comedies - "Tempi duri per I vampiri" (1959) and 1976's "Dracula and Son" - and played the Count and his historical namesake, Vlad Tepes, in the 1975 documentary "In Search of Dracula."

And while Dracula was the horror role that Lee was most identified with, the actor played a much wider range of monsters and human fiends in films for Hammer as well as for England's Amicus Pictures and numerous European companies. He was a love struck Egyptian priest who returns from the grave centuries later to wreak havoc on archaeologists in "The Mummy" (1959), a coolly diabolical Fu Manchu in four features for English and Spanish producers; a subdued Victorian scientist and his fearsome alter ego in "I, Monster," a 1971 adaptation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde;" and a hypnotic Russian mystic in Hammer's lurid "Rasputin, The Mad Monk" (1966). Lee's horror/suspense credits also included countless variations on aloof, occasionally ruthless men of authority, as well as the occasional hero - most notably in Hammer's "The Devil Rides Out" (1967), where he played a nobleman who battles a sinister Satanic cult. Versed in numerous languages, Lee was frequently able to dub his own voice in Italian, French or German productions, including a 1962 turn as Arthur Conan Doyle's master detective in "Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace."

Lee's career in horror made him an instantly recognizable star around the world, but by the early 1970s, he was deeply frustrated by the limited roles that were being offered to him. He attempted to branch out into production by creating his own company, but the resulting films - 1972's "Nothing But the Night" and a disastrous adaptation of "To the Devil A Daughter" (1976) for Hammer - convinced him to stay out of that end of the movie business. His popularity occasionally allowed him to play roles outside of the horror genre - he was Artemidorus in Charlton Heston's 1970 film version of "Julius Caesar," and shaved his head to play Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970), but none of these efforts helped distance him from his horror career. "The Wicker Man" (1973) offered him a rare opportunity to work in a genre picture with a mature and imaginative script. The story, by Anthony Shaffer, cast Lee as the head of a pagan cult on a remote British island, and allowed audiences to hear his singing voice. Unfortunately, the film was severely truncated by its producers, and failed to gain an audience until decades later.

Richard Lester made excellent use of Lee's screen persona and fencing skills (an accomplished swordsman, he claimed at one point to have appeared in more movie swordfights than any other actor) as the villainous Count de Rochfort in his delightful adaptation of "The Three Musketeers" (1973) and its 1974 sequel, "The Four Musketeers." Their overwhelming success gave hope to Lee's aspirations outside the horror genre, and in the mid-1970s, he relocated to the United States with his wife, Gitte, and daughter, Christina, in the hopes of finding more diverse work in Hollywood. The decision was a successful one for many years. He played the coolly elegant assassin, Scaramanga, in the James Bond adventure "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), was among the star-studded passengers in "Airport '77" (1977), and even hosted a 1978 episode of "Saturday Night Live," which found him attempting to exorcise Richard Nixon (Dan Aykroyd) from the White House. His wry comic skills were also given showcases in Steven Spielberg's manic "1941" (1979), as a Nazi officer stuck with an uncooperative Japanese submarine crew, and in the little-seen "Serial" (1979), where his high-powered business executive is revealed as a member of a gay biker gang.

But for each of these unique opportunities, it appeared that Lee was being cast in twice as many low-budget horror and science fiction films; many of which made the worst of his efforts for Hammer or Amicus seem like high quality art by comparison. Lee was particularly disappointed by the decision to turn down the role of Dr. Loomis in John Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978), and spoke frequently of his regret in that decision. By the early 1980s, he was finding more rewarding work on American and international television, including the epic HBO miniseries "The Far Pavilions" (1984) and "Shaka Zula" (1986). Lee was also a suitably spooky Blind Pew in Fraser Clarke Heston's adaptation of "Treasure Island," which starred his father Charlton as Long John Silver. Lee also played an elderly Sherlock Holmes in several European-made TV movies, which were shown frequently on American television.

Lee's career began its slow upswing in the early 1990s after almost a decade of bland, even embarrassing film and television projects. He returned to Hollywood with a significant role in J Dante's "Gremlins II: The New Batch" (1990) as a scientist bent on experimenting on the cuddly Gizmo. Though the film was not a success, it did signal a change in fortunes for Lee. A new generation of directors and producers who had grown up with Lee's horror films were eager to cast him in their projects, and the actor - now approaching his seventh decade - found himself not only back in vogue, but exceptionally active. He co-starred with Pierce Bronson and Patrick Stewart as a rogue Russian general who sends mercenaries to hijack a train carrying nuclear weapons in the 1993 TV movie "Death Train," then played the pharaoh Ramses opposite Ben Kingsley's Moses in the TNT miniseries "Moses" (1995) and the blind seer Tiresias in "The Odyssey" (1997) for Hallmark. Lee also gave fitting closure on Hammer Films with the fine documentary, "Flesh and Blood" (1994). Lee shared narration of the project with his longtime friend and fellow horror icon Peter Cushing, who had also achieved his own non-Hammer success with his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in "Star Wars" (1977). However, the recording session would be a bittersweet reunion for the duo, as Cushing died just two months after its completion,.

The 1990s closed out with a starring role for Lee in the Pakistani production "Jinnah" (1998), a biopic about the founder of the country. Though his casting as the fabled leader spurred controversy from elements of the Pakistani media - ironically not because he was an Anglo playing a Pakistani, but more for his association with Dracula! - Lee went on record as saying that he was proudest of the film and the role among all others in his career. The following year saw him play opposite Johnny Depp with a brief role in Tim Burton's Hammer-influenced "Sleepy Hollow" (1999). With this small role, Lee formed yet another mutual admiration society with a young filmmaker. Burton, who had grown up worshipping Hammer films and Lee in particular would cast Lee in three of his films: as the stern, candy-hating father of Willy Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005), and in small roles in "The Corpse Bride" (2005) and "Sweeney Todd" (2007), though Lee's turn as a solo ballad singer was trimmed from the theatrical release in the latter.

As successful as the 1990s proved for Lee, it could not hold a candle to his profile in the new millennium. Lee was offered major supporting roles in two of the biggest movie franchises in film history - he was the evil Sith Lord Count Dooku (a name chosen by George Lucas to honor his Dracula history) in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002) and "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005), as well as the war-mongering wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy: "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), "The Two Towers" (2002) and "The Return of the King" (2003). The "Star Wars" features saw Lee bring the same level of classic Hollywood villainy to the final two entries in the franchise as Peter Cushing did to the 1977 original, and even indulge in several strenuous light saber duels - though many of the more complicated moves were accomplished by digitally transposing Lee's head onto a double. As for "Rings," Lee had been a fan of the books since their release, and was the only member of its sizable cast to actually meet author J.R.R. Tolkien. He lobbied Jackson to let him participate in the films, and though he did not achieve his goal of playing the heroic wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan), he did enjoy the choice role of Saruman, who is corrupted by the forces of evil and leads a vast army against the people of Middle Earth. Both films brought him wide exposure to a new generation of movieg rs who had only seen Lee in late-night TV showings of his Hammer films, if at all. If one was to judge their reaction by his three MTV Award nominations and one win for "Attack of the Clones," it was safe to assume that Lee's star power had not dimmed a bit over the previous six decades. Lee was also twice nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for "Rings" and took home two group awards for the films from the Ph nix Film Critics Society.

Though Lee publicly expressed his disappointment that Saruman's death scene was trimmed from the theatrical release of "Return of the King" (it was later reinstated for the extended DVD version), he was also quick to add his amazement and gratitude at finding himself at the center of two vast, Oscar-winning, record-breaking projects at such a later point in his career. In 2001, England expressed its own gratitude for Lee by appointing him an OBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), while an American news report named him the "most bankable star in the world" thanks to the successes of his collaborations with Burton, Lucas and Jackson.

Lee showed no signs of slowing down as he approached his ninth decade; with over 200 films to his credit, he was featured in no less than nine films between 2007 and 2009, including "The Golden Compass" (2007) and "Triage" (2009) with Colin Farrell. Lee also enjoyed a popular side career as a voiceover artist for countless animated projects, including "The Last Unicorn" (1982), Burton's "Corpse Bride" and video game tie-ins for "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings," which allowed him to revisit these popular characters. Perhaps most amusing and pleasing for his countless fans were his regular appearances on albums by hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock bands like Rhapsody of Fire, whose songs tended towards Tolkien-like fantasy. Lee also contributed vocals to recordings of "The King and I," the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and most amusingly, "The Rocky Horror Show," for JAY Records, as well as releasing several solo albums, which found him covering everything from mournful ballads to cowboy songs.

As Lee entered his 90s, his film work continued at a heady pace. He appeared in a voice role as the Jabberwock in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), and in supporting roles in British thriller "The Heavy" (2010) and black comedy "Burke and Hare" (2010). The Nicolas Cage fantasy "Season of the Witch" (2011) was followed by Robin Hardy's follow-up to his 1970s cult classic, "The Wicker Tree" (2011) and Martin Scorsese's Parisian fantasy "Hugo" (2011). Lee reteamed with Burton for the dark comedy "Dark Shadows" (2012) before working again with Peter Jackson as Saruman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012) and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (2014). Lee's final completed role came in the fantasy "Angels In Notting Hill" (2014). Following a lengthy respiratory illness, Sir Christopher Lee died of heart failure in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in his native London on June 7, 2015. He was 93.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Extraordinary Tales (2015)
Voice
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Night Train to Lisbon (2013)
Necessary Evil: The Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)
Narrator
Dark Shadows (2012)
The Wicker Tree (2012)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Hugo (2011)
Season of the Witch (2011)
The Resident (2011)
Glorious 39 (2011)
Burke and Hare (2011)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
The Heavy (2010)
Boogie Woogie (2009)
Triage (2009)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie (2008)
Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Film (2008)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby (2007)
The Golden Compass (2007)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005)
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Saruman
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Saruman
Marco Polo (2000)
Russell Mulcahy's Tale of the Mummy (1999)
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Jinnah (1998)
Mohammed Ali Jinnah
Funnyman (1996)
Collum Chance
The Stupids (1996)
A Feast at Midnight (1995)
Major Longfellow--Raptor
Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow (1994)
Funny Man (1994)
Callum Chance
The No-Tell Hotel (1994)
Death Train (1993)
Double Vision (1992)
Jackpot (1992)
Cedric
Innocent Blood (1992)
Shogun Mayeda (1991)
King Philip
Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1990)
Treasure Island (1990)
Blind Pew
La Revolution Francaise (1990)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
L'Avaro (1990)
The Rainbow Thief (1990)
Honeymoon Academy (1990)
Lazos
Mask of Murder (1989)
Murder Story (1989)
Willard
The Return of the Musketeers (1989)
Dark Mission (1988)
Mio min Mio (1987)
Kato--The Wicked Knight
The Girl (1987)
Peter Storm
Jocks (1986)
The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1985)
Clifford King
Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf (1985)
Stefan Crosscoe
Safari 3000 (1984)
Lorenzo Borgia
The Salamander (1983)
Director Baldassare
The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)
Massarati and the Brain (1982)
House of the Long Shadows (1982)
Corrigan
Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982)
Prince Philip
An Eye for an Eye (1981)
Desperate Moves (1980)
Dr Boxer
Serial (1980)
Luckman; Skull
Once Upon a Spy (1980)
Bear Island (1979)
Jaguar Lives! (1979)
Nutcracker Fantasy (1979)
Voice
Circle Of Iron (1979)
Zetan
The Passage (1979)
Arabian Adventure (1979)
Voice
1941 (1979)
Captain America II (1979)
Caravans (1978)
Return From Witch Mountain (1978)
Starship Invasions (1977)
Captain Rameses
End of the World (1977)
Airport '77 (1977)
Dracula Pere et Fils (1976)
The Count Dracula
To the Devil, a Daughter (1976)
The Keeper (1976)
Whispering Death (1975)
Bill
Killer Force (1975)
Revenge of the Dead (1975)
Narrator
In Search of Dracula (1975)
Narrator
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Scaramanga
Diagnosis: Murder (1974)
The Wicker Man (1974)
Lord Summerisle
La Boucher, la Star et l'Orpheline (1974)
Deathline (1973)
Poor Devil (1973)
Dark Places (1973)
Dr Mandeville
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Count Dracula
The Three Musketeers (1973)
Hannie Caulder (1972)
Bailey
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Count Dracula
Nothing But the Night (1972)
The Creeping Flesh (1972)
James Hildern
Horror Express (1972)
Professor Alexander Caxton
I, Monster (1971)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Mycroft Holmes
Eugenie ... The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (1970)
Dolmance/narrator
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Dracula
The Scars of Dracula (1970)
Count Dracula
The Crimson Cult (1970)
J. D. Morley
Scream and Scream Again (1970)
Fremont
The Magic Christian (1970)
Dracula
Julius Caesar (1970)
Artemidorus
Count Dracula (1970)
The House That Dripped Blood (1970)
Reid ("Sweets To The Sweet")
Kiss & Kill (1969)
Dr. Fu Manchu
The Blood Demon (1969)
Count Regula
The Oblong Box (1969)
Dr. Neuhartt
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1969)
Count Dracula
The Devil's Bride (1968)
Duc de Richleau
The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1968)
Fu Manchu
Eve (1968)
Colonel Stuart
Die Folterkammer des Doktor Fu Manchu (1968)
Blood Fiend (1967)
Philippe Darvas
Psycho-Circus (1967)
Gregor
The Devil's Daffodil (1967)
Ling Chu
Island of the Burning Damned (1967)
Dracula--Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula
The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
Fu Manchu
Rasputin--The Mad Monk (1966)
Rasputin
The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
Fu Manchu
The Gorgon (1965)
Prof. Carl Meister
Horror Castle (1965)
Erich
The Skull (1965)
Sir Matthew Phillips
What! (1965)
Kurt Menliff
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
Franklyn Marsh
She (1965)
Billali
Hercules in the Haunted World (1964)
Lichas
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)
Captain Robeles
The Hands of Orlac (1964)
Nero
Castle of the Living Dead (1964)
Corridors of Blood (1963)
Resurrection Joe
The Pirates of Blood River (1962)
LaRoche
Horror Hotel (1962)
Professor Driscoll
Hot Money Girl (1962)
Jaeger
The Longest Day (1962)
Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes (1962)
Scream of Fear (1961)
Dr. Gerrard
Wild for Kicks (1961)
Kenny
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Chung King
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1961)
Paul Allen
Too Hot To Handle (1961)
Novak
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Sir Henry [Baskerville]
The Mummy (1959)
The Mummy/Kharis
The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)
Tempi duri per i vampiri (1959)
She Played with Fire (1958)
Charles Highbury
Bitter Victory (1958)
Sergeant Barney
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Night Ambush (1958)
German Officer
A Tale of Two Cities (1958)
Battle of the V-1 (1958)
The Accursed (1958)
Doctor Neumann
The Truth About Women (1958)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Creature
Beyond Mombasa (1957)
Gil Rossi
Pursuit of the Graf Spee (1957)
Manola, Cantina Manager
The Cockleshell Heroes (1956)
Submarine commander
Port Afrique (1956)
Franz Vermes
Storm Over the Nile (1956)
Kraga Pasha
Private's Progress (1956)
Alias John Preston (1956)
That Lady (1955)
Captain of the king's guard
Police Dog (1955)
Moulin Rouge (1953)
Seurat
Innocents in Paris (1953)
Lieutenant Whitlock
The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Attaché
Top Secret (1952)
Look-Out Man In Hotel
Paul Temple Returns (1952)
Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)
Spanish captain
Valley of the Eagles (1951)
They Were Not Divided (1950)
Prelude to Fame (1950)
My Brother's Keeper (1949)
Policeman
Trottie True (1949)
Honorable Bongo Icklesham
One Night With You (1948)
Hamlet (1948)
Palace Guard
Corridor of Mirrors (1948)
Charles
Penny and the Pownall Case (1948)
Scott of the Antarctic (1948)
Bernard Day

Music (Feature Film)

Nutcracker Fantasy (1979)
Song Performer

Cast (Special)

Passage to Middle-Earth: The Making of "The Lord of the Rings" (2001)
100 Years of Horror (1997)
Host
The Disputation (1990)
King James
Errol Flynn: Portrait of a Swashbuckler (1987)
Narrator
Tales of the Haunted (1981)
The Death of Michael Turbin (1954)

Cast (Short)

Man in Demand (1955)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Pope John Paul II (2005)
Gormenghast (2000)
In the Beginning (2000)
Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1997)
The Odyssey (1997)
Moses (1996)
Sherlock Holmes: Incident at Victoria Falls (1992)
Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992)
Around the World in 80 Days (1989)
Shaka Zulu (1986)
The Far Pavilions (1984)
Kaka-Ji Rao
Goliath Awaits (1981)
Harold Robbins' The Pirate (1978)

Life Events

1948

Appeared as a Palace Guard in Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet"; first film with actor Peter Cushing

1948

Film debut, as Charles in "Corridor of Mirrors"

1948

First of 12 films with director Terence Fisher, "A Song For Tomorrow"

1951

Acted in Raoul Walsh's "Captain Horatio Hornblower"

1953

Worked with director John Huston on "Moulin Rouge"; also starring Peter Cushing

1957

Breakthrough role as the Creature in Fisher's "The Curse of Frankenstein"; also starred Peter Cushing

1958

Portrayed the sadistic Marquis St Evremonde in "A Tale of Two Cities"

1958

First of 10 films as Count Dracula, "The Horror of Dracula"; directed by Fisher and co-starred Cushing as Von Helsing

1959

Took on title role of "The Mummy"; Fisher directed and Cushing co-starred

1959

First foray into Sherlock Holmes genre, playing Sir Henry Baskerville in Fisher's "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

1962

Played Sherlock Holmes in Fisher's "Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace"

1965

Played Fu Manchu (first of five portrayals) in "The Face of Fu Manchu"

1965

Second time around as Dracula in Fisher's "Dracula - Prince of Darkness"

1966

Brilliantly over-the-top as Rasputin in "Rasputin - the Mad Monk"

1968

Last film with Fisher, "The Devil Rides Out"

1969

Teamed with Vincent Price for "The Oblong Box"

1970

Portrayed Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes"; the only actor to have played both brothers

1970

Joined Price and Peter Cushing for "Scream and Scream Again"

1972

Formed Charlemagne Production with Anthony Nelson Keys

1973

Reteamed with Cushing for third and final pairing as Dracula-Von Helsing in "Satanic Rites of Dracula" (released in United States as "Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride")

1973

Starred in Robin Hardy's classic cult film "The Wicker Man"

1974

Played Comte de Rochefort in Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers"

1974

Cast as assassin Scaramanga in the James Bond film "The Man With the Golden Gun"

1975

Reprised Rochefort role for Lester's "The Four Musketeers"

1977

Appeared in "Airport '77" as famous oceanographer Martin Wallace

1978

Portrayed the mad scientist Victor in Disney's "The Return from Witch Mountain"

1979

Acted in Steven Spielberg's "1941"

1979

Did a final turn as Rochefort in Lester's "The Return of the Musketeers"

1979

Provided voices for the animated feature "Nutcracker Fantasy"

1980

Delivered a comic turn as a gay biker in the feature film "Serial"

1981

Cast as Chuck Norris' nemesis in "An Eye for an Eye"

1982

Last film with Cushing, "The House of Long Shadows"

1982

Portrayed Prince Philip in the ABC movie "Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story"

1984

Acted the part of Kaka-ji Rao in the HBO miniseries "The Far Pavilions"

1986

Played Lord Bathurst in the syndicated miniseries "Shaka Zulu"

1989

Cast as Andrew Stuart in the NBC miniseries "Around the World in 80 Days"

1990

Underwent a two-hour makeup transformation for his portrayal of Blind Pew in Fraser Heston's adaptation of "Treasure Island"

1992

Reprised role of Sherlock Holmes for two syndicated miniseries' "Sherlock Holmes: Incident at Victoria Falls" and "Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady"

1992

Director John Landis integrated footage from "Horror of Dracula" into his "Innocent Blood"; gave both Lee and Cushing credits in the film

1993

Cast as the disaffected Soviet military leader General Konstatin Benin in the USA Network movie "Alistair MacLean's Death Train"

1996

Portrayed the Evil Sender in John Landis' "The Stupids"

1996

Played Pharaoh to Ben Kingsley's Moses in the TNT miniseries "Moses"

1997

Appeared as Tiresias in the NBC miniseries "The Odyssey"

1998

Portrayed the title role in "Jinnah," a biopic of the founder of Pakistan

1999

Played a burgermeister in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow"

2001

Cast as Saruman in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

2002

Reprised Saruman role in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"

2002

Portrayed the villainous Count Dooku in "Star Wars: Episode II - The Attack of the Clones"

2003

Again portrayed Saruman in the third and final "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

2005

Reprised role of Count Dooku in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"

2005

Played Willy Wonka's (Johnny Depp) father in Tim Burton's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic tale "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

2007

Collaborated with Burton for a fourth time on "Sweeney Todd," playing the spirit of Sweeney Todd's victims called The Gentleman Ghost

2008

Voiced Count Dooku in the animated feature "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"

2010

Re-teamed with Burton for a fifth time for "Alice in Wonderland" as the villainous Jabberwock

2011

Cast in Martin Scorsese's family adventure "Hugo"

2012

Returned to Middle Earth as Saruman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and directed by Peter Jackson

2012

Released a trilogy of Christmas-themed heavy metal EPs

2014

Appeared in his final on-screen role, as Saruman in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"

2015

Narrated "The Fall of the House of Usher" in the horror anthology film "Extraordinary Tales"

Photo Collections

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave - Movie Posters
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave - Movie Posters
Horror of Dracula - Lobby Cards
Horror of Dracula - Lobby Cards
The Mummy (1959) - Lobby Cards
The Mummy (1959) - Lobby Cards
Horror of Dracula - British Front-of-House Stills
Horror of Dracula - British Front-of-House Stills
The Gorgon - Movie Poster
Here is an American movie poster for Hammer Studios' The Gorgon (1964), starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. This poster size is a 60x40, a larger version of the standard one-sheet.
The Wicker Man - Movie Posters
Here are a few different styles of movie posters for The Wicker Man (1973), starring Christopher Lee.
Return from Witch Mountain - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Disney's Return from Witch Mountain (1978). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Dracula A.D. 1972 - I Summoned You Johnny (Christopher Neame), whose hippie London pals think this is just a lark, and don't know he's a real vampire-servant, has settled for Laura (Caroline Munro) in his first occult ceremony, but still hopes to lure Jess (Stephanie Beacham), as he tries to resurrect his master (Christopher Lee), in Hammer Films' Dracula A.D. 1972, 1972.
Gorgon, The (1964) - We Are Men Of Science Increasingly emotional assistant Carla (Barbara Shelley) can’t see why doctor Namaroff (Peter Cushing) won’t discuss the spooky Greek-myth angle (i.e. corpses turned to stone) on the local murders, then a victim’s father (Michael Goodliffe), a former colleague, presses a similar point, in Hammer Films’ The Gorgon, 1964.
Gorgon, The (1964) - It's Not A Pretty Sight His hair turned gray after his encounter with the title monster (whose dead victims turn to stone), Heitz (Richard Pasco) receives his mentor and family friend Meister (Christopher Lee) from Leipzig, while Namaroff (Peter Cushing) slices up an ex-patient, with his still-more remote assistant Carla (Barbara Shelley), in Hammer Films’ The Gorgon, 1964.
Devil's Bride, The (1968) - They're Just For Decoration Old family friends De Richleau (Christopher Lee) and Van Ryn (Leon Greene) surmise that they've crashed a secret satanic ritual and Simon (Patrick Mower) needs rescuing, early in Hammer Films' The Devil's Bride, 1968.
Devil's Bride, The (1968) - Don't Look At The Eyes! Apparently too late to interrupt a big satanic ritual at the new home of their wayward wealthy protegé, “Duc” Richleau (Christopher Lee) and friend Rex (Leon Greene) instead discover convincing evidence of evil, in Hammer Films’ The Devil’s Bride (a.k.a. The Devil Rides Out), 1968.
Devil's Bride, The (1968) - The Goat Of Mendes Christopher Lee (as "De Richleau") and colleague Van Ryn (Leon Greene), stay composed when they recognize the guest, as Mocata (Charles Gray) leads satanic rites, Simon and Tanith (Patrick Mower, Nike Arrighi) the subjects, in Hammer Films' The Devil's Bride, 1968.
City Of The Dead (a.k.a. Horror Hotel) -- (1960) - More Effective At Midnight Much of the short performance here of Christopher Lee as modern day professor Driscoll, after his dramatic lecture about a 1692 Massachusetts witch burning, supporting student Nan (Venetia Stevenson) planning some research, and tangling with her scientist brother (Dennis Lotis), in the British-made City Of The Dead, 1960, a.k.a. Horror Hotel.
Face Of Fu Manchu, The (1965) - I Bring You Bad News The daughter (Tsai Chin) and assistant (Peter Mossbacher) of the title character (Christopher Lee) enter his lair in London, with news that Scotland Yard has come calling, causing him to press his prisoner Muller (Walter Rilla) to release the formula for his secret super poison, in The Face Of Fu Manchu, 1965.
Moulin Rouge (1952) - The Smell Of Paint Moderately frustrated painter Toulouse-Lautrec (Jose Ferrer) meets colleagues Anquetin, Seurat and Gauzi (Jean Landler, Christopher Lee, Robert Le Fort) at a Paris cafe, then his enthusiastic semi-agent Maurice (Lee Montague), in John Huston’s Moulin Rouge, 1952.
Dracula, Prince Of Darkness (1966) - The Obscene Cult Ominous narration from Hammer Films, recapping the previous vampire film Horror Of Dracula, in which Peter Cushing (as Van Helsing) kills off Dracula (Christopher Lee), opening Dracula, Prince Of Darkness, 1966.
Dracula, Prince Of Darkness - Your Husband... Servant Klove (Philip Latham) sprinkles his master's ashes with the blood of a house-guest, fetches his wife Helen (Barbara Shelley) at which point the star (Christopher Lee) finally appears, in Hammer Films' Dracula, Prince Of Darkness, 1966.
Horror Of Dracula (1958) - Opening Two simple shots, the opening from Hammer Films’ Horror Of Dracula, 1958, only the studio’s second color horror film and the international hit that led to the studio’s commitment to the genre, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Trailer

Man With The Golden Gun, The (1974) -- (Original Trailer) A particularly literal representation of the title, in the trailer for the 9th James Bond feature, Roger Moore’s second appearance, with Christopher Lee as scary Scaramanga, and somewhat dual Bond-girls, Maud Adams and Britt Ekland, in The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974.
Hugo (2011) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for Martin Scorsese's acclaimed feature based on the Caldecott Award-winning book by Brian Selznick, featuring Asa Butterfield in the title role, with Ben Kingsley, Chlöe Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone and Jude Law, Hugo, 2011.
Dracula A.D. 1972 -- (Original Trailer) Hammer Films’ modernized horror mode, in the original trailer for Dracula A.D. 1972, 1972, featuring the highly promoted but short-lived rock’n’roll group Stoneground.
Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for the second feature in Peter Jackson's international hit adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkein Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Two Towers, 2002.
To the Devil, a Daughter - (Original Trailer) An occult writer (Richard Widmark) fights to save a friend's daughter from Satanists in To The Devil, A Daughter (1976).
Mummy, The (1959) - (Original Trailer) A bandage-wrapped Christopher Lee stalks his victims in Hammer Film's version of The Mummy (1959).
Horror of Dracula - (Original Trailer) Christopher Lee takes the role of the bloodthirsty count versus Peter Cushing's Van Helsing in Hammer Films' Horror of Dracula (1958).
Gorgon, The - (Original Trailer) Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee battle the mythical creature that turns men into stone in Hammer Films' The Gorgon (1964).
1941 - (Original Trailer) Panic sweeps Hollywood when a Japanese invasion is suspected in Steven Spielberg's gigantic farce 1941 (1979).
Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll, The - (Original Trailer) Dr. Jekyll drinks his formula and turns young and handsome, but still deadly in Hammer Films' re-imagining, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1961).
Longest Day, The - (Original Trailer) An all-star cast including John Wayne and Henry Fonda in a re-creation of the D-Day invasion on The Longest Day (1962).
Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The - (Original Trailer) Director Billy Wilder provides a pair of revealing adventures concerning the world's greatest consulting detective.

Family

Geoffrey Trollope Lee
Father
Lieutenant-colonel in the British Army.
Estelle Marie Lee
Mother
Italian contessa.
Ian Fleming
Step-Cousin
Author. Creator of "James Bond" novels; Lee's mother, after divorcing his father, married the brother of Ian Fleming's mother; the two used to play golf together, but Fleming had already passed on by the time the actor played the title villain of "The Man With the Golden Gun" (1974).
Christina Erika Lee
Daughter

Companions

Birgit Kroencke
Wife
Model. Married in 1961.

Bibliography

"Lurking Shadows: An Anthology"
Christopher Lee with Michael Parry, W.H. Allen & Co. (1979)
"The Great Villains"
Christopher Lee (1979)
"Tall, Dark, and Gruesome"
Christopher Lee, W.H. Allen & Co. (1977)
"Christopher Lee's New Chamber of Horrors"
Christopher Lee, Souvenir Press (1974)
"Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror"
Christopher Lee, Pyramid Books (1966)
"Christopher Lee's Archives of Terror"
Christopher Lee, Warner Books

Notes

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 2001.

Christopher Lee's staggering number of screen credits represents "more than any other international actor still performing his or her craft, according to the Guiness Book of World Records." Of course, Lee is careful to add, "That may or may not be true, I have no idea." --Christopher Lee, quoted in press material for "Alistair MacLean's Death Train"

Lee is fluent in Franch, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Swedish, Danish and Greek, as well as English.

He became an Officier, Ordre des Arts et Lettres (France), in 1973. During World War II, he received the Polania Restituta and Czechoslovak medal for valor.

"The only character I played over-the-top, though, because there was no alternative, was Rasputin [in Rasputin--the Mad Monk, 1966] ... [As far as Fu Manchu] I had to restrain myself there, because I didn't want to offend Oriental people. I tried to play Fu Manchu the way he was described in the books--as a man of giant intellect, totally cold and inhuman, but with great dignity. I must say, however, that the most irritating makeup is the 'Chinese eye.' That's murder." --Christopher Lee in Interview, June 1996.