Christopher Lee began his legendary career in monster movies in the 1950, playing both Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula, the latter in several classics of the genre. Lee has recently become known to a whole new generation of filmgoers in The Lord of the Rings films and Star Wars prequels. The legendary British actor died on June 7, 2015 at the age of 93.
Christopher Lee was born in London in 1922 to one of the oldest families in Europe. He attended Eton College and Wellington College, where he studied Greek and Latin. During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force and Special Forces and was decorated for distinguished service.
Christopher Lee made his film debut in the Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors in 1947. Throughout the next decade, he made nearly 30 films, usually playing stock characters in action films. Lee's first film for Hammer, the legendary horror production company, was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), in which he played Frankenstein's monster. In 1958, Lee made his first of many appearances as Dracula in Horror of Dracula (U.S. title).
In 1961, Lee married Birgit Kroencke, a Danish model who acted under the name Gitte Lee. The couple had a daughter, Christina.
After Horror of Dracula, Christopher Lee reprised his role as the legendary vampire and played other horror roles in dozens of Hammer productions, right up until the company's last horror film, To the Devil a Daughter, in 1976. With Hammer and other production companies, Lee appeared in nearly 50 horror films from 1959 to 1976, and portrayed Dracula in nearly 10 of them. Lee's other memorable horror films of this era include Corridors of Blood, The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll, Dracula Prince of Darkness and Taste the Blood of Dracula. Lee also had recurring roles as Fu Manchu and Sherlock Holmes, played Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, and had the title role in 1959's The Mummy.
Later Career & Death
Lee later shied away from horror roles, instead appearing in films such as How the West Was Won and the Steven Spielberg WWII comedy 1941 in the 1970s, among many others. In the 1990s, Lee also returned as Sherlock Holmes in Incident at Victoria Falls and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady. In 2009, Lee was knighted at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace for his services to drama and charity work.
In 2001, Lee's career experienced a major revival with his role as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and its sequel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 2002. The next year, Lee appeared in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, yet again as a memorable villain, Count Dooku, and reprised the role in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). Lee was also tapped to star in 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and 2013's The Hobbit: There and Back Again, also as Saruman.
The legendary actor was also a frequent collaborator with director Tim Burton, appearing in many of his movies including Sleepy Hollow (1999), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012).
In addition to acting, Lee explored his singing talents throughout his career. He released two symphonic metal albums “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross” in 2010 and “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death” in 2013, based on the life of Charlemagne.
After appearing in hundreds of films, including some of the highest-grossing movies of all time, Lee passed away on June 7, 2015, at Westminster Hospital in London at the age of 93.
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