Friday, June 12, 2015

RIP, Christopher Lee

Iconic and veteran British actor Christopher Lee has passed away.  He was 93.

It happened on Sunday morning (June 7th) at a London hospital where Lee was being treated for heart and respiratory problems; his wife, Birgit "Gitte" Kroencke Lee, decided to withhold the information until family and friends could be notified.

Ugh.  What a bummer, but hey, he was 93; he lived a long life and he lived it to the fullest.  That's the least most of us should hope for.

Lee was, quite simply, one of the best.  He's from that old school of acting, bringing a theatricality to his film roles throughout his career.  And what a career!

Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Mummy, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lord Summerisle, Scaramanga, Saruman, Count Dooku, heavy metal recording artist, Christopher Lee did it all and did it with such style, gravitas, and panache!  One of the amazing things is that everyone from teenagers to grandparents know (or at least recognize) who Lee is.  He spanned decades which is a rarity in an era of increased specialization and shortened shelf lives.  Christopher Lee was truly one of the all-time greats.  It is sad that he's gone.

Thanks for all the movies and for all the scares.


Before taking up acting, Lee joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) right at the outbreak of World War II.  He wouldn't fly any planes due to an eye condition, but he volunteered with RAF Intelligence where he would assist in operations that took place in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.  Most interestingly, after the war, Lee would help in the tracking down of Nazi war criminals (what a badass!).

<<< Lee in 1944, Vatican City

Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Christopher Lee would work with British film production company Hammer Films many times throughout his career, and he would often work with his good friend Peter Cushing.  The first time for both was in this, the first Frankenstein film that Hammer released, kicking off their reainessance of new gothic horror films and kickstarting Lee's career.  Also, it's a pretty good movie.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Lee might be best known for his portrayal of Dracula, in which is brought a lot of sex appeal to go along with the scares.  He would play the bloodsucker 8 or 9 times during his career.
The Mummy (1959)

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)

The Whip and the Body (1963)
This Mario Bava film is one I haven't seen, but have always meant to.  I guess now would be a good time to finally check it out.
The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
Lee would play Fu Manchu a total of five times, including the terrible Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) which is so bad that it is barely watchable in its MST3k version.
Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Raw Meat (1972)

The Wicker Man (1973)
Lee called his role as Lord Summerisle his best.  He ain't wrong.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

1941 (1979)

The House of Long Shadows (1983)
clockwise: Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, John Carradine.  Somewhere out there, all of these guys are having a great time.
 The Howling II. . .Your Sister's a Werewolf (1985)
You can read my review of this terribly fun movie HERE.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
When Christopher Lee first met director Joe Dante he apologized to him for starring in Howling II (Dante had directed the original Howling film).
Sleepy Hollow (1999)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 
Lee is the only person who worked on the LOTR films who had actually met J.R.R Tolkien.  He was a mega-fan of the book, reading it annually.  He called the chance to participate in bringing the books to the big screen a "dream come true."
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
I doubt he ever dreamed of wielding a lightsaber, but hey, he got to do that too.
Hugo (2011)

Christopher Lee became Sir Christopher Lee when he was knighted for services in drama and charity in 2009.

Proving that you're never too old to do new things, late in life, Christopher Lee started a new career as a metal recording artist.  He did an album about Charlemagne and also an album of Christmas songs.  This track is from his most recent EP, Metal Knight:

"I try to describe acting as a combination of the three D's and the three I's. Discipline, dedication, devotion. Imagination, instinct, intelligence. Even if all my films haven't pleased everybody, I'd like people to realize that I've always given each film my all. I would like to think that I've shown integrity and dedication in every one of my roles. I always do my best and, you know, I really do love what I do."

RIP Christopher Lee

No comments:

Post a Comment