Hollywood’s Greatest: Then and Now – Christopher Lee Part 2

One of the most respected actors of all time, Christopher Lee has been in the industry since 1946, and has performed roles in about 275 films, making him the Guinness World Record holder. Lee was born on May 27, 1922 in Belgravia, Westminster to Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee and Contessa Estelle Marie. His parents would separate when he was young, and he would live with his mother and sister in Switzerland. Lee would enroll in Miss Fisher’s Academy located in Wengen. His family would end up returning back to London, and Lee would attend Wagner’s private school. Afterwards, he would spend some time at Summer Fields School, and after being denied a scholarship for Eton, would wind up attending Wellington College.

It wasn’t until 1946 where Lee began his road to acting in films, when he signed a seven-year contract with the Rank Organisation, a British entertainment company. He would make his debut in the Gothic romance film Corridor of Mirrors, directed by Terrence Young, in 1947. He would also make uncredited appearances in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet in 1948 and John Huston’s Moulin Rouge in 1952. Lee would make his first film for Hammer in 1957, The Curse of Frankenstein, where he played Frankenstein’s Monster, while his close friend Peter Cushing would play the Baron. It was in 1958 where Lee would take on the character that would stick with him forver, when he played Dracula in a film of the same name for the same company. Peter Cushing would end up taking on the role of Doctor Van Helsing.

He would take on the role again in Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965. This particular performance is notable for the main reason that Lee has no lines and only hisses his way through the film. There are two sides of this story, the first being that Lee refused to speak the poor dialogue that he was given. The second being that screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims there were no lines for Dracula at all. Lee and Cushing would end up appearing in 8 Dracula films that were produced by Hammer Films (he did appear in another Dracula film, but it was not associated with Hammer).

Breaking away from the Dracula-ness of Lee’s life, he has appeared in so many more films. Lee would appear in three seperate Sherlock Holmes films, playing Sir Henry Baskerville in The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1959 (alongside Peter Cushing, who played Holmes), then playing Sherlock Holmes himself in the 1962 film Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and finally in the Billy Wilder directed film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in 1970.

It did seem like Hammer Films did own Lee’s life between the years of 1957 to 1977, as he would appear in numerous other films for them. But in 1973, he would appear in The Wicker Man, which he states is his personal favorite. Lee played the role of Lord Summerisle, and was so attracted to the role written by Anthony Shaffer, that he gave his services to the film for free. After this role, he completely left the horror genre for good. In 1974, Lee would end up becoming a James Bond villain, playing the role of assassin Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. By the end of the 1970’s, Lee had already appeared in 137 different films, and would only appear in more as time went on.

Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub

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