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Friday, June 12, 2015

Sir Christopher Lee...

Sir Christopher Lee, the towering deep-voiced actor who carved a niche in the mind of filmgoers starring in numerous British horror films but had opportunity to showcase his other talents later in his career died June 7 at the age of 93. Much has been written so far about Lee's contributions to the cinema. 

Here are some facts you might not know:

Some believe that Christopher Lee was destined to appear in scary movies given his birth date of May 27, 1922. Exactly eleven years earlier, another actor to become famous for working in the horror genre was born in America: Vincent Price.

The temperament for working in cinematic fright fests was developed in Lee during the Second World War. Fighting on the side of Finland as a teenager, serving in the Royal Air Force and participating in the Battle for Italy in 1944 provided the young Christopher with enough true horrors to last a lifetime. What was scary on film paled in comparison.

Lee's first film role was an unaccredited part as a spear carrier in Lawrence Oliver's Oscar winning version of "Hamlet" (1948). It was during that production that he met a lifelong friend in Peter Cushing who played Osric.  The pair would star together in many films for England's Hammer studios.

Lee had one of the longest film credit listings on the Internet Movie Database ( One movie he was once credited for appearing in was "The Longest Day" (1962) for which he was actually turned down in audition. Lee spent years denying any appearance in that epic film about D-Day in WW II France. 

Christopher Lee would play Count Dracula on film ten times. On three occasions each, he would play these other famed ficitional characters: Sherlock Holmes, the vindictive de Rochefort from Dumas' "The Three Musketeers," and Sax Rohmer's would-be world dominator Fu Manchu.

Of all the films he did appear in Christopher Lee said his finest work was done in 1973's "The Wicker Man." (to be found in Merrick Library's DVD collection) 

The cover of the 1973 Wings album "Band on the Run" includes some familiar faces: actor James Coburn and Christopher Lee!

Lee was a step-cousin of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. He narrowly missed playing the title role in "Dr. No" but won raves as the assassin Francisco Scaramanga in 1974's "The Man With The Golden Gun." (to be found in Merrick Library's DVD collection)

On March 25, 1978 Christopher Lee guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live" accompanied by musical guest Meat Loaf. An estimated 35 million viewers were delighted to watch Lee poke fun at his horror movie reputation, an emotion shared by cast members and later television critics. In the audience that night was director Stephen Spielberg who offered Lee a part in his film "1941."

Another acclaimed filmmaker, Tim Burton, was a longtime fan of Lee and utilized the actor in many productions. Lee provided the voice of the Jabberwocky in "Alice and Wonderland," and appeared in various forms in "The Corpse Bride," "Dark Shadows," and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." (all to be found in Merrick Library's DVD collection)

Christopher Lee also had the recurring role of Saruman in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and two of the three subsequent "Hobbit" films (all are among Merrick Library's DVDs).
Lee had the distinction of being the only member of the cast and crew of these creations to have met J.R.R. Tolkien.

Lee was knighted in 1999, and made a Commander of the British Empire two years later.

In addition to the films mentioned, Merrick Library is proud to have these other films displaying the versatility of Sir Christopher Lee:

Bitter Victory
Julius Caesar
Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (voice work)
Three Seconds

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