Sir Christopher Lee CBE
(1922 - )
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Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born on the 27th of May, 1922. His father, Jeffrey Lee, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps and had been decorated for gallantry in both the Boer and Great War. He was also one of England's most respected amateur sportsmen - he had certainly made a name for himself. Christopher's mother, on the other hand, had at birth been given a name to live up to. Her full title being the Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, she was a noted Edwardian beauty, painted and sculpted by many of the great artists of the age.

During his attendance at Wellington College he became a natural at languages, eventually becoming fluent in French, Italian, Spanish and German, while "getting along" in Swedish, Russian and Greek. He was also something of a classical scholar, delving into all things Greek and Roman. Lee then worked as an office clerk in a couple of London shipping companies.

War broke out and Lee spent the next five years working for the RAF and British Intelligence. He reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant and was decorated for his distinguished service. Of note was the fact that he volunteered for active service during the winter war in Finland from 1939-40. Following his release from military service, Lee joined the Rank Organisation in 1947.

In Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), in which Cushing plays the minor role of Osric, Lee appears as the cadaverous candle-bearer in the "freighted with false fires" scene, one of his first film roles. After several years in secondary film roles, the skeletal, menacing Christopher Lee achieved horror-flick stardom as 'the Monster' in the 1957 version of Frankenstein, the second of his 21 Hammer Studios films. he success of the Frankenstein film led to Lee being cast in the role that made his name, the vampire in Hammer's Dracula (1958).

The film offered a more explicitly sexual version of vampirism than had earlier versions, and Lee's brooding performance was a vital contribution to its worldwide success. It was a watershed in terms of what horror films were to become. If you were born in the forties it’s likely that you were simply terrified by the film in a cinema somewhere in the world. Wary of type­casting Lee refused to play Dracula again for several years and instead appeared in character roles until his vampiric come­back in Dracula Prince of Darkness (1965). It would remain the favourite of Lee's Dracula films; the actor later noted that he was grateful to be allowed to convey

‘the sadness of the character. The terrible sentence, the doom of immortality...’.

Lee has distanced himself from the Dracula roles in the last couple of decades (although he can stand proudly over at least three of the films). When asked in the 80’s would he reprise the character again – he said that he would consider it if the circumstances were right. He was perhaps hinting that if Peter Cushing played Van Helsing again he would a reprise…it was not to happen. The two had been close friends for almost 30 years at that point.





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