Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Underworld Mourns a Favorite

How horrible to recently find out that one of our favorite actors (and a member of our ever-diminishing Disaster Movie Club) had passed away. Sir Christopher Lee, veteran of 197 (!) films and many television appearances, died of heart failure on June 7th, 2015 at the age of ninety-three. His acting career came close to lasting seven full, busy decades. We pay tribute to him today with a brief photo essay.
Mr. Lee's career in the movies could have been an even longer one had it not been for his service during WWII (and after, helping to locate war criminals.) Upon his discharge in 1946, he opted to give acting a try, though he was immediately told by one prominent producer that he was "much too tall to be an actor!" Thankfully, the 6'5" twenty-five year-old used that as a driving factor in pursuing a career.
Christopher Lee toiled away in roles, large or small, with varying degrees of success when, in 1958, he assumed the role of the famed vampire Count Dracula in The Horror of Dracula, a role he would repeat many times over the span of many years and which became heavily identified with him. He always worked on a variety of roles, but villainy suited his tall, dark looks. 
One memorable role of his came with 1973's The Wicker Man, in which he was the mysterious leader of a society inhabiting an island where a murder may have occurred. On this occasion, he added singing to his resume.
As a member of the ensemble cast The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), Lee was one of the very first movie stars whose name I knew and recognized, thanks to the tie-in book that listed the cast along with their photos on the cover. His work as the charismatic baddie Rochefort, while limited in size, was perfectly tuned, with he and Faye Dunaway forming a deliciously nasty couple. This set of films (meant to be one, but split in two) is at the top of my all-time favorites.
Though we rarely post about it, we also love James Bond movies and in 1974, Lee portrayed the title character in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Another major-league favorite film of mine is Airport '77 (1977), in which Lee played against type as a soft-spoken, cuckolded oceanographer married to the booze-drenched harpy Lee Grant. They never married in real life or her name might have wound up Lee Lee! Ha! (As it was, Christopher Lee wed once, in 1961, to a woman who was his wife up until his death fifty-four years later.) Lee proceeded to work right up until the end, finding new life in a variety of in both the recent Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series, as well as many other projects. He'll continue to be seen onscreen through next year!
A true gentleman and, in many ways, a hero. We mourn the loss of Sir Christopher Lee and are especially saddened by the fact that he never got his due from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (We don't even want to think about some of the people who DO have an Oscar at home while he didn't...) He did, however, receive a BAFTA Fellowship in 2011 and a plethora of other international awards for his incredible body of work over the years. Farewell, friend!

6 comments:

angelman66 said...

Wonderful tribute to a great, great star! I always thought Sir Christopher was the sexiest Dracula of all...he really was strikingly handsome...and Wicker Man is a masterpiece.

Armando Kotch said...

He gave wonderful performances and was always fun to watch. He was hilarious as the Nazi officer in 1941. Rest in Peace.
Wonderful tribute.

joel65913 said...

A nice tribute. The horror films that were his bread and butter for many years aren't really my kind of films but of course I knew him and remember him fondly for being able to endure Lee Grant's virago in Airport '77. 93 years in apparently good health is quite a run.

Gingerguy said...

Oh what a nice tribute! I grew to love him because he scared me as a kid, but as an adult I can appreciate the talent. What a great voice too, I read his obit in the NYT and it listed his love of singing, now I am curious. He should have covered "The Monster Mash" (I can dream can't I?) I think one of my favorite movies of his was released as "Horror Hotel" from the early 60's. Black and white and super fun. Tim Burton obviously loved him too. Thanks Poseidon.

Gingerguy said...

And almost forgot his uptight corporate CEO/gay biker dude in leather drag in "Serial"! I can still hear him say "Show me"

Poseidon3 said...

Happy to see some love out there for Mr. Lee! Several of the roles y'all have mentioned are ones I've yet to see. Something to look forward to, though he made so many movies I'm sure I'll never see every one of them. Thank you, everyone! (BTW, Gingerguy... it sounds like I really need to see "Serial!")