Friday, June 12, 2009

Christopher Lee is Now Sir Christopher Lee

In Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday honours today, Christopher Lee, best known for his roles as Dracula in the classic Hammer films and as Lord Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, was named a Knight of the British Empire. Sir Christopher Lee is 87 years old.

The honour was a long time coming for Christopher Lee, whose career spans over sixty years. Lee made his film debut in the movie Corridor of Mirrors in 1948. He appeared in small roles in various action movies for the next decade, showing up as a Spanish captain in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N., Georges Seurat in Moulin Rouge (1952), and a French Patrol Captain in The Dark Avenger. It was in 1957 that he appeared in his first Hammer film, starring as the Creature in Curse of Frankenstein. It would be his next Hammer film, however, which would turn him into a star. In 1958 he starred as Dracula in the Hammer movie of the same name. He would play Dracula for Hammer films several more times, in addition to playing the title role in their version of The Mummy, Dr. Pierre Gerard in The Man Who Could Cheat Death, and Duc de Richleau in The Devil Rides Out.

Throughout the Sixties and early Seventies he continued to appear in movies made by other studios than Hammer Films, including The Hands of Orlac, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, The Creeping Flesh, and, what may be his most famous movie besides Dracula, The Three Musketeers, The Wicker Man. He starred as Fu Manchu in a series of films produced by Harry Alan Towers made in the Sixties. The Seventies found Lee also playing the villain Francisco Scaramanga in James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. From the late Seventies in the Nineties, Lee appeared in such films as Circle of Iron, 1941, The Salamander, The Return of the Musketeers, and Sleepy Hollow. He appeared as Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and as Sauron in The Lord of the Rings films. He set to reunite with Hammer Films in their movie The Resident, slated for release next year.

Not only do I think Christopher Lee fully deserves knighthood, but, quite frankly, I think he should have been dubbed "Sir Christopher Lee" long ago. The man went beyond acting legend long ago to become an icon of the horror and fantasy film genres. While Bela Lugosi may have been the first to play the role in a talking picture, it was Christopher Lee who is the quintessential Dracula for many. Lee's Dracula was not only frightening, but for the first time in film history sexually provocative as well. Lee went beyond playing Dracula to play other great roles as well, not the least of which was Lord Summersisle in The Wicker Man. Indeed, Guinness World Records names Christopher Lee as the actor with the most screen appearances to his name, over 300. Not only is it doubtful than any actor will ever match Lee's Dracula on screen, but it is doubtful that any actor will match his career. At 87 years old, he is still acting and going strong.

1 comment:

Toby O'B said...

God bless him! I hope he has many more years in which to enjoy the title. But you're right - he should have been honored years ago.

My favorite Lee performance was a sketch he did on 'Saturday Night Live', in which he played Death. He visited a little girl to console her after the death of her dog Tippy, and when she pestered him about when she would die, he finally snapped and said, "I'll visit you on your 17th birthday!" I think Laraine Newman played the little girl.