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Christopher Lee (1922)

Christopher Frank Carandini Lee

Type :  

  Summary  

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ is an English actor and musician. Lee initially portrayed villains and became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a string of Hammer Horror films. Other notable roles include Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun , Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003), and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy . Lee considers his most important role to have been his portrayal of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the biopic Jinnah . He is well known for his deep, strong voice and imposing height.

Lee has performed roles in 275 films since 1947 making him the Guinness book world record holder for most film acting roles ever. He was knighted in 2009 and received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011.

  Biography  

 early life
Lee was born in Belgravia, Westminster, as the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee, of the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps, and his wife, Contessa Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano). Lee's mother was a famous Edwardian beauty who was painted by Sir John Lavery as well as by Oswald Birley and Olive Snell, and sculpted by Clare F. Sheridan. Lee's maternal great-grandfather was an Italian political refugee, and his great-grandmother was English-born Australian singer Marie Carandini.

His parents separated when he was very young, and his mother took him and his sister to Switzerland. After enrolling in Miss Fisher's Academy in Wengen, he played his first villainous role as Rumpelstiltskin. The family returned to London, where Lee attended Wagner's private school. His mother then married Harcourt "Ingle" Rose, a banker and stepcousin of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels. Lee spent some time at Summer Fields School, a preparatory school in Oxford . Lee applied unsuccessfully for a scholarship to Eton although the interview was to prove portentous because of the presence of the noted ghost story author M. R. James. Lee later claimed in his autobiography that James had cut a very impressive figure. Sixty years later Lee played the part of M.R. James for the BBC.

Instead, Lee attended Wellington College, where he won scholarships in classics.

 early career
In 1946, Lee gained a seven-year contract with the Rank Organisation after discussing his interest in acting with his mother's second cousin Nicolò Carandini, the Italian Ambassador. Carandini related to Lee that performance was in his blood, as his great-grandmother Marie Carandini had been a successful opera singer, a fact of which Lee was unaware. He made his film debut in Terence Young's Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors in 1947.

Also in 1947, Lee made an uncredited appearance in Laurence Olivier's film version of Hamlet as a spear carrier (marking his first film with frequent co-star and close friend Peter Cushing, who played Osric). Throughout the next decade, he made nearly 30 films, playing mostly stock action characters.

Lee's first film for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein , in which he played Frankenstein's monster, with Cushing as the Baron. A little later, Lee co-starred with Boris Karloff in the film Corridors of Blood , but Lee's own appearance as Frankenstein's monster led to his first appearance as the Transylvanian vampire in the 1958 film Dracula .

Stories vary as to why Lee did not feature in the 1960 sequel The Brides of Dracula. Some state that Hammer was unwilling to pay Lee his current fee, but most tend to believe that he simply did not wish to be typecast. Lee did, however, return to the role in Hammer's Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965. Lee's performance is notable in that he has no lines, merely hissing his way through the film. Again, stories vary as to the reason for this: Lee states he refused to speak the poor dialogue he was given, but screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims that the script did not contain any lines for the character. This film set the standard for most of the Dracula sequels in the sense that half the film's running time was spent on telling the story of Dracula's resurrection and the character's appearances were brief. Lee has gone on record to state that he was virtually "blackmailed" by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films; unable or unwilling to pay him his going rate, they would resort to reminding him of how many people he would put out of work if he did not take part.

His roles in the films Dracula Has Risen from the Grave , Taste the Blood of Dracula , and Scars of Dracula all gave the Count very little to do, but were all commercially successful. Although Lee may not have liked what Hammer was doing with the character, worldwide audiences embraced the films, which are now considered classics of the genre. Lee starred in two further Dracula films for Hammer in the early 1970s, both of which attempted to bring the character into the modern-day era. These were not commercially successful.

Lee's other work for Hammer included The Mummy . Lee portrayed Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk (Lee apparently met Rasputin's assassin Felix Yussupov when he was a child) and Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing's Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles . Lee later played Holmes himself in 1962's Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and returned to Holmes films with Billy Wilder's British-made The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes , in which he plays Sherlock's smarter brother, Mycroft. Lee played a leading role in the German film The Puzzle of the Red Orchid , speaking German, which he had learned during his education in Switzerland.

He was responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Dennis Wheatley to Hammer. The company made two films from Wheatley's novels, both starring Lee. The first, The Devil Rides Out , is generally considered to be one of Hammer's crowning achievements. According to Lee, Wheatley was so pleased with it that he offered the actor the film rights to his remaining black magic novels free of charge. However, the second film, To the Devil a Daughter , was fraught with production difficulties and was disowned by its author. Although financially successful, it was Hammer's last horror film and marked the end of Lee's long association with the studio that brought him fame.

Like Cushing, Lee also appeared in horror films for other companies during the 20-year period from 1957 to 1977. Other films in which Lee performed include the series of Fu Manchu films made between 1965 and 1969, in which he starred as the villain in heavy oriental make-up; I, Monster , in which he played Jekyll and Hyde; The Creeping Flesh ; and his personal favourite, The Wicker Man , in which he played Lord Summerisle. Lee was attracted to the latter role by screenwriter Anthony Shaffer and apparently gave his services for free, as the budget was so small. Lee appeared in Eugenie , unaware that it was softcore pornography, as the sex scenes were shot separately. In addition to doing films in the UK, Lee did movies in Mainland Europe: he appeared in two German films, Count Dracula, where he again played the vampire count, and The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism. Other films in Europe he made include Castle of the Living Dead and Horror Express.

 personal life
The Carandinis, Lee's maternal ancestors, were given the right to bear the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Cinemareview cites: "Cardinal Consalvi was Papal Secretary of State at the time of Napoleon and is buried at the Pantheon in Rome next to the painter Raphael. His painting, by Lawrence, hangs in Windsor Castle".

Lee is a step-cousin of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels.

He has been married to the Danish model Birgit "Gitte" Kroencke Lee since 1961. They have a daughter named Christina Erika Carandini Lee. He is the uncle of the British actress Dame Harriet Walter.

Contrary to popular belief, Lee does not have a vast library of occult books. When giving a speech at the University College Dublin on 8 November 2011 he said: "Somebody wrote I have 20,000 books. I'd have to live in a bath! I have maybe four or five."

Lee is a supporter of the British Conservative Party.

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  Albums 

  Tracks  

Name Duration Released
The Age of Oneness Out of Diversity 06:07 15/03/2010
The Bloody Verdict of Verden 06:16 15/03/2010
The Iron Crown of Lombardy 08:12 15/03/2010
King of the Franks 07:14 15/03/2010
Intro 01:34 15/03/2010
Overture 02:53 15/03/2010
Iberia 05:10 15/03/2010
Finale 03:57 15/03/2010
Carmencita - Quiero y no quiero querer 04:06 10/2006
The Little Drummer Boy 03:02 10/2006
I, Don Quixote - Man of la Mancha 03:42 10/2006
Toreador March - Heavy Metal Mix 04:39 10/2006
The Impossible Dream - The Quest 03:28 10/2006
Name Your Poison 03:48 10/2006
Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' 02:58 10/2006
Wanderin' Star 03:44 10/2006
High Noon 02:23 10/2006
O Sole Mio - It's Now or Never 03:51 10/2006
My Way 04:34 10/2006
The Toreador March - Flamenco Mix 05:21 10/2006
Silent Night 02:59 10/2006

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Christopher Lee", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.