Christopher Lee

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Christopher Lee at the Berlinale 2013

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee , CBE , CStJ , (born May 27, 1922 in London , † June 7, 2015 in London ) was a British actor and singer who achieved cult status for his portrayals of villains . His best-known roles included the title character in Dracula (1958) and ten other vampire films, Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Saruman in The Lord of the Rings (2001–2003) and The Hobbit (2012–2014) and Count Dooku in Star Wars (2002, 2005). He also appeared in five films by Tim Burton , including Dark Shadows (2012). Most recently he was seen in the finale of the trilogy The Hobbit . Lee was unable to accept an Oscar despite his iconic roles.

Lee described the portrayal of the politician Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the 1998 film Jinnah as his most important work ; he also named the film as his best acting performance. Since 1946 he had appeared in over 280 films and is therefore in the Guinness Book of Records as an actor with the most credits , i.e. the film roles mentioned in the opening and closing credits .

In addition to acting, Lee was also active as a singer. Between 1986 and 1998 he took part in studio recordings of various operas and musicals and released the symphonic metal album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross in 2010 , after having worked with bands such as Rhapsody of Fire and Manowar since 2005 .


Lee's father, Geoffrey Trollope Lee (1879–1941), was an officer in the British Army and a participant in the First World War and the Boer War . Through his mother, Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, Lee came from the old noble noble family Carandini, who can allegedly be traced back to Charlemagne . For this reason, Lee named his own film company Charlemagne in the 1970s, after the English and French names of Charlemagne. His great-grandmother was the opera singer Marie Carandini . From his parents' divorced marriage in 1929, Lee's sister Xandra (1917-2002) also came. He was the uncle of the actress Harriet Walter .

During the Second World War , Lee served in the Royal Air Force and the special intelligence unit SOE ; his rank at the end of the war was flight lieutenant , comparable to a captain . He has been making films since 1947. He was committed to UNICEF .

Christopher Lee spoke many languages. He had learned some of them self-taught: In an interview he explained that he only knew German because he had acted and sang in German from time to time; Above all, however, his personal love for Richard Wagner's music is responsible for his intensive engagement with the German language. He also spoke English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili and three Urdu dialects.

Lee was married to the former Danish model Birgit Kroencke (born April 20, 1935) since 1961. Their daughter Christina was born on November 23, 1963. He last lived in London, where he died on June 7, 2015 at the age of 93 in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital of heart and lung failure. Sir Christopher Lee was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Surrey Hills , England.

Lee as a film actor

Lee had his first role in Corridors of Mirrors (1947) , other films at the beginning of his career included Scott's Last Voyage (Scott of the Antarctic, 1948) , Panzerschiff Graf Spee (The Battle of the River Plate, 1956) and Moulin Rouge (1953). He was also seen in some German Edgar Wallace films from the 1960s. Here he played police officers several times, because he wanted to be installed as a hero figure because of his height of 1.96 meters. He even plays the leading role in The Riddle of the Red Orchid .

Lee became world famous for his portrayal of Count Dracula in the horror film of the same name by Terence Fisher in 1958. Lee also played in numerous other horror films by Fisher and other house directors of Hammer Film Productions , including Frankenstein's Curse (The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957) , Hound of the Baskervilles (the Hound of the Baskervilles, 1959) and revenge of the Pharaohs (the Mummy, 1959) . The popularity of the films, according to Eric Nuzum in an interview with the Tagesspiegel about the publication of his vampire book The Dead Travel Fast , is due to the "reminiscence of the Cold War ". In a "time of fear" Lee plays a "motivated, frightening monster" that acts "as a catalyst " for "deeply evil superpowers".

Christopher Lee while filming The Heavy , 2007

Until 1973, Lee played the role of Dracula seven times for Hammer Productions and an eighth time in Night When Dracula Wakes Up , a Spanish-German version directed by Jess Franco . Lee's portrayal of vampires in the French comedy film The Lords Dracula, however, according to his own statements, had nothing to do with the Dracula character. In the film, he is only called "Le baron", but not "Dracula".

Concerned that he would only be defined by the role as Dracula, Lee refused from the mid- 1970s to participate in further Dracula adaptations, and generally refrained from the horror genre. In an interview in 1989 he said:

“Yes, Dracula was the role that made me famous, and I am grateful for that. But that was thirty years ago and I still work in film and all kinds of films. I don't like drawers. In the last year I made five films (including not a single horror film, note) - where is the image now: Disappeared? It would be gone if you accepted the facts. But this is a problem for the press, not the public. But the public believes what the press writes, even if that is not true. "

- C. Lee in conversation with Gerd J. Pohl on February 10, 1989 in Duisburg

In the 1960s, Lee worked with his own voice in the two German-language Edgar Wallace films The Riddle of the Red Orchid (1961/1962) and The Secret of the Yellow Daffodils (1961) as well as its English version The Devil's Daffodil . The British film The Riddle of the Silver Triangle (Circus Of Fear) was also marketed in Germany as an Edgar Wallace film.

Lee was also seen between 1965 and 1969 in the Sax-Rohmer films I, Dr. Fu Man Chu , The 13 Slaves of Dr. Fu Man Chu , The Revenge of Dr. Fu Man Chu , The Kiss of Death of Dr. Fu Man Chu and The Torture Chamber of Dr. Fu Man Chu , in which he always played the title role.

In 1974 he played Francisco Scaramanga, the man with the golden gun , in the film of the same name as an opponent of James Bond ( Roger Moore ). James Bond inventor Ian Fleming initially had Lee for the roles of Dr. No or even James Bond suggested to the producers. In 1976 he was given the role of Dr. Sam Loomis offered in Halloween . He turned it down, and so Donald Pleasence got the role. He called this decision his biggest mistake.

Lee at the Berlinale 2012

In many of his films, Lee starred alongside his very good friend Peter Cushing , in three with Vincent Price . In 1982 this trio starred with John Carradine in the horror comedy The House of Long Shadows . In 1991 he hosted the German show Wahre Wunder on Sat.1 together with Sabrina Fox . In 1995 he played the role of Pharaoh Ramses II in the film The Bible - Moses - part of the complete film adaptation of the Bible produced by the Kirch Group , about which he expressed himself very positively.

After the turn of the millennium, he was seen in the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as the magician Saruman. In the third part, it was decided during editing to delete Lee's scenes. These can be seen in the Extended Edition , which is only available on DVD, VHS and Blu-ray Disc. According to his own statements, he considered participating in this film version to be a great honor, as he was a big fan of The Lord of the Rings himself . Lee was the only one of the cast who had known JRR Tolkien personally (Lee had met him in an Oxford pub). He also played in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clone Warriors villain Count Dooku, one of the main characters. Lee also played the character in the sequel Revenge of the Sith . After several supporting roles in various cinema and television films, he celebrated his comeback as a hammer actor in 2010 with the film The Resident . In the three-part film adaptation of the Tolkien novel The Hobbit , he played the role of Saruman again. Originally intended for the lead role, Lee only played a guest role in 2011 due to injury in The Wicker Tree , a spin-off from The Wicker Man .

Lee as a musician

Lee accepts the Spirit of Metal Award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden God Awards

In addition to acting, Christopher Lee was also temporarily active musically. He enjoyed training as an opera singer and sang in various opera houses before becoming an actor. In 1973 he performed the ballad The Tinker of Rye in The Wicker Man with Diane Cilento . Remarkable for its employees as narrator and singer in the rock - musical The King of Elfland's Daughter based on the novel by Lord Dunsany , which is published as LP 1977 production and now also available on CD. In the film Captain Invincible he sings the titles Name Your Poison and (together with Alan Arkin ) Mr. Midnight , which were released as a single in Germany. Lee demonstrated vocal versatility in 1986 when recording The Soldier's Tale by Igor Stravinsky and Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz for Nimbus Records, where he acted as narrator, soldier and devil. For Nimbus he recorded Sergei Sergejewitsch Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf as narrator in 1989 under the direction of Yehudi Menuhin . With the singer Kathy Joe Daylor he played the single Little Witch , composed and produced by Ralph Siegel , in the same year , but it was a flop. His CD Christopher Lee sings Devils, Rogues & other Villains from 1996 with songs by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Richard Wagner , Stephen Sondheim and many more was also not overly successful . In 1994 Lee recorded the first complete version of the musical The King and I with opera singer Valerie Masterson and the National Symphony Orchestra ; around the same time he also took on the role of "criminologist" on a CD recording of the Rocky Horror Show .

More recently, Lee has returned to music. He worked mainly as a narrator, on several albums of symphonic - power metal band Rhapsody of Fire with so The Dark Secret ( EP , 2004) and Symphony of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret (also 2004). The single The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (2005) features multilingual versions of the song of the same name, in which Lee can also be heard as a singer. In the course of this collaboration, Lee and the band were planning a joint appearance at the Earthshaker Festival 2005. Lee was supposed to do a gig there with the band Manowar . However, due to a shooting date, he had to cancel these appearances at short notice. He was originally supposed to take over a spoken text passage in Manowar's song Defender (1983), which was recorded by Orson Welles at the time. On the 2006 album Triumph or Agony by Rhapsody of Fire Lee could be heard again as a speaker.

On the double CD Edgar Allan Poe - Visionen , released in Germany in 2006 , Lee not only sings Poe's poems Ein Traum in einer Traume / A Dream Within a Dream and The Raven , but also sings the composition Elenore . Lee also worked with the Tolkien Ensemble . This stages the poems of JRR Tolkien both vocally and musically. The complete version was published under the name The Lord of the Rings - The Complete Songs & Poems , in which he sings Ent Treebeard and also recites the poems that have not been set to music. On March 15, 2010 Christopher Lee published Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, his first own work in the field of metal. The concept album about the life of Charlemagne included two bands , a 100-man orchestra and various guest musicians. At the Metal Hammer Golden God Awards 2010 it was honored with the "Spirit of Metal" Award , which was presented to Lee by Tony Iommi .

In the album The Frozen Tears of Angels by Rhapsody of Fire, released on April 30, 2010, Lee is again represented as the narrator, as is the EP The Cold Embrace of Fear , released in October . For Battle Hymns MMXI , the new recording of the Manowar album Battle Hymns from 1982 released on December 3, 2010, Christopher Lee took over the text passages originally spoken by Orson Welles in the song Dark Avenger . In 2011 he was again involved in the Rhapsody of Fire album From Chaos to Eternity .

On his 90th birthday on May 27, 2012, Christopher Lee announced in Forbes Magazine the release of his new single Let legend Mark Me as the King , which he claims is "100% Heavy Metal ". The accompanying album Charlemagne: The Omens of Death should correspond to the same music style and appear in 2013. This makes Lee the oldest heavy metal singer in history. A music video for the song The Bloody Verdict of Verden was released for promotional purposes in May 2012. In December 2012 Lee released the EP A Heavy Metal Christmas with heavy metal covers of the classic Christmas carols Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night . Charlemagne: The Omens of Death was released on Lee's 91st birthday on May 27, 2013.

In 2013 Lee released the EP A Heavy Metal Christmas Too , with metal versions of Jingle Bells (under the title Jingle Hell ) and the Frank Sinatra song My Way . The first song reached number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 Sales Charts (download charts) in the week of December 26, 2013 , making Lee the oldest living artist to ever be on the charts at the age of 91 years and 6 months. The following week the song even reached number 18. On his 92nd birthday on May 27, 2014 Lee released another EP under the title Metal Knight .


  • In various biographical articles it can be read that the Hungarian Dracula actor Bela Lugosi bequeathed the Dracula ring to Christopher Lee shortly before his death in 1956 in order to designate him as his successor. This is apparently an invention of the Hammer Corp., because by that time Lugosi had long been forgotten, while Lee had not yet appeared as the future horror film star of the film company. In fact, the ring was owned by the Los Angeles collector Forrest J. Ackerman . According to Lee, he had never seen the Hungarian in film before when he was offered the role of the Transylvanian Count.
  • On June 17, 1939, he was an eyewitness to the guillotine execution of Eugen Weidmann , the last public guillotine execution in France. Lee was visiting a friend in Paris at the time, and they were both driving to Versailles when they learned of the public execution.
  • When he applied for a role in the war film The Longest Day , he was turned down on the grounds that the RAF and SOE veteran looked “not soldier enough”.
  • On March 31, 1993, the British press published obituaries for the allegedly deceased actor - more than 22 years before his death.
  • Christopher Lee had a close friendship with some of his "horror film colleagues", especially Peter Cushing (with whom he made over 20 films), Vincent Price and Ferdy Mayne . He lived house to house in London with Boris Karloff and Ray Harryhausen in the 1960s.
  • On June 13, 2009, he was raised to the rank of Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II and was now allowed to call himself "Sir Christopher Lee". He received the accolade at an investiture on October 30, 2009 in Buckingham Palace by the Prince of Wales .
  • Christopher Lee played the peaceful alien Captain Zantor in episode 5 of the TV series Moon Base Alpha 1 . Although this character only appeared in a single episode, it became very popular. There is even a comic adaptation of this episode (published in Germany in ZACK 20/1977) and two different action figures from different manufacturers: One figure appeared in 1975 by Palitoy, Bradgate Division and another action figure in February 2005 by Figures Toy Company. There is also a crossover fan film with the title Battlestar 1999 on various online video portals , which continues the plot of the popular episode. Lee's popular appearance is also parodied in the fan film UFO: 2099 - The Movie , where “Z-Man” Captain Zantor introduces himself as Christopher Lee (!).


Numerous German voice actors lent the actor their voices. Herbert Weicker and later Otto Mellies did this particularly often . Other speakers of his are Arnold Marquis , Gert Günther Hoffmann , Harry Wüstenhagen , Heinz Petruo , Heinz Drache and Klaus Sonnenschein . He himself spoke in the original, among other things, the character of DiZ in the video game series Kingdom Hearts and Lucan d'Lere in the MMORPG EverQuest II as well as the characters of King Haggard, to whom he gave both the English and the German voice, in the cartoon The last unicorn and the gods Thor and Odin in the German version of the Danish comic book adaptation Walhalla . He also spoke "Death" in the Terry Pratchett films Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters .

Filmography (selection)

Audio books




  • 2012: A Heavy Metal Christmas
  • 2013: A Heavy Metal Christmas Too
  • 2014: Metal Knight


  • 1984: Captain Invincible - Name Your Poison / Mr. Evil Midnight
  • 2012: Let Legend Mark Me as the King
  • 2014: Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing

As a guest musician / speaker

  • 1973: Wicker Man soundtrack
  • 1974: Hammer Presents "Dracula" With Christopher Lee
  • 1986: The Soldier's Tale (Nimbus Records)
  • 1989: Peter and the Wolf (Nimbus Records)
  • 1995: Annie Get Your Gun (JAY Records)
  • 1995: The Rocky Horror Show (JAY Records)
  • 1998: The King and I (JAY Records)
  • 2002: Musicality of Lerner and Loewe (JAY Records)
  • 2003: Tolkien Ensemble & Christopher Lee - The Lord of the Rings
  • 2004: Rhapsody of Fire - Symphony of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret
  • 2004: Rhapsody of Fire feat. Christopher Lee - The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (Single)
  • 2006: Rhapsody of Fire - Triumph or Agony
  • 2010: Rhapsody of Fire - The Frozen Tears of Angels
  • 2010: Rhapsody of Fire - The Cold Embrace of Fear - A Dark Romantic Symphony (EP)
  • 2010: Manowar - Battle Hymns MMXI
  • 2011: Rhapsody of Fire - From Chaos to Eternity


  • Christopher Lee: Tall, Dark and Gruesome. To Autobiography. Allen, London 1977, ISBN 0-491-01968-8 (2nd expanded edition 1997).
  • Christopher Lee: Lord of Misrule. The Autobiography of Christopher Lee. Orion, London 2003, ISBN 0-7528-5770-3 .
  • Tom Johnson, Mark A. Miller: Christopher Lee. His films. Weber, Landshut 2009, ISBN 978-3-9809390-7-2 .
  • Robert W. Pohle, Douglas C. Hart, Christopher Lee: The Films of Christopher Lee. Scarecrow Press, Metuchen 1983, ISBN 0-8108-1573-7 .
  • Jonathan Rigby: Christopher Lee. The Authorized Screen History. Reynolds & Hearn, London 2001, ISBN 1-903111-11-0 .


Web links

Commons : Christopher Lee  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b
  2. Christopher Lee releases real metal album: cult actor now relies on guitars. In: Metal Hammer . Retrieved August 30, 2013 .
  3. Christopher Lee talks about his favorite role , in press conference at Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 21 March 2002 (YouTube video)
  4. British actors in Guinness records . In: . Retrieved April 13, 2012. "London-born Lee, who has been made a CBE, was listed in the 2001 record book as the star with the most screen appearances to his name - after playing about 300 film and TV roles." 
  5. ↑ Audio commentary by Roger Moore on The Man with the Golden Gun , 36 min. (50th anniversary edition): German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Swahili and three Urdu dialects; there is no mention of Danish or Greek.
  6. Benjamin Lee: Christopher Lee dies at the age of 93. In: The Guardian , June 11, 2015 (English, accessed June 11, 2015).
  7. Jessica Braun : Pretty dogged . In: Der Tagesspiegel , p. 87, December 14, 2008.
  8. Interview with Weltbild magazine, 1996
  9. Sir Christopher Lee on The Lord of the Rings trilogy Cinefantastique , June 14, 2010
  10. Christopher Lee: Christopher Lee 2011 Christmas Message Part 1 . December 27, 2011. Retrieved April 11, 2012: “The first one that I can think of is The Wicker Tree , in which I make a very brief appearance. I must emphasize this is not a sequel to The Wicker Man . In no way. And I do not play an older Summerisle, or his son, or whatever. "
  11. ^ A b Corinna Stegemann, Max Lampin: "Wagner is the greatest!" . In: the daily newspaper , September 3, 2005.
  12. ^ Charlemagne Productions . Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  13. Lydsey Gates: Results in From Metal Hammer's Golden Gods . SoudSphere. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  14. ^ John Farrell: Christopher Lee Celebrates 90th Birthday By Recording Heavy Metal . Forbes . May 28, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
  15. Christopher Lee, "The Bloody Verdict of Verden" Music Video . YouTube , 6-8-2012
  16. .
  17. Placement of "Jingle Hell". Billboard, accessed May 31, 2014 .
  18. Christopher Lee: Lord of Misrule. The Autobiography of Christopher Lee. Orion, London 2003, ISBN 0-7528-5770-3 .
  19. ^ London Gazette  (Supplement). No. 59090, HMSO, London, June 13, 2009, p. 1 ( PDF , accessed August 1, 2009, English).
  20. ^ Website of the British Royal Family , accessed on November 17, 2009.
  21. EMI NTS 186 UK / Capitol ST-11340 USA, 1974.
  22. ^ The Soldier's Tale , Nimbus Records, 1986 .
  23. ^ Peter and the Wolf , Nimbus Records, 1989 .
  24. Annie Get Your Gun , JAY Records, 1995 ( Memento December 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  25. ^ The Rocky Horror Show , JAY Records, 1995 ( Memento of December 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  26. ^ The King and I , JAY Records, 1998 ( September 20, 2008 memento in the Internet Archive ).
  27. Musicality of Lerner and Loewe , JAY Records, 2002 ( Memento from December 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  28. HM The Queen's 2009 Birthday Honors List. June 13, 2009. Retrieved July 15, 2009 .