June 14, 2015

LEGACY: Christopher Lee

MAY 27, 1922 – JUNE 7, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: To ensure the integrity of this posthumous tribute, sponsored content and retail links are not included in our “Legacy” posts. We encourage you to discover and enjoy the work of this talented artist by conducting an online search for any of the titles cited.
In a world where words like “icon” and “legend” are overused and often misapplied, both superlatives only begin to convey the full scope of Christopher Lee’s cinematic legacy. Less that ten years after his big screen debut (CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS, 1948) Lee became the face of a gothic horror revival. He breathed new life into the genre with a revisionist take on classic movie monsters like Dracula and The Mummy. It’s an approach born of both raw talent and an actor’s desperation. Though casting Lee would give any film a shot of artistic gravitas, these gaudy and gory potboilers were typically low-budget second features with shaky production values and dime store dialogue. Luckily, Lee had great instincts. When the script would fail him, he could regroup on the fly and figure out a way to make the scene work.

Whether in full monster drag or looking like his everyday self, Lee’s long, angular face and intense, focused gaze made him particularly effective as the villain…with a twist. He wasn’t unattractive or physically grotesque but, Lee did give off a distinctively unsettling vibe that was both seductive and menacing. This strange convergence of allure and alarm would serve him well throughout his career. Lee didn’t just play a boat load of baddies, he re-wrote the evildoers handbook.

Christopher Lee died last week at the age of 93. While many actors burn bright then quickly fade or become collateral damage after a string of box-office bombs, Lee never stopped working. He  leaves us with an impressive body of work that spans almost 70 years and includes more than 200 film roles and countless television appearances.

Celebrate the life and career of Christopher Lee with our interactive photo feature. Included are career highlights, a few hiccups and his own personal favorites. Immediately following, you can hear from the man himself in a 1990 NPR radio interview.