One of London’s most beloved sons, screen icon Christopher Lee has died at the venerable age of 93. Best recognised as the gaunt face of British horror thanks to ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957), ‘Dracula’ (1958), ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973) and many, many others, the 6’5” Lee was a towering, stately presence filled with gentlemanly charm, piercing intelligence and sly, aristocratic sex appeal (his Dracula was quite the pin-up in his day). His career may have waned in the 1970s and ’80s, but he made a spectacular return in the new century with appearances in the two major film franchises of the time – as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films, and as Count Dooku in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels – and also forged an unexpected but rather wonderful second career as a heavy metal artist.
Looking back through Lee’s extraordinary, storied life, several appropriately unusual facts emerge: he was fluent in five languages, and could speak conversational Mandarin (handy for playing Fu Manchu); he was briefly engaged to the daughter of a Count, and had to get the blessing of the King of Sweden in order to marry her (he ended up calling it off, and fair enough); he was a lifelong Tory, and a particular fan of the vampiric Michael Howard; his output as a heavy metal artist included several Christmas singles and two concept albums about Charlemagne. Oh, and he was a terrific dresser, a magnificent, unforgettable actor and – by all accounts – a thoroughly decent chap. He will be missed.