Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christopher Lee 1922-2015

It was very sad to find out this morning that Sir Christopher Lee, my favorite actor, has died. I knew he couldn't live forever. I've just never been entirely okay with that.

My love for Christopher Lee goes back to when I was six years old and went to see The Last Unicorn with my Mom and sister. That was one of those great movies that scared me as much as it delighted me, so it shocked its way into my consciousness for the rest of my life (and it's been one of my favorite movies ever since). I was afraid of the Harpy and the Red Bull, yes, but I was fascinated by old King Haggard. Being so young, and it being an animated movie, I didn't realize for some time that the mellifluous voice acting those self-interested, sad lines in such a wistful way was Lee's. But that's where he made his first impression.

Over the years, I didn't really see him in much, except for his wonderfully mad turn in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, another of my all time favorites. I honestly think the only movies I saw him in when I entered my Film Buff Phase in high school were The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and 1941. I didn't ever see any Hammer movies until I was about 20 and Becca and I just started seeing as many of them as we could. I loved him immediately, particularly in The Mummy, and from there I just started seeing movies simply because Lee was in them. And he's been in so many movies I've loved: The Crimson Pirate, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles, She, Rasputin the Mad Monk, The Devil Rides Out, and, of course, especially The Wicker Man and his turn as Mr. Midnight in the musical The Return of Captain Invincible. And of course the Hammer Dracula movies. (My favorite, besides the first one, is Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.) He's the only thing I love about one of the worst Bond movies, The Man with the Golden Gun.

I loved to watch him act. I loved to hear him sing. I have his first album, and the Tolkien Ensemble album he appears on. I was so excited in the early part of this century to be able to see him on the screen nearly every year for a couple of years in the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars movies, in addition to others, and most recently in the Hobbit movies. I've read his autobiography three times. His real life--particularly his experiences in World War II--was as exciting as any movie he was in. This man has been such a constant of my adulthood and the entertainment I consume, and now there'll never be anything new.

But he lived to be 93 and he kept working until he died. And that's amazing. He's left behind a body of work that will delight me the rest of my life. There are movies he's made that I've yet to see. Sir Christopher Lee was in movies for decades; he made movies for two decades before I was even born, and I still got to see him in new movies in a movie theater when I was in my twenties and thirties. It's been such a privilege to have.

I wish I was as vital at 38 as Christopher Lee was in his 80s and 90s.

You're one of my heroes, sir. Thank you for all of it.


Tallulah Morehead said...

I awoke today to emails telling me of Lee's passing. I was devastated. I was fortunate enough to meet him several times during the years he lived in California, and found him charming, welcoming to fans, and remarkably funny. One of my favorite memories is of the one time I made him laugh.

We saw him return from the dead so many times, it hardly seems possible for him to be permanently dead. What a body of work, what a life. Who could ever ask for more from Life than what he had?

Carl said...

I knew this would hit you hard, but I'm glad he still has so much of his work you can look forward to! He truly was a great man.

SamuraiFrog said...

I'm not sure I've taken a celebrity death this hard since Jim Henson.