Christopher Lee, a British actor of aristocratic bearing, after playing depraved bloodsuckers such as Dracula, a deformed James Bond nemesis and powerful creeps in the "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" series, died last week at a hospital in London. He was 93. The cause was respiratory and heart ailments, British news media accounts report.
In a career spanning more than 250 movies and TV shows over nearly seven decades - most in unsavory roles - Mr. Lee said he tried to "make the unbelievable believable," to humanize the most macabre characters. At 6-foot-4, with a dignified air, he presented refined, even suave portraits of evil.
His film career began in the late 1940s, but he was told by casting agents that he was "too tall and foreign-looking" to play Englishmen.
The result was bit roles, including a spear carrier in Laurence Olivier's 1948 screen version of "Hamlet" and a succession of pirates, Nazis, Spaniards and Arabs - the movie bad guys of the day.
Mr. Lee had better luck in horror movies, particularly at Britain's Hammer Films, which pumped out sexed-up scare flicks. His specialty became Dracula, - a role he resurrected often like in "Horror of Dracula" (1958) and "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" (1966). His other dark appearances include Frankenstein (1957), Rasputin (1966).
Periodically, Mr. Lee had some mainstream luck. He won roles as Sherlock Holmes's elder brother, Mycroft, in director Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970), the pagan leader Lord Summerisle in "The Wicker Man" (1973) and the eyepatch-sporting Comte de Rochefort in director Richard Lester's trilogy "The Three Musketeers" (1973). "
He also made an impression as the three-nippled assassin Scaramanga in "The Man With the Golden Gun" (1974) opposite Roger Moore's James Bond.
Mr. Lee also slipped in genre pictures such as the Chuck Norris actioner "An Eye for an Eye" (1981) and the ABC-TV film "Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story" (1982) as Prince Philip.
As the years passed and other actors of his generation retired, a younger coterie of filmmakers - including Spielberg, George Lucas and Tim Burton - had grown up on the Hammer films and were eager to hire him.
Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born in London on May 27, 1922.
His father was a British army commander and that his mother was an Italian countess.
Mr. Lee was raised by his mother
and stepfather, a banker whose heavy drinking led to financial reversals. On scholarship, he excelled in the classics in prep schools.
He served in the Royal Air Force during WWII and also did intelligence work, though he denied being a spy.
In 1961, he married a Danish fashion model, Birgit Kroencke, and they had a daughter, Christina.
Mr. Lee repeatedly tried to showcase his versatility. Not all succeeded - he was persona non grata in Pakistan after his portrayal of that country's founding father in "Jinnah" (1998); violent protests erupted not only because he was British, but also because of his long association with monster films.
In recent years, Mr. Lee sang a heavy-metal version of "My Way" and other songs with an Italian band Rhapsody of Fire and recorded an album of "operatic" heavy-metal covers of Christmas carols.
Mr. Lee wrote a memoir, "Tall, Dark and Gruesome" (1977), and received a knighthood in 2009 for his long career and charitable work.
At times, he embraced jokes at his expense, including his reputation for accepting nearly any role, no matter how dubious the quality.
?The Washington Post