It’s being reported that he had been hospitalized at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for respiratory problems and heart failure before his death. (The delay in reporting was out of respect for the wishes of Lee’s wife of 50 years to inform his family before releasing the news to the public.)
After appearing in 1947’s gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors, Lee’s career exploded in the ’50s when he began getting work in the horror films produced by Hammer, first appearing in 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, before taking on the role of Dracula for 1958’s Dracula. He would continue to reprise the role for the 1965 sequel Dracula: Prince of Darkness and five more films after that. Lee also starred in Hammer’s The Mummy in 1959 and Rasputin, the Mad Monk.
Another iconic horror role for Lee was playing Lord Summerisle in 1973’s The Wicker Man and another iconic role from around that time was the villain Scarmanga in 1974’s The Man with a Golden Gun.
Besides playing Sherlock Holmes in 1962’s Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Lee also appeared in two other Holmes movies opposite other actors in the role, including Peter Cushing in 1959’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and Robert Stephens in Billy Wilder’s 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.
In 2001, Lee suddenly found himself with a new audience of fans with his role as the wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, a role he revived for the recent “The Hobbit” trilogy. He was also cast by George Lucas as the evil Count Dooku in 2002’s Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, taking part in an unforgettable lightsaber battle with Yoda.
Despite his desire to break away from horror films throughout the ’70s, Lee returned to Hammer in 2011 playing Hilary Swank’s neighbor in the thriller The Resident.
A fan of his horror work, director Tim Burton began to cast Lee in many of his films, including Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows, and Burton presented Lee with a BAFTA Academy Fellowship in 2011.
Lee’s final film, the fantasy Angels in Notting Hill, has yet to be released.
(Photo Credit: WENN.com)