Freedom Fighter Or Charlatan?

Freedom Fighter Or Charlatan?

Christopher Lee

He came from an illustrious background, with ties reaching back to Holy Roman Empire Emperor Barbarossa to Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate States Army, to James Bond creator Ian Fleming and astronomer John Lee. He was showered with honors, knighted by Prince Charles and made Commander of Arts by the French government. He was into heavy metal, with four albums, 3 Eps and three singles in his name, featuring a parade of rock and roll luminaries. He even had an asteroid named in honor of his role as Saruman the White. In his seventy year long career in cinema, at last count, he appeared in or narrated 208 films.

Yet, when he decided to go and fight in WWII... he couldn't get arrested.

The reluctant monster

He played Dracula in many Hammer films. After a while, he hated it. The way he recounts it, the only way they could get him to star in one more vampire film was by using various blackmail tricks, like telling him he'd put a lot of production working folks out of work if he refused.

After seven Hammer Studios films playing Dracula, he finally escaped typecasting by playing Sherlock Holmes and moving to Hollywood.

Once, he was even tricked, really tricked by a man he considered his friend, into narrating a soft-core porn movie. He was not amused.

Christopher Lee as Saruman - LOTR

Christopher Lee as Saruman - LOTR

He stated that for a long time he had dreamt of playing Gandalf, and told as much to J.R.R. Tolkien whom he happened to meet and the great fantasy writer gave him his blessing to play him, if ever a movie was made of his stories. But when the occasion finally presented itself to incarnate Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, he considered that he was too old to ride Gandalf's horse so he played Saruman the Mage instead. But this writer thinks that he would have made a mean Gandalf.

In spite of playing Dracula, Frankenstein, various sinister characters and becoming a heavy metal icon, Lee wasn't a fan of the occult, warning that one who dabbles into it could very well lose both mind and soul. 

Service in WWII

On the subject of his war record, the sources range from predictably fawning to overwhelmingly... imaginative? So we decided to err on the side of caution.

Lee spoke many languages. He was a true polyglot who was even conversational in Mandarin and learned German when he was studying in Switzerland in his youth. He wanted to enroll as a pilot in the British Air Force to go and fight in Finland, but his dream was shot down (pardon the pun) because of an eye problem. So he became a Royal Air Force liaison officer instead, sometimes working with the SAS. He wound up in the North African theater. After the war, Flight Lieutenant Lee was assigned to work with the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects, aka CROWCASS, who were producing a list of known war criminals, persons of interest and potential witnesses that was subsequently used by Nazi hunters of all stripes. It's very probable that his knowledge of German came into play for this assignment.

And that's it! The rest is probably mostly fanboy speculation, but who knows?

He was said to have laid a path of devastation across Northern Africa, bombing airfield and blowing up German airplanes with the British version of the rat patrol, assassinating enemy targets and performing all kinds of assorted shady doings with the Special Air Service.

He was once asked by a reporter about his covert work in the Second World War. “Can you keep a secret?” The reporter acquiesced. So Christopher Lee said : “So can I.”

Freedom Fighter Or Charlatan?

Whether he really was in the secret service or not, he tried very hard to join the fight, and he did indeed serve. One cannot in good conscience call him a charlatan. Everything points to him being a man of honor above all.

It's possible that Lee preferred to let people's imagination fly away with his war record and make what they want of it, and who can blame him? 

He was, after all, a true thespian and a master at his trade. 


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