A legend of the silver screen for over almost 70 years has been taken from us, with the news of the death at the age of 93 of the great actor Sir Christopher Lee. His stature both in size and presence ensured that his memory will live on through the wonderful parts he played, during a distinguished Film career. From the early days of Hammer Horror when he became synonymous as Count Dracula, through the eerily disturbing Wicker Man, and then into his twilight years with appearances in the trilogy Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars franchise, his enigmatic portrayals resonated with audiences.

Hospitalised before his death

Lee continued to work into his old age, despite failing health. He had been hospitalised in London at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, after suffering respiratory problems and heart failure. It is understood that he died on Sunday but that his wife took the heartfelt decision that family members should be informed before a general press release was made. He had been married to Birgit Kroncke, a former Danish model and painter, for over 50 years.

Period in the Armed Services

Lee had spells with the Finnish Army and the British Home Guard at the beginning of World War II, before serving with The Royal Air Force from 1941 to 1946, attaining a rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Hammer success

After the war, Lee made the brave decision to try his hand at acting. He gained his early fame as part of the 'Hammer Horror' company in the 1950s, when his pairing with Peter Cushing became a familiar one for Cinema fans of the genre. Fabled characters such as Frankenstein and especially Dracula seemed tailor-made for him, given his 6' 5" height and (when demanded) sinister looks.

Recognising kindred spirits, he was to share some 20 films with Cushing over their acting lives.

Into the 1970s the work continued to pour in for Lee, with perhaps his best role (in his own opinion) being in another horror film, The Wicker Man. The film became a cult classic, with the burning wicker man scene rated by many fans as one of the most disturbing scenes in cinematic history.

The decade also saw him opposite James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun.

More recent cinema audiences would have delighted at his representation of the evil Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If not that then as Count Dooku in Episodes II and III of the Star Wars films.

As a reward for his services to drama and charity, Lee was made a knight of the realm in 2009. Among the numerous honours he received during a lengthy acting career, perhaps one of the most gratifying was that presented to him in 2011, the Bafta fellowship. The British director Tim Burton awarded him the fellowship, after working with him on several projects in the twilight of his career.

He will bring the curtain down on his career once and for all with the yet to be released film Angels in Notting Hill. With the wealth of material already produced starring the charismatic actor, the tributes are expected to deservedly be lavished on him after his death.