Christopher Lee ‘hunted Nazis’ in life before Hollywood and was ‘suspicious’ of EU

'Dracula' – Death Scene with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing

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Lee stars opposite Peter Cushing as Sir Henry Baskerville in the classic 1959 reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, which airs at 4.55pm on Film4. The film, which was crafted by gothic production company Hammer, sees Holmes investigate the deaths of 200 years worth of Baskervilles meeting a grizzly end, most prominently by being ripped apart by a ghostly hound. Lee’s character is the last line of Baskerville, and his friend Dr Mortimer believes Holmes is the only man able to save him from an untimely death.

The production was described by Time Out (London) as the “best Sherlock Holmes film ever made”, with reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes claiming 94 percent of reviews on the film were positive.

The London-born legend starred in a wealth of films throughout his career, taking on roles in major franchises such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, as well as playing Dracula a remarkable nine times.

When he passed away in 2015, now Levelling Up Seccretary Mr Gove – who was serving as Justice Secretary at the time – described Lee’s character, and what it was like to star in a film alongside him.

In an unexpected departure from politics, Mr Gove played a minor role in the 1995 film A Feast at Midnight with Lee, and had the chance to get to know a little bit about the man behind the legend.

To begin with, Mr Gove noted how prior to Lee’s career on set, he was a prominent figure during World War 2.

Reports show he enrolled in a military academy in 1939 when war was declared, and volunteered to fight for the Finnish Army against the Soviet Union during the Winter War.

Mr Gove wrote following Lee’s death at 93 in the Daily Mail: “He was quiet and serious, formidably well-informed and intellectually curious.

“His world outlook had, of course, been framed by the war and his subsequent work hunting Nazi war criminals.

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“He knew the evil of which man is capable, and knew also that quiet civility and traditional custom, inherited institutions and respect for past wisdom are some of the best defences against barbarism mankind has devised.

“He was, therefore, a traditional British Conservative, but of an exceptionally gentle and thoughtful kind.”

Mr Gove, who would go on to become a key figure in the fight for Brexit, also discussed Lee’s Eurosceptic tendencies, as a result of his family’s own upbringing.

The politician said: “Seeing what had happened to the Italy of his mother in his lifetime, and also to other nations where the thin crust of civilisation had been broken, he was deeply attached to our democracy, and deeply suspicious of what he saw as the anti-democratic tide of European integration.

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“He was a great fan of David Cameron, and believed him to be one of the best Prime Ministers he’d seen in his lifetime — he would, I am sure, have not been in the least surprised to see the Conservatives secure a majority last month!”

Mr Gove added: “But love this country as he did so deeply, Sir Christopher’s greatest love was for his wife. Seeing the two of them together — so obviously devoted and happy — as I left that flat in Cadogan Square, is an image I will cherish.

“He was the best type of Englishman, from an age when our country led the world. I shall miss him.”

Lee was made a CBE in 2001 for his “services to drama”, and would become a Knight Bachelor in 2009.

His work was also recognised by the French government, which gave him the honour of being a Commander of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2011.

He was knighted by Prince Charles, and reflected on the revival his career enjoyed in the Noughties.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, Lee said: “A whole new career opened up for me when I was in ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘Star Wars (Episode II: Attack of the Clones)’,

“What’s really important for me is, as an old man, I’m known by my own generation and the next generation know me too.”

Lee also discussed how he had originally been concerned that his roles would only ever be found in horror, something which changed in the late Fifties with his role as Holmes.

He added: “Since then I’ve never been typecast although I’ve played a lot of bad guys, there’s more scope than being the man in the white hat.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles airs today from 4:55pm on Film4.

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