Monday, February 17, 2020

Christopher Lee's Special Forces career

I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let's just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like.
- Christopher Lee, 2011 interview in London Daily Telegraph
I have posted before about how Sir Christopher was a total badass and the real Most Interesting Man In The World.  I just stumbled across this interview from Belgian TV where they located an impossible to find special forces unit patch, which they presented to him on camera.  It's quite a moment, with Sir Christopher expressing how grateful he was in that manner that shows what a Gentleman used to be in an older and more vigorous age.  Bravo to the Belgian Television channel for making that happen.

And more vigorous it was indeed.  He talks about his time in Popski's Private Army (for American readers of a certain age, think Rat Patrol).  It's said that their Jeeps are the only wheeled vehicles that ever drove in Venice's St. Mark's Square.  When I said Lee as a badass, I hadn't quite realized just how badass he really was.  In reality, when Christopher Lee spoke, Chuck Norris got quiet and listened.  Here is a short list of Lee's badassitude:

  • His mother was an Italian Countess whose family got its coat of arms from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.  He died in the Second Crusade around 1100 A.D.  One of her great great uncles was a Cardinal and was buried in the Pantheon in Rome right next to Raphael.  A painting of the Cardinal hangs in Windsor Castle.
  • He was engaged to a woman who was Swedish nobility, and had to ask the King of Sweden for permission to marry her.  Permission was granted but the wedding did not go through for other reasons.
  • He witnessed the last public execution by guillotine in Paris.
  • He served with the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Army Division at the battle of Monte Cassino.  
  • He was cousin to Ian Flemming, author of the James Bond novels.  Flemming tried to get him cast as Dr. No but the role was already filled.  Lee had to wait until Man With The Golden Gun to play a Bond villain.  Interestingly, in the novel the villain was basically a thug; Lee played him as the dark opposite of Bond.
  • He was in over 200 films, not counting dozens of TV appearances.
  • When he was filming The Lord Of The Rings, director Peter Jackson told him that he wanted Lee to make a particular sound when he got stabbed in the back.  Lee said that's not how people sound when they get stabbed in the back; Jackson asked how he knew, and Lee just said "Oh, I know."  Maybe he learned what that sounded like when he was fighting with the Gurkhas.
  • He is the only cast member of that film to ever have met J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • He was the oldest person to ever record Heavy Metal, releasing a song on his 90th birthday in 2012.  The following year he release a Heavy Metal Christmas Album (!); the song Jingle Hell reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making him the oldest person to enter the music charts at 91.

Here's an early performance of his rock genre, from Rhapsody of Fire's 2005 album, singing a duet with Fabio Lione:

Regular readers of this blog will remember that we've seen his basso profundo voice here before:

That's quite a life.  Here is a photo of Flight Officer Lee looking out on the liberation of Rome in 1944.

Yeah, that all qualifies as badass and the actual most interesting man in the world.  I'm glad that they found the unit patch for him.


drjim said...

When Christopher Lee spoke, Chuck Norris got quiet and listened....

Internet Quote Of The Year!

Yup, he was the Real Deal in WWII. We're lucky such men were on our side.

Old NFO said...

He was definitely the real deal, and never traded on that. May he rest in peace, knowing others have picked up the mantle and the responsibilities...

libertyman said...

Talented in so many ways, an amazing man in every aspect, as mentioned, I am glad he was on our side.

Ed Bonderenka said...