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Desert Island Discs

Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee in the 1958 Hammer film Dracula. Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

If any actor embodies Halloween horror, it’s Christopher Lee, who played Count Dracula on screen 10 times. The 6ft 5in actor bore an uncanny resemblance to Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Romanian ruler thought to have inspired Bram Stoker’s monster. Lee eventually moved to Hollywood to escape this typecasting. He didn’t think much of modern horror films, either. “Nothing is left to the imagination,” he told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 1995, when he was 72. “What you don’t see is always more frightening.”

Lee’s mother, an Italian countess, didn’t react well when he announced he was becoming an actor. “Think of the disgrace you will bring upon the family,” she said. “And think about the appalling people you will meet!” It wasn’t his first love, anyway – that was opera, for which he had a natural talent. One summer in Sweden, a bit of drunken singing got him an offer to train with the Royal Swedish Opera. Lee, in what he described as the “greatest disappointment of my entire life”, had to turn it down due to a lack of money. Another passion was golf: he said he’d turn his desert island into a course if he got bored, then practise his “bunker work”.

🎵 Si, pel ciel (from Otello), Verdi

🎵 Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss

🎵 The Flying Dutchman, Wagner

🎵 Rinaldo, Handel

🎵 Brünnhilde, heilige Braut! (from Götterdammerung), Wagner

🎵 Scintille, diamant (from Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Offenbach

🎵 Don Giovanni, Mozart 

🎵 La Belle Hélène, Offenbach

📕 The Sword in the Stone, TH White

🎁 A set of golf clubs

Listen to the episode here.