Though their careers were dissimilar, their images were not. The cinema lost two of its most deeply enjoyable sharp eyed bearded villains this week: Oscar nominee Ron Moody (Oliver!), died yesterday at 91 years of age; screen legend Christopher Lee's passing was also just announced though he died last week at 93. Both of these British actors, born in the 1920s, were best known for indelible villains and sorcerers and both were singers, too. From there, of course, the careers significantly diverge.
Ron Moody was always best known as "Fagin," the petty thief with a whole gang of young pickpockets at his disposal in the Best Picture winner Oliver! (1968) for which he received a Best Actor nomination and won the Golden Globe. The role stuck to him as forcefully as the Emcee clung to Joel Grey defining him for decades and decades and audiences of multiple generations. His movie career, though it spanned 33 films, didn't contain many other highlights but he did play the sorcerer Merlin in two Disney films Unidentified Flying Oddball and A Kid in King Arthurs Court. He returned to the stage often including revivals of Oliver! (He didn't seem to resent how much Fagin defined him, calling the musical "magic".)
If you ask people to name Sir Christopher Lee's most famous role, on the other hand, they might well hesitate. There is nothing definitive or, rather, there is too much that is definitive. He was a genuine screen legend and worked what seemed like non-stop from 1948 through 2015 appearing in nearly 200 films before his death. Today it's nothing new for actors to be defined by franchise stardom but Christopher Lee was doing forever. He was best known for decades as the face of "Dracula" for Hammer Horror in several films, "Fu Manchu" in multiple films and "Rochefort" in two Three Musketeer films. The actor's fame rose again late in life through prominent popular roles such as "Count Dooku" in the Star Wars franchise and the wicked sorceror "Saruman" multiple times in Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations.
Please share your favorite screen memories of these two acclaimed Brits.