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Lee, Bernard (1908-1981)


Main image of Lee, Bernard (1908-1981)

A stalwart character player for nearly 50 years, RADA-trained, on stage in 1914 in a sketch with his actor father, and as adult from 1926, touring as Stanhope in Journey's End in 1930. After a few films in the '30s, when he was constantly busy on stage, he was in the Army (1940-46) and postwar hit his stride as a film actor. He played innumerable Inspectors (Cherry in The Blue Lamp, d. Basil Dearden, 1949), Superintendents (regularly in the Edgar Wallace Mysteries of the early '60s), Brigadiers, Colonels and the like, his fame coming to rest as 'M' in the first eleven Bond movies.

For some, though, the lasting image of Lee is as Sergeant Paine in The Third Man (d. Carol Reed, 1949), dogged and loyal, shot by Harry Lime to no purpose - or perhaps the troubled father in Whistle Down the Wind (d. Bryan Forbes, 1961). To pick one at odds with his usually benign persona, there is bullying Bert Connelly, beautifully exact, in The Angry Silence (d. Guy Green, 1960). It is just possible he gave a poor performance in his 80-plus films, but it is hard to think of one. He was grandfather of Jonny Lee Miller.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Angry Silence, The (1960)Angry Silence, The (1960)

Melodrama about union intimidation, starring Richard Attenborough

Thumbnail image of Battle of the River Plate, The (1956)Battle of the River Plate, The (1956)

Last of the Powell/Pressburger partnership - a WWII naval drama

Thumbnail image of Blue Lamp, The (1949)Blue Lamp, The (1949)

Classic Ealing police drama that introduced PC George Dixon

Thumbnail image of Diamonds Are Forever (1971)Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

James Bond investigates a plan to hold the world to ransom

Thumbnail image of Dr. No (1962)Dr. No (1962)

James Bond goes on a mission to Jamaica, and a legend is born

Thumbnail image of Dunkirk (1958)Dunkirk (1958)

Ealing's ambitious, sombre account of Britain's pivotal defeat of WWII

Thumbnail image of Fallen Idol, The (1948)Fallen Idol, The (1948)

Classic child's eye story from Carol Reed and Graham Greene

Thumbnail image of From Russia With Love (1963)From Russia With Love (1963)

James Bond battles Russian dissidents for control of a vital decoding device

Thumbnail image of Goldfinger (1964)Goldfinger (1964)

Sean Connery returns as James Bond in what may be the best of the series

Thumbnail image of L-Shaped Room, The (1962)L-Shaped Room, The (1962)

Leslie Caron plays a pregnant Frenchwoman who starts an affair

Thumbnail image of Let George Do It! (1940)Let George Do It! (1940)

George Formby comedy that doubles as anti-Nazi propaganda

Thumbnail image of Live and Let Die (1973)Live and Let Die (1973)

James Bond returns to the Caribbean, to investigate a voodoo plot

Thumbnail image of Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974)Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974)

James Bond becomes the target of a professional assassin

Thumbnail image of Moonraker (1979)Moonraker (1979)

James Bond investigates the disappearance of a space shuttle

Thumbnail image of New Lot, The (1943)New Lot, The (1943)

Propaganda short that became the model for The Way Ahead

Thumbnail image of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby plays Bond in one of the series' most underrated entries

Thumbnail image of Spare a Copper (1940)Spare a Copper (1940)

George Formby comedy in which he foils a gang of saboteurs

Thumbnail image of Spy Who Loved Me, The (1977)Spy Who Loved Me, The (1977)

James Bond goes on the trail of a stolen nuclear submarine

Thumbnail image of Third Man, The (1949)Third Man, The (1949)

Masterful thriller set in postwar Vienna - recently voted Britain's greatest film

Thumbnail image of Thunderball (1965)Thunderball (1965)

James Bond goes to Miami in search of stolen nuclear bombs

Thumbnail image of Whistle Down The Wind (1961)Whistle Down The Wind (1961)

Bryan Forbes' directorial debut gave Hayley Mills her best-loved role

Thumbnail image of You Only Live Twice (1967)You Only Live Twice (1967)

James Bond goes to Japan to investigate the theft of spacecraft

Thumbnail image of Christmas Carol, A (1977)Christmas Carol, A (1977)

Michael Hordern stars as Scrooge in this BBC Dickens adaptation

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