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