BFI acquires three never-before-seen Christopher Lee scrapbooks

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The actor had noted a story about his swordfight with Errol Flynn that went awry

A collection of scrapbooks owned by Sir Christopher Lee has given new insight into the actors early career and struggle to become a Hollywood star, including a fateful sword fight with Errol Flynn that left him with a nearly severed finger.

Stills from Lees performance in Taste The Blood of Dracula, 1969. Photograph: BFI national archive

The actors wife Lady Birgit Lee donated the three never-before-seen scrapbooks which contain promotional shots, stills from films and annotations, and span from 1948 to 1972 to the BFI archive where they will be available to the public via its research access service at its Southbank location in London.

Nathalie Morris, senior curator at the BFI archive, said that the scrapbooks offer a rare glimpse into the early career trajectory of one of the UKs most iconic actors, who would have been 97 years old on 27 May.

Christopher Lee played the titular character in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, 1962. Photograph: BFI national archive

You get a nice sense of his personality. There are nice bits of dry, self-deprecating humour, and lots of charming, witty asides that make you think hed love to spend an evening regaling people with tales.

One of the stories is an incident on the set of 1955s The Dark Avenger when Lee and Flynn had a sword fight which went awry. They had big broad swords and bare hands, and during a fight Errol Flynn got carried away, says Morris.

When I lost my finger. Photograph: BFI national archive

Christopher Lee wrote: He cut right through my little finger. He didnt mean to do it. It was one of those unfortunate little accidents, which I just think is wonderful.

The BFI is currently in the process of digitising its collection of 1.35m photographic prints and scrapbooks. For Morris, these collections tell vital stories that would otherwise be lost from film history.

They tell such a valuable story about what happened behind those films that youve seen and know well, she says. Theyre the hidden stories which show that films dont just appear.

Christopher Lee is one of our greatest actors. There are so many films, his career spans decades and were really thrilled that Lady Lee has donated the photographs to us and they will take pride of place in our collection.

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