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John Bernard Lee (10 January 1908 – 16 January 1981) was an English actor of stage and screen.

He made a long career of playing authority figures, and is best remembered as the first actor to play James Bond's boss M in the Eon Productions film series, appearing in all of the first eleven films from Dr. No to Moonraker. He remains the longest serving M, and is the third-longest-serving actor in the series overall after Desmond Llewelyn (Q in seventeen films) and Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny in fourteen films).

He passed away from stomach cancer on 16 January 1981, six days after his 73rd birthday.


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His roles include:

Films

Television

  • Danger Man, 2 episodes:
    • "Whatever Happened to George Foster?" (1965) — Lord Ammanford
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    • "The Man with the Foot" (1966) — Derringham
  • Man in a Suitcase, episode "The Girl Who Never Was" (1967) — George Kershaw
  • The Champions, episode "The Body Snatchers" (1968) — Squires
  • Strange Report, episode "Grenade - What Price Change? "(1969) — Arthur Pater
  • The Persuaders!, episode "Someone Like Me" (1971) — Sam Milford

Tropes associated with his work:

  • Died During Production: By the time the filming of For Your Eyes Only started, Lee was in the final stages of his stomach cancer, and thus couldn't reprise his role. Therefore, M is explained as being on leave and temporarily replaced by Bill Tanner, as Albert R. Broccoli refused to have Lee replaced for the film out of respect. The scene with Q in the confessional was originally to have M (indeed, the scene makes far more sense if you imagine Bond is talking to his boss rather than the guy who makes his gadgets). Lee eventually died on January 16, 1981, shortly before filming was wrapped. Robert Brown's M (possibly a promoted Admiral Hargreaves from The Spy Who Loved Me) replaced him starting with Octopussy.
  • Typecasting: He was generally cast as authority figures; often policemen or military officers, and a government official in his most famous role.

 
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