Born in London, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. During the 1930s he acted mostly on stage, but after WWII developed a successful film career, including The Third Man (1949), Beat the Devil (1953), The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Dunkirk (1958) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).
Lee also starred in the 1976 television show Beauty and the Beast with George C. Scott. A year later he starred in the television show A Christmas Carol as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
James Bond films
In the Bond films, Lee's character, M, is Bond's boss who sends him out on assignments. Lee, was succeeded in the role by Robert Brown. Judi Dench, a friend of Lee's, would later take over the role of M starting in 1995.
In 1981, Lee passed away after a battle with cancer. Out of respect, no new actor was hired to take over the role of M in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only as Broccoli refused to recast the character, instead the script was rewritten so the character is to be said on leave. In the film, M's lines were transferred to the Minister of Defence and Bill Tanner, M's Chief of Staff, who stated he was acting as the mission head as M was on leave.
Bernard Lee starred in eleven James Bond films.