Friday, 4 September 2015


Hair and actors, for men particularly, can be a sensitive subject. Thinning hairlines for some like, signaled the beginning of a life tied to hiding their thinning locks, with endless spraying and careful combing or gluing down hair pieces and relying on were sometimes not the most convincing of toupees. Yul Brynner celebrated, his head minus hair, it was never a problem. Telly Savalas too, when he got fed up with combing-over the last strands, took to the shaver, and whipped, what he had been holding onto, off ...and never looked back. But for many actors, they believed not having a full head of hair, lessened your chances in casting....

For the majority of his film roles, from Hammer's Hound of the Baskervilles onwards in 1959, Lee wore pieces, with the exception of Mycroft Holmes in 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes' (1970) here Lee, for the only time, went completely  'sans toupee'! When this brave, but strange decision drew a little too much attention, Lee explained it away, as an act of dedication to playing the role and that he had simply shaved his head!  But all these wigs he wore, also explains why he had such a weird hair line and bouffant top in 'Risen From the Grave'...and a really good wig in AD 1972 and Satanic Rites...and I think more than one in Dracula 58, in the first close up shot where he welcomes Harker, the hairpiece looks a lot smaller, than in the rest of the film...and in Darkness it had less widows peak. Taste the Blood was maybe too full and his own hair sometimes flopped over his ears, Scars of... was a good one!

For many actors, with 'the advancement of the years', and  long careers, very few ever get away without any some help from a weave or wig. Think Humphrey Bogart, David Niven, John Wayne, all piece wearers on and off screen. To be fair, I don't think this is only or just about vanity. In Christopher Lee's case, early hair thinning, caused a problem and throughout his career, he had to present himself as the person / actor that his audiences recognised. Without his hair, he wasn't the Christopher Lee the public knew. He was Christopher Lee without hair.

Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, were lucky to have 'some' there. In later years, Cushing would whip his into, what could be quite a complicated quiff, that must have been held together with a lot of hairspray... but at least he didn't have to sit for an extra hour while they glued the webbing and pinned a 'rug' down. I think when he first appeared without it, around 1974 and the time of the productions of Shatter, The Uncanny, Earth's Core, The New Avengers... he must have been reviled to be finished with it, having worn toupee and weaves since around 1967...

If you look at some of Cushing's jottings and requests on his scripts, you see his recommendations for particular hair pieces that he had worn in previous productions. Film production companies rarely stocked wigs, depending on the budget, make up men or hairdressers/ wig makers would make pieces to order or from stock, they would be hired. For many years, Cushing had his own personal hair piece, which he might wear in a film and in public. You might remember, when Cushing was pounced on by Michael Aspel for his appearance on This Is Your Life in 1990, he is heard to say, 'It's just as well, I wore my toupee today, isn't?'


  1. You have entered a realm where many have feared to tread. You handle the topic very delicately and for that you are to be commended. Lee himself denied that he ever wore one and actually said that he had shaved his head for the part of Mycroft. Why would he do such a thing? Of course it does not matter what he put on his head. He could have worn a crash helmet in every film and would still be magnificent.

  2. Your pet subject! Fascinating (hair) piece of writing. What about knotted chest wigs??
    Xx Linda.


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