Walt Lee (1931-2014)

Cover Walt Lee Reference Guide To Fantastic Films“I’m very sad to report that my father, Walter W. Lee, Jr. — physicist, writer, historian, consultant, and friend to the science fiction and fantasy community — passed away on the evening of Sunday, November 23, 2014, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s,” writes Steve Lee.

Walt Lee was born in Eugene, Oregon on August 16, 1931.He is best known for compiling the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films. The three-volume work published between 1972 and 1974 was the first major compilation of film scholarship for science fiction, fantasy and horror films.

Bill Warren shared Steve Lee’s call to send birthday cards to his father with File 770 readers this past summer. Says Steve —

My mother, sister and I all thank you for your warm wishes and support during this difficult time. I would also like to thank all of those who took the time to send birthday cards to my father on this last August. He enjoyed and cherished them all.

He also invited me to publish his e-mail address – hwdslee (at) gmail (dot) com – for anyone who wishes to forward messages to the family.

Film critic Warren paid tribute to the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films and its author:

It was the first truly major work of film scholarship in the area of science fiction, fantasy and horror. It wasn’t easy to do; while being a father and holding down a job, he researched that exhaustive book.

This was long, long before the iMDB, long before most books on movie research. He spent hours upon hours in the files of the Motion Picture Academy, UCLA, USC, Forry Ackerman (a lifelong friend) and elsewhere. He corresponded with people all over the world — he was determined to make the book as inclusive as possible, and he did. It was the first citation in print (other than industry books and magazines) for hundreds upon hundreds of movies. He was one of the first researchers to routinely include many of the great Hollywood cartoon shorts.  Walt was there first, before anyone.

2 thoughts on “Walt Lee (1931-2014)

  1. I can remember when these bookscame out, and they seemed well beyond my preteen’s wallet!

    And then, the Guide seemed to kind of become rare.

    But then there was a wonderful moment, at a convention around 1990, when long time book dealer, and friend, Craig Goden (who, sadly, passed way too early, a few years ago), was having a blowout sale of I guess some of his personal collection. He had Lee’s incredible books at a fraction of their value. I said, Craig, are you sure this is right? He was glad to see the books go to a convention pal!

    I spent an amazing number of hours going thriugh those volumes, discovering films that I never knew existed, and confirmation for ones that folks said I had imagined!

    Sadly, my copies of those books are gone, in a recent devestation that saw a relative either purloin, or destroy–or have same such done by employees or associates–almost the entirety of my books and other valuable collectables…

    But that’s a horrible revelation for another day.

    Often, when an author passes, I will take out one of his or her books, and happily pore through it, remembering…

    (When my friend Chris (C.J.) Henderson passed at the beginning of July, I went to Amazon and picked up the book he had done in collaboration with his artist daughter.)

    If Mr. Lee’s relatives are reading this, my condolences for such a loss.

    But also my thanks for such a wonderful contribution!

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