In westerns, he was acting and from his expression he didn’t need to speak. He had the fair face of a malefactor, obtaining the good fame of him embodying those roles, which perhaps in other actors would not have been so good. Almost 1.90 tall, he photographed remarkably in the hills of the region, riding, in the towns, fighting with fists in the salon, or shooting each other in long altercations or duels. That’s how he was in each personification, whoever went to the movies knew in advance that his presence was synonymous with raging gunmen who robbed stagecoaches, who fought with the most painted cowboy, and that at the point of a revolver the shooting was confirmed! .. He also filmed other tapes forming other representations, but the spaghetti western or the westerns themselves, was his thing, achieving fame and brilliance in that area for decades, showing off in “For a few dollars more” and in “The good, the bad and the ugly” His name was Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Jr., better known as Lee Van Cleef, the cowboy bully.
OF DUTCH ORIGIN
Lee Van Cleef came into this world on January 9, 1925, in Somerville, New Jersey, USA. Of Dutch and German descent, his parents were Marion Levinia and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef. During World War II, Lee served in the United States Army where he enlisted in September 1942, and later became a certified public accountant performing various corporate duties. At the same time, he was studying acting and right away he came to the theater, starting in the play “Our town”, at the Little Theater Group in Clinton, New Jersey.
Soon after, he continued to play the role of boxer Joe Pendleton, in “Heaven Can Wait”, which is when producer Stanley Kramer approached him to offer him a role in a film he was preparing with director Fred Zinnemann and screenwriter Carl Foreman. , adapting a story by John W. Cunningham.
It was “High moon” -“At the appointed time”- 1952, along with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. It is his first debut role on the big screen playing the thug Jack Colby. He couldn’t have started his career better in a film like this loaded with stars and suspense.
The good, the bad and the ugly
After “At the Appointed Hour,” studio executives looked at Van Cleef, at his harsh features and piercing eyes, knowing in advance that if they continued to produce him, they would make him the perfect villain for any feature film. And that is what really happened. “The Fourth Man”, in 1953, together with John Payne, and “99 River Street”, 1954, with Brad Dexter, would be his next film interventions. In 1962, he made the John Ford classic, «The man who shot Liberty Valance», again as a gunslinger, and in 1965, the spaghetti western «Death has a price», shot in Almería, Spain, under the direction of the Italian director Sergio Leone. His big break would appear in “El bueno, el malo y el feo” -“The good, the bad and the ugly”- -“Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo”- another notable spaghetti, premiered in 1969 in Uruguay, co-produced by Italy, Spain and Germany. Also directed by Sergio Leone, with performances by Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef himself.
“The Good” Clint Eastwood in the role of “Rubio”, “The Bad” Lee Van Cleef alias “Sentence” or “Angel Eyes”, and “The Ugly” Eli Wallach, alias “Tuco”, who are respectively a bounty hunter , a hitman, and a thief. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is considered one of the best movies of all time.
77 SUNSET STRIP,
BONANZA and THE
Lee Van Cleef’s television appearances were also very good. «77 Sunset Strip», «Bonanza», and «The Untouchables», were some of the passages of him as a guest actor in each series. Van Cleef was married three times. His first marriage was with Patsy Ruth Kahle, in 1943, having three children; Alan, Deborah and David, and they divorced in 1958. His second union was with Joan Marjorie Drane, from 1960 to 1974, and his final union was with Barbara Havelone, in 1976, until his last days. In 1958, a serious car accident almost cost him his life. His recovery was long and difficult and he stopped acting for a while. He then started an interior decorating business with his second wife Joan, as well as continuing his talent for painting, mainly of sea and landscapes. Despite suffering from heart disease since the late 1970s, and having a pacemaker installed, Van Cleef continued to work in films until his disappearance on December 16, 1989, at age 64. He collapsed at his house in Oxnard, California, from a heart attack.
He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Hollywood Hills, California, with an inscription on his tombstone referring to his many performances as a villain: “The best of the bad”… Juanjo Alberti. Beyond nostalgia.
We would like to give thanks to the author of this post for this remarkable material
LEE VAN CLEEF: THE BAD OF SPAGHETTI – Diario El Pueblo – Salto Uruguay
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