The Info List - Lee Van Cleef

Clarence Leroy Van Cleef Jr. (January 9, 1925 – December 16, 1989), was an American actor whose sinister features overshadowed his acting skills and typecast him as a minor villain for a decade before he achieved stardom in Spaghetti Westerns
Spaghetti Westerns
such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Hatchet-faced with piercing eyes, he declined to have his hook nose altered to play a sympathetic character in his film debut, High Noon, and was relegated to a non-speaking outlaw as a result. After suffering serious injuries in a car crash, Van Cleef began to lose interest in his apparently waning career by the time Sergio Leone gave him a major role in For a Few Dollars More. The film made him a box-office draw, especially in Europe.


1 Youth 2 Military service 3 Career 4 Death 5 Filmography

5.1 Film 5.2 Television

6 In popular culture 7 References 8 External links

Youth[edit] Van Cleef, born of partial Dutch ancestry on January 9, 1925, in Somerville, New Jersey,[2] was the son of Marion Van Fleet (née Levinia) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef. At age 17, he obtained his high school diploma early in his senior year at Somerville High School[3] in order to enlist in the United States
United States
Navy in September 1942. Military service[edit] After basic training and further training at the Naval Fleet Sound School, Van Cleef was assigned to a submarine chaser and then to a minesweeper, USS Incredible, on which he worked as a sonarman. The ship initially patrolled the Caribbean, then moved to the Mediterranean, participating in the landings in southern France. In January 1945, Incredible moved to the Black Sea, and performed sweeping duties out of the Soviet Navy base at Sevastopol, Crimea. Afterwards the ship performed air-sea rescue patrols in the Black Sea before returning to Palermo, Sicily. By the time of his discharge in March 1946, he had achieved the rank of Sonarman First Class (SO1) and had earned his mine sweeper patch. He also had been awarded the Bronze Star and the Good Conduct Medal. By virtue of his deployments Van Cleef also qualified for the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the World War II
World War II
Victory Medal.[4] Van Cleef possessed the rare physical characteristic of heterochromatic eyes, having eyes of two different colors; in his case, one green and one blue.[5] Career[edit] After leaving the Navy, Van Cleef read for a part in Our Town
Our Town
at the Little Theater Group in Clinton, New Jersey. He was given the part.[which?] From there, he continued to meet with the group and audition for parts. The next biggest part was that of the boxer, Joe Pendleton, in the play Heaven Can Wait. During this time he was observed by visiting talent scouts who were impressed by Van Cleef's stage presence and delivery. One of these scouts later took him to New York City talent agent Maynard Morris of the MCA agency who then sent him to the Alvin Theater for an audition. The play was Mister Roberts.[citation needed] Van Cleef's screen debut came in High Noon.[2] During a performance of Mister Roberts in Los Angeles, he was noticed by film director Stanley Kramer who offered Van Cleef a role in his upcoming film. Kramer originally wanted Van Cleef for the role of the deputy Harvey Pell, but as he wanted Van Cleef to have his "distinctive nose" fixed, Van Cleef declined the role in favor of the part of the silent gunslinger Jack Colby. He was then cast mostly in villainous roles, due to his sharp cheeks and chin, piercing eyes and hawk-like nose,[citation needed] from the part of Tony Romano in Kansas City Confidential (1952), culminating 14 years later in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).[5]

Van Cleef in Kansas City Confidential
Kansas City Confidential

Aside from westerns and the science fiction films, three of his early major roles were in noir films, Kansas City Confidential
Kansas City Confidential
(1952), Vice Squad (1953) and The Big Combo
The Big Combo
(1955). Van Cleef appeared six times between 1951 and 1955 on the children's syndicated western series The Adventures of Kit Carson, starring Bill Williams.[5] He was cast three times, including the role of Rocky Hatch in the episode "Greed Rides the Range" (1952), of another syndicated western series, The Range Rider. In 1952, he was cast in the episode "Formula for Fear" of the western aviation series Sky King. He appeared in episode 82 of the TV series The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger
in 1952. In 1954, Van Cleef appeared as Jesse James in the syndicated series, Stories of the Century.[5] In 1955, he was cast twice on another syndicated western series, Annie Oakley. That same year, he guest-starred on the CBS
western series, Brave Eagle. In 1955, he played one of the two villains in an episode of The Adventures of Champion
The Adventures of Champion
the Wonder Horse. In 1958, he was cast as Ed Murdock, a rodeo performer trying to reclaim the title in the event at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
in New York City, on Richard Diamond, Private Detective.[6] Van Cleef played different minor characters on four episodes of ABC's The Rifleman, with Chuck Connors, between 1959 and 1962, and twice on ABC's Tombstone Territory. In 1958, he was cast as Deputy Sid Carver in the episode "The Great Stagecoach Robbery" of another syndicated western series, Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen. Van Cleef appeared in 1959 as Luke Clagg in the episode "Strange Request" of the NBC
western series Riverboat. Van Cleef played a sentry on an episode of the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys, with Walter Brennan. Van Cleef was cast with Pippa Scott
Pippa Scott
and again with Chuck Connors
Chuck Connors
in the 1960 episode "Trial by Fear" of the CBS
anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. A young Van Cleef also made an appearance on The Andy Griffith Show
The Andy Griffith Show
and as Frank Diamond in The Untouchables, in an episode entitled "The Unhired Assassin". He also appeared in an episode of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series The Alaskans.[5] Van Cleef guest-starred on the CBS
western series Have Gun - Will Travel, on the ABC/WB series Colt .45, on the NBC
western series Cimarron City and Laramie, and on Rod Cameron's syndicated crime dramas City Detective and State Trooper. He guest-starred in an episode of John Bromfield's syndicated crime drama Sheriff of Cochise. Van Cleef starred as minor villains and henchmen in various westerns, including The Tin Star
The Tin Star
and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.[5] In 1958, a severe car crash nearly cost Van Cleef his life and career. A resulting knee injury made his physicians think that he would never ride a horse again. This injury plagued Van Cleef for the rest of his life and caused him great pain. His recovery was long and arduous and halted his acting for a time. He then began a business in interior decoration with second wife Joan, as well as pursuing his talent for painting, primarily of sea and landscapes.[citation needed] In 1960, he appeared as a villainous swindler in the Bonanza
episode, "The Bloodline" (December 31, 1960) and also made an appearance on Gunsmoke. In 1961, he played a role on episode 7 ("The Grave") of the third season of The Twilight Zone. He played a villainous henchman of Lee Marvin's title character in the 1962 John Ford
John Ford
movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In 1963, he appeared on Perry Mason (episode: "The Case of the Golden Oranges"). That same year, he appeared in "The Day of the Misfits" on The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. In 1965, the actor's career underwent a dramatic change when Sergio Leone cast Van Cleef, whose career was still in the doldrums, as one of the two protagonists, alongside Clint Eastwood, in For a Few Dollars More.[5] Leone then chose Van Cleef to appear again with Eastwood, this time as the primary villain Angel Eyes, in the now seminal western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
(1966). With his roles in Leone's films, Van Cleef became a major star of Spaghetti Westerns, playing central, and often surprisingly heroic, roles in films such as The Big Gundown
The Big Gundown
(1966), Death Rides a Horse
Death Rides a Horse
(1967), Day of Anger (1967), and The Grand Duel (1972). He played the title role in Sabata (1969) and Return of Sabata
Return of Sabata
(1971), and co-starred with Jim Brown
Jim Brown
in an Italian-American co-production, Take a Hard Ride
Take a Hard Ride
(1975). He made two westerns with Leif Garrett
Leif Garrett
in Israel, God's Gun
God's Gun
(1976) and Kid Vengeance (1977). Van Cleef would later have a supporting role in John Carpenter's cult film Escape from New York
Escape from New York
(1981). In 1984, he was cast as a ninja master in the NBC
adventure series The Master, but it was canceled after thirteen episodes. In all, Van Cleef is credited with 90 movie roles and 109 television appearances over a 38-year span. His film characters died in many of his westerns and gangster portrayals – the record for onscreen deaths by an actor is thought to belong to John Hurt, whose characters died in 40 films.[5] [5] Death[edit]

Grave of Lee Van Cleef, at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

Despite suffering from heart disease from the late 1970s and having a pacemaker installed in the early 1980s, Van Cleef continued to work in films until his death on December 16, 1989, at age 64. He collapsed in his home in Oxnard, California, from a heart attack. Throat cancer
Throat cancer
was listed as a secondary cause of death.[7] Van Cleef is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Hollywood Hills, California, with an inscription on his gravestone referring to his many acting performances as sinister, threatening characters: "BEST OF THE BAD".[8] Filmography[edit] Film[edit]

Year Title Role Director Notes

1952 High Noon Jack Colby Fred Zinnemann with Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper
and Grace Kelly

Untamed Frontier Dave Chittun Hugo Fregonese with Joseph Cotten
Joseph Cotten
and Shelley Winters

Kansas City Confidential Tony Romano Phil Karlson with John Payne and Coleen Gray

1953 The Lawless Breed Dirk Hanley Raoul Walsh with Rock Hudson

The Bandits of Corsica Nerva Ray Nazarro

White Lightning Brutus Allen Edward Bernds

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms Corp. Stone Eugène Lourié

Arena Smitty Richard Fleischer

Vice Squad Pete Monte Arnold Laven with Edward G. Robinson

Jack Slade Bolt Mackay Harold D. Schuster

Tumbleweed Marv Nathan Juran with Audie Murphy

The Nebraskan Private Reno Benton Fred F. Sears

1954 Gypsy Colt Hank Andrew Marton

Rails Into Laramie Ace Winton Jesse Hibbs

Arrow in the Dust Tilotson Henchman Lesley Selander with Sterling Hayden

The Yellow Tomahawk Fire Knife Lesley Selander

Princess of the Nile Hakar Harmon Jones Uncredited bit part

The Desperado The Crayton twins, Paul/Buck Thomas Carr

Dawn at Socorro Earl Ferris George Sherman

1955 Treasure of Ruby Hills Frank Emmett Frank McDonald

Ten Wanted
Men Al Drucker H. Bruce Humberstone with Randolph Scott

The Big Combo Fante Joseph H. Lewis with Cornel Wilde

I Cover the Underworld Flash Logan R. G. Springsteen

The Road to Denver Pecos Larry Joseph Kane

The Naked Street Harry Goldish Maxwell Shane with Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn
and Anne Bancroft; Uncredited

Man Without a Star

Uncredited bit part

A Man Alone Clanton Ray Milland with Ray Milland

The Vanishing American Jay Lord Joseph Kane

1956 The Conqueror Chepei Dick Powell with John Wayne
John Wayne
and Susan Hayward

Tribute to a Bad Man Fat Jones Robert Wise with James Cagney

It Conquered the World Dr. Tom Anderson Roger Corman with Peter Graves

Pardners Gus Norman Taurog with Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis
and Dean Martin

Accused of Murder Police Sgt. Emmett Lackey Joseph Kane

1957 The Quiet Gun Doug Sadler William F. Claxton

The Badge of Marshal Brennan Shad Donaphin Albert C. Gannaway

China Gate Maj. Cham Samuel Fuller with Nat King Cole

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Ed Bailey John Sturges with Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas
and Burt Lancaster

The Lonely Man Faro Henry Levin with Jack Palance
Jack Palance
and Anthony Perkins

The Last Stagecoach West Steve Margolies Joseph Kane

Joe Dakota Adam Grant Richard Bartlett

The Tin Star Ed McGaffey Anthony Mann with Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
and Anthony Perkins

Gun Battle of Monterey Kirby Sidney Franklin, Jr. Carl K. Hittleman with Sterling Hayden

Raiders of Old California Sgt. Damon Pardee Albert C. Gannaway

1958 Day of the Bad Man Jake Hayes Harry Keller with Fred MacMurray

The Young Lions 1st Sgt. Rickett Edward Dmytryk with Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift
Montgomery Clift
and Dean Martin

The Bravados Alfonso Parral Henry King with Gregory Peck

Guns, Girls, and Gangsters Mike Benett Edward L. Cahn with Mamie Van Doren

Machete Miguel Kurt Neumann

Ride Lonesome Frank Budd Boetticher with Randolph Scott

1961 Posse from Hell Leo Herbert Coleman with Audie Murphy

1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Reese John Ford with James Stewart, John Wayne
John Wayne
and Lee Marvin

How the West Was Won River Pirate John Ford Henry Hathaway George Marshall with James Stewart, Carroll Baker, John Wayne
John Wayne
and Eli Wallach; Uncredited

1965 For a Few Dollars More Col. Douglas Mortimer Sergio Leone with Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
and Gian Maria Volonte

1966 The Big Gundown Jonathan Corbett Sergio Sollima with Tomas Milian

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly "Angel Eyes"/Sentenza; "The Bad" Sergio Leone with Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
and Eli Wallach

1967 Death Rides a Horse Ryan Giulio Petroni with John Phillip Law

Day of Anger Frank Talby Tonino Valerii with Giuliano Gemma

1968 Beyond the Law Billy Joe Cudlip Giorgio Stegani

Commandos MSgt. Sullivan Armando Crispino

1969 Sabata Sabata Gianfranco Parolini

1970 Barquero Travis Gordon Douglas with Warren Oates

El Condor Jaroo John Guillermin with Jim Brown

1971 Captain Apache Capt. Apache Alexander Singer with Carroll Baker
Carroll Baker
and Stuart Whitman

Return of Sabata Sabata Gianfranco Parolini

Bad Man's River Roy King Eugenio Martín with Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida
and James Mason

1972 The Magnificent Seven Ride Chris Adams George McCowan

The Grand Duel Sheriff Clayton Giancarlo Santi Aka The Big Showdown and Storm Rider

1973 Mean Frank and Crazy Tony Frankie Diomede Michele Lupo with Jean Rochefort

1974 The Stranger and the Gunfighter Dakota Antonio Margheriti Aka Blood Money

1975 Take a Hard Ride Kiefer Antonio Margheriti with Jim Brown

1976 God's Gun Father John / Lewis Gianfranco Parolini with Leif Garrett
Leif Garrett
and Jack Palance

1977 Kid Vengeance (it) McClain Joseph Manduke with Leif Garrett
Leif Garrett
and Jim Brown

Quel pomeriggio maledetto (it) Harry Chapman Mario Siciliano

1978 The Rip-Off Chris Gretchko / Ray Sloan Antonio Margheriti Aka The Squeeze

1980 The Octagon McCarn Eric Karson with Chuck Norris

1981 Escape from New York Bob Hauk John Carpenter with Kurt Russell, Donald Pleasence
Donald Pleasence
and Ernest Borgnine

1984 Goma-2 (it) Julot José Antonio de la Loma (es)

Code Name: Wild Geese China Antonio Margheriti with Klaus Kinski
Klaus Kinski
and Ernest Borgnine

1985 Jungle Raiders Warren Antonio Margheriti

1986 Armed Response Burt Roth Fred Olen Ray with David Carradine

1988 Der Commander (de) Col. Mazzarini Antonio Margheriti with Donald Pleasence

1989 Speed Zone
Speed Zone
a.k.a. Cannonball Fever Rock-Skipping Grandfather Jim Drake with John Candy, Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields
and Peter Boyle

Thieves of Fortune Sergio Danielo Christophero Michael MacCarthy (final film role)


Year Title Role(s) Episode(s) Network(s)

1952 Sky King Mark "Formula for Fear" NBC-TV, ABC-TC

1952 Boston Blackie Lou; Captain Jansen Inside Crime; Deep Six

1952–1953 The Range Rider El Latigo; Utah Joe; Rocky Hatch "Treasure of Santa Dolores"; "Outlaw's Double"; "Greed Rides the Range"

1952–1953 The Lone Ranger Joe Singer/Bull Harper/Henchman Jango "Desperado at Large"; "The Brown Pony"; "Stage to Estacado"

1954–1962 Death Valley Days unknown; Brogger "Snowshoe Thompson"; "The Hat That Won the West"

1955 The Man Behind the Badge Floyd "The Case of the Desperate Moment" CBS

1955 Champion the Wonder Horse Frank "Crossroad Trail" CBS

1957 Trackdown Ben "The Town"

1958 Wagon Train Rufe Beal "The Jesse Cowan Story"

1958 Zorro Antonio Castillo "Welcome to Monterey"

1958 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Ed Murdock "Rodeo"

1959 Mr. Lucky

"Dangerous Lady"

1959 Yancy Derringer Ike Milton/Frank James "Outlaw at Liberty"

1959 Wanted: Dead or Alive, Jumbo Kane "The Hostage"

1959 The Real McCoys 1st Sentry "Grandpa Fights the Air Force"

1959–1962 The Rifleman Dan Maury; Stinger; Wicks; Johnny Drako "The Deadly Wait"; "The Prodigal"; "The Clarence Bibs Story"; "Death Never Rides Alone" ABC-TV

1960 The Slowest Gun in the West Sam Bass TV movie

1960–1966 Gunsmoke Rad Meadows; Johnny Hooker; Ike Jeffords "Old Flame"/"The Pariah"/"My Father, My Son"

1960–1963 Laramie Wes Torrey; Dawson; Mac Morgan; Caleb ".45 Calibre"; "Killer Odds"; "Vengeance"; "The Stranger"

1960 Bonanza Appling "The Blood Line"

1961 Maverick Wolf McManus "Red Dog"

1961–1962 Cheyenne Braden; Larry Jackson; Harry "Trouble Street"; "A Man Called Ragen"; "Man Alone"

1961 The Twilight Zone Steinhart "The Grave" CBS-TV

1961 Stagecoach West Lin Hyatt "Never Walk Alone"

1963 The Dakotas Larry Jackson; Slade Tucker "A Man Called Ragan"; "Thunder in Pleasant Valley" ABC-TV

1963 Perry Mason Edward Doyle "The Case of the Golden Oranges"

1962–1963 Have Gun – Will Travel Corbin; Golias "The Treasure"; "Face of a Shadow"

1962–1963 Ripcord Henry Kane; Jack Martin "Thoroughbred"; "The Money Mine"

1964 Rawhide Fred Grant; Deck Sommers "The Enormous Fist"; "Piney" CBS-TV

1965 The Andy Griffith Show Skip "Banjo-Playing Deputy" CBS-TV

1965 My Mother the Car Nick Fitch "Burned at the Steak"

1965–1966 Branded

"The Richest Man in Boot Hill", "Call to Glory" NBC-TV

1966 Laredo Big Mike Kelly "Quarter Past Eleven"

1977 Nowhere to Hide

1979 The Hard Way

1984 The Master John Peter McAllister All episodes; starring role NBC-TV

In popular culture[edit] Lee van Cleef's characters in the Sergio Leone
Sergio Leone
movies inspired the creation of the character Elliot Belt in the Lucky Luke
Lucky Luke
comic album The Bounty Hunter. The band Primus has a song about Lee Van Cleef
Lee Van Cleef
on their album Green Naugahyde.[9] The Warcraft universe sports the villain Edwin Van Cleef, who is inspired by Lee Van Cleef. Phillip Pullman, author of the bestselling trilogy His Dark Materials, stated that the first name of his fictional American explorer, airman and crack marksman Lee Scoresby was a reference to Van Cleef, with the character's surname being an homage to the famous Arctic explorer William Scoresby. Van Cleef was also parodied in GLC: The Carnage Continues..., a short British comedy film of the late 1980s that humorously joined British politics with Hollywood action stars. Van Cleef is portrayed by the film's director Peter Richardson, though it rather suggests Van Cleef the personage is unrealistically playing Tony Benn, a British Member of Parliament. Van Cleef served as visual inspiration for the characters of Revolver Ocelot and Old Snake in the video game Metal Gear Solid, as well as inspiring the gunslinger personality of the former. References[edit]

^ "PO1 Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr". TogetherWeServed. 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-25.  ^ a b Rowan, Terry (2013). The American Western A Complete Film Guide. Lulu.com. ISBN 9781300418580. Retrieved 30 June 2017.  ^ Hatala, Greg. "Glimpse of History: 'Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me' - Lee Van Cleef", The Star-Ledger, August 26, 2013. Accessed November 4, 2017. "Looking at this photo of Clarence Leroy Van Cleef Jr. from the 1943 Somerville High School yearbook, it's hard to imagine him acquiring the sobriquet 'ugly.' Yet he was tagged just that 23 years later when he starred with Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
and Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach
in Sergio Leone's classic western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." ^ Malloy, Mike (1998). Lee Van Cleef: A Biographical, Film and Television Reference. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 5. ISBN 0-7864-0437-X.  ^ a b c d e f g h i Lee Van Cleef
Lee Van Cleef
on IMDb ^ ""Rodeo", Richard Diamond, Private Detective, February 20, 1958". IMDb. Retrieved March 30, 2013.  ^ Magers, Boyd. "Lee Van Cleef". Western Clippings. Retrieved 18 January 2014.  ^ "Lee Van Cleef", Find a Grave
Find a Grave
memorial (2175) with biographical profile and related photographs created January 1, 2001. Retrieved April 17, 2017. ^ [1]

External links[edit]

Lee Van Cleef
Lee Van Cleef
on IMDb Lee Van Cleef
Lee Van Cleef
at AllMovie Lee Van Cleef
Lee Van Cleef
at Find a Grave TheBad.net: A Tribute to Lee Van Cleef

United States
United States
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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 79167930 LCCN: no89012159 ISNI: 0000 0001 2282 2775 GND: 121145123 SUDOC: 059179341 BNF: cb13900699p (data) NKC: pna2007389154 BNE: XX1306563 SN