LEE VAN CLEEF - THE UGLY - IS DEAD
OXNARD Calif. (AP) - Actor Lee Van Cleef, who made a career of playing bad guys in Westerns, has died. He was 64. The steely-eyed actor with hawklike features became a familiar gunslinger in the spaghetti westerns, including "For a few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."
In the 1967 flick, Van Cleef portrayed "Setenza, the Ugly", while Clint Eastwood played "Joe, the Good" and Eli Wallach "Tuco, the Bad".
Van Cleef collapsed Friday night at his home and died some hours later.
The actor, who was born in Somerville, NJ, got his film break as one of four desperadoes faced down by Gary Cooper in the 1952 classic "High Noon".
Among his hundreds of black-hat roles were parts in "How the West Was Won", "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "Death Rides a Horse."
In 1969, Van Cleef jokingly attributed his gunslinger typecasting in some 350 television movies and motion pictures to his predator's nose.
"I didn't speak a word in High Noon" he recalled. "In 1951, Stanley and Earl Kramer saw me in a play "Mr. Roberts", and offered me the role eventually played by Lloyd Bridges in the film, providing I would have my nose fixed. I refused and wound up as one on the four villains."
"Now people remember this beak." Van Cleef, who was of Dutch ancestry, dropped out of high school to join the Navy, where he served on submarine chasers and minesweepers.
He worked as a farmer, gas station attendant, and painter before getting his first stage role in a production of "Our Town" with an amateur troupe in New Jersey.
New York producer and director Harold Anderson noticed Van Cleef in an amateur production of "Heaven Can Wait", and helped find him a place in a road company production of the World War II Navy comedy "Mr. Roberts" with Henry Fonda.
But it was Van Cleef's bad guy roles in the Westerns made by Italian director Sergio Leone in the 1960s that made him widely known as a villain.
Van Cleef was stricken at his home in Oxnard, a coastal community about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, said Ventura County Coroner Craig Stevens.
The actor's wife, Barbara, called paramedics and he was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.
Van Cleef was pronounced dead minutes after midnight Saturday.
"It's an apparent heart attack. He's got a history of heart disease. He had a permanent pacemaker." Stevens said.