|Born||Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Jr.|
January 9, 1925(1925-01-09)
Somerville, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||December 16, 1989(1989-12-16) (aged 64)|
Oxnard, California, U.S.
|Spouse||Barbara Havelone (1976–1989; his death)|
Joanie (1960 – ?)
Patsy Ruth (1943 – ?; divorced)
Lee Van Cleef (January 9, 1925 – December 16, 1989) was an American film actor who appeared mostly in Western and action pictures. His sharp features and piercing eyes led to his being cast as a villain in scores of films such as High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Good The Bad and the Ugly.
Early lifeVan Cleef was born Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Jr. in Somerville, New Jersey, the son of Marion Levinia (née Van Fleet) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Sr. Both of his parents were of partial Dutch ancestry. Van Cleef served in the United States Navy aboard minesweepers and subchasers during World War II and became an actor after a brief career as an accountant.
CareerHis first acting experiences were on stage, including a small role in the original Broadway production of Mister Roberts. His first film was the classic Western High Noon, in which he played a villain. He also had a bit part as the sharpshooter in the climax of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms around the same time. In 1956 he co-starred with Peter Graves in the B-grade science fiction movie It Conquered the World.
In addition to Westerns and the science fiction films, three of his early major roles were in noir films, Kansas City Confidential of 1952, Vice Squad of 1953, and The Big Combo of 1955. All have attained status as classic noir films of the 1950s and Van Cleef's roles, though as secondary characters and villains, were memorable.
Van Cleef appeared six times between 1951 and 1955 as Burt Tanner on the children's western The Adventures of Kit Carson, starring Bill Williams. In 1954, he appeared as Jesse James in the Jim Davis syndicated series Stories of the Century. He played different minor characters on four episodes of ABC's The Rifleman between 1959 and 1962 and twice on ABC's Tombstone Territory. He appeared with Chuck Connors and Pippa Scott in the 1960 episode "Trial by Fear" of CBS's The DuPont Show with June Allyson.
He guest starred on the NBC western series 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 series Sheriff of Cochise. Van Cleef starred as minor villains and henchmen in various westerns, including The Tin Star and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
In 1958, Van Cleef was involved in a serious car accident and was forced temporarily to retire from acting. It took his career some time to recover from this blow and in contrast to his earlier major roles, he for some years had only occasional small parts. He played one of Lee Marvin's villainous henchmen in the 1962 John Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, with James Stewart and John Wayne. He also had a small, uncredited role as one of the river pirates in 1962's How the West Was Won.
Between 1962 and 1965 Van Cleef worked as a painter, after which his career took a new turn when he appeared in numerous Spaghetti Westerns. This career revival began when Sergio Leone wanted to cast Van Cleef, whose career was still in the doldrums that began with his car accident, against type as one of the two protagonists, alongside Clint Eastwood, in Leone's second Western, For a Few Dollars More. Leone then chose Van Cleef to appear with Clint Eastwood again, this time as the primary villain in the classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. With his roles in Leone's films, Van Cleef became a major star of Spaghetti Westerns, playing central roles in films such as Death Rides a Horse, Day of Anger, The Big Gundown and Sabata. Van Cleef also had a supporting role in John Carpenter's cult hit Escape from New York. In 1984, Van Cleef was cast as a ninja master in the NBC adventure series, The Master, but it was canceled after 13 episodes. He also appeared as a villainous swindler in the Bonanza episode, "The Bloodline" (December 31, 1960), along with 90 movie roles and 109 other television appearances over a 38-year span.
In the early 1980s, Van Cleef appeared in a very popular series of commercials for Midas, in which he played up his gunfighter persona, playing opposite many character actors of the time, including Jack Palance.
DeathHe died from a heart attack in Oxnard, California and was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His gravestone reads: Lee Van Cleef January 9, 1925 - December 16, 1989 'Best of the Bad' Love and Light.
In popular cultureIn an interview, Hideo Kojima has stated that he modeled the appearance of Revolver Ocelot (a character who specializes in the usage of the Single Action Army revolver) and the old appearance of Solid Snake in the Metal Gear series after Lee Van Cleef, as a tribute to his love of western movies as a child.
The character Cad Bane from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 TV series) is based on Lee's performance in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'.
Several reggae artists have mentioned him in their songs, including Rupie Edwards in "The Revenge Of Clint Eastwood" and "Pop Hi!" (Revenge 2), Clancy Eccles in "Lee Van Cleef", Lee Perry on Clint Eastwood. King Stitt recorded many songs under the pseudonym "Lee Van Cleef" (sometimes with the alternate spelling "Von Cliff").
Hungarian bard Cseh Tamas entitled a song "Lee Van Cleef".
Phoenix, Arizona alt-metal band Beats the Hell Out of Me entitled a song "G-Nite Lee Van Cleef" on their 1995 album Rolling Thunder Music on Metal Blade Records. The title character in the Lucky Luke comic by Morris Chasseur de primes ("The Bounty Hunter") is modeled on Lee Van Cleef. The band Primus has a song titled "Lee Van Cleef" on their album Green Naugahyde. In Thomas Pynchon's novel Inherent Vice the main character, Doc Sportello, expresses approval of Lee Van Cleef, comparing him to Clint Eastwood whom he always thinks of as Rowdy Yates.
Kurt Russell has said that Van Cleef's presence in Escape from New York inspired him to talk like Clint Eastwood in the film.
The band Primus released a song titled "Lee Van Cleef" on its 2011 album, Green Naugahyde, about a man lamenting how his friends like watching Sergio Leone's movies for Clint Eastwood instead of Van Cleef.
- High Noon (1952)
- Untamed Frontier (1952)
- Kansas City Confidential (1952)
- The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
- The Lawless Breed (1953)
- The Bandits of Corsica (1953)
- White Lightning (1953)
- Arena (1953)
- Vice Squad (1953)
- Jack Slade (1953)
- The Nebraskan (1953)
- Private Eyes (1953)
- Tumbleweed (1953)
- Gypsy Colt (1954)
- Arrow In The Dust (1954)
- Rails Into Laramie (1954)
- The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
- Princess of the Nile (1954) (Uncredited Bit Part)
- The Desperado (1954)
- Dawn At Socorro (1954)
- Treasure of Ruby Hills (1955)
- Ten Wanted Men (1955)
- The Naked Street (1955)
- Man Without A Star (1955) (Uncredited Bit Part)
- I Cover The Underworld (1955)
- The Road To Denver (1955)
- A Man Alone (1955)
- The Vanishing American (1955)
- The Conqueror (1955)
- The Big Combo (1955)
- It Conquered the World (1956)
- Tribute To A Bad Man (1956)
- Pardners (1956)
- Accused of Murder (1956)
- The Lonely Man (1957)
- The Tin Star (1957)
- The Quiet Gun (1957)
- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
- China Gate (1957)
- The Badge of Marshal Brennan (1957)
- The Last Stagecoach West (1957)
- Joe Dakota (1957)
- Gun Battle of Monterey (1957)
- Raiders of Old California (1957)
- Day of the Bad Man (1958)
- The Bravados (1958)
- The Young Lions (1958)
- Machete (1958)
- Guns, Girls, and Gangsters (1959)
- Ride Lonesome (1959)
- The Slowest Gun In The West (TV) (1960)
- Posse From Hell (1961)
- The Twilight Zone "The Grave" (1961)
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
- How the West Was Won (1962) (uncredited)
- For a Few Dollars More (1965)
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
- The Big Gundown (1966)
- Death Rides a Horse (1967)
- Day of Anger (1967)
- Beyond the Law (1968)
- Commandos (1968)
- Sabata (1969)
- Barquero (1970)
- El Condor (1970)
- Captain Apache (1971)
- Return of Sabata (1971)
- Grand Duel (Storm Rider) (1972)
- Bad Man's River (1972)
- The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972)
- Mean Frank and Crazy Tony, aka Escape From Death Row (1973)
- The Stranger and the Gunfighter (1974)
- Take a Hard Ride (1975)
- God's Gun (1976)
- Kid Vengeance (1977) (Filmed in Gran Canaria)
- The Perfect Killer (1977)
- Nowhere to Hide (1977) (TV)
- The Squeeze (1978)
- The Hard Way (1979) (TV)
- The Octagon (1980)
- Escape from New York (1981)
- Killing Machine (1983)
- Codename: Wild Geese (1984)
- The Master (1984) (TV series)
- Jungle Raiders (1985)
- Armed Response (1986)
- Der Commander (1988)
- Speed Zone! aka Cannonball Fever (1989)
- Thieves of Fortune (1989)
- ^ Lee Van Cleef Biography (1925-1989)
- ^ "Lee Van Cleef, Actor, Dies at 64; Played Villains in Many Westerns", The New York Times, December 17, 1989. Accessed November 25, 2007. "Lee Van Cleef was born in Somerville, N.J., on January 9, 1925. His first job was as a farm worker in his home state. He then worked as an accountant in Somerville before beginning in his movie career in 1950."
- ^ Biography for Lee Van Cleef at the Internet Movie Database
- ^ "Lee Van Cleef Biography". http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001812/bio. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
- ^ George-Warren, Holly (September 2003). "The Man with No Name". American Cowboy (Active Interest Media) 10 (3): 75. http://books.google.com/?id=VeoCAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA75&dq=%22lee+van+cleef%22+painter+accident. Retrieved 2008-01-04.