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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Podcast: Once Upon a Time in Spaghetti Westerns #25 - A Tribute To Lee Van Cleef

Jay Jennings, Tom Betts, and LVC biographer Mike Malloy, take a look back at the career of LVC.  Clocking in at almost 2 hours!  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this guys. As far as I know the first time Lee was on any screen was May 1952 in an episode of Space Patrol. He has a nice size part with lines. Like Father, Like Son is a 1966 episode of Gunsnoke apparently shot after For A Few Dollars More and Lee has a big part with many lines. He is a man out for revenge against Jack Elam whom Lee had appeared with many times over the years. Also Lee was in a western shot in Mexico that apparently was never released. Dabbs Greer told me about it. Dabbs and Lee were there from Hollywood and the producer ran out of money and refused to provide transportation back to LA and ironically Greer and Van Cleef were stranded for a few days together as they didn't have the funds for travel either. Yes I think Lee was doing house painting in the mid 60's as Hollywood was just not using him much. Dabbs Greer said his car accident and physical appearance from too much booze was behind it and Lee was later hospitalized and they were concerned his wasn't going to make it. His agent then, a lady, told me she worked hard to get Lee in How The West Was Won as producers were skeptical of taking Lee on location. The TV work was reasonably steady as it was shot shoots in and around LA. But that was beginning to dry up too when Leone showed up looking for Lee. Initially Lee was skeptical about going all the way to Italy and Spain just for a few scenes but they told him he would be in the entire film and showed 15,000 dollars in cash. That was all it took. The next year Leone wanted Lee for the next film but apparently didn't offer airfare so he was able to get a 3 parter on Branded which he used for the money. I've seen one interview with the director of the 3 parter and he said Lee was very thankful for the work and said he has to try this opportunity because in Hollywood he just doesn't work enough anymore. That he was going to starve if he stayed in LA. Of course during GB&U, Alberto Grimaldi offered Lee his first starring roll in Big Gundown to be shot when GB&U rapped. Lee was off to the races and starred in 8 films making about 3 to 400 thousand a film. He was so busy that for a short time he had an apartment in Rome and appeared on an episode of an Italian TV series. But as Mike pointed out, after El Condor Lee found the quality drying up and the size of the paycheck. His films and career had its ups and downs in the 70's and 80's.

    Lee once said during the 50's his better parts usually were on TV, something he made should have returned too in the 1970's and he mentioned playing a doctor on The Medic starring Richard Boone in an episode titled Day 10 as a highlight to his memories.

    The western Last Stagecoach West 1957 was a big part for Lee. In it from start to finish. Lee stayed busy in the 1950's but others got to work even more. Lee became close to being one of the first call character actors like Myron Healey, John Dehiner, Jack Elam, Roy Barcroft, Walter Sande, John Anderson, Claude Akins, Ed Nelson etc etc. About 154 television episodics and 85 films counting the one in Mexico starring one of the leading Mexican actresses of the time but Dabbs Greer said as far as he knew it was never released unless there was a Spanish language version that came out.