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Lee Van Cleef Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (6) | Trivia (15) | Personal Quotes (2) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 9 January 1925Somerville, New Jersey, USA
Date of Death 16 December 1989Oxnard, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameClarence Leroy Van Cleef Jr.
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

One of the great movie villains, Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr. was born in Somerville, New Jersey, to Marion Lavinia (Van Fleet) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Sr. His parents were both of Dutch ancestry. Van Cleef started out as an accountant. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and subchasers during World War II. After the war he worked as an office administrator, becoming involved in amateur theatrics in his spare time. An audition for a professional role led to a touring company job in "Mr. Roberts". His performance was seen by Stanley Kramer, who cast him as henchman Jack Colby in High Noon (1952), a role that brought him great recognition despite the fact that he had no dialogue. For the next decade he played a string of memorably villainous characters, primarily in westerns but also in crime dramas such as The Big Combo (1955). His hawk nose and steely, slit eyes seemed destined to keep him always in the realm of heavies, but in the mid-Sergio Leone cast him as the tough but decent Col. Mortimer opposite Clint Eastwood in For a Few Dollars More (1965). A new career as a western hero (or at least anti-hero) opened up, and Van Cleef became an international star, though in films of decreasing quality. In the 1980s he moved easily into action and martial-arts movies, and starred in The Master (1984), a TV series featuring almost non-stop martial arts action. He died of a heart attack in December 1989, and was buried at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (3)

Barbara Havelone (13 July 1976 - 16 December 1989) (his death)
Joan Marjorie Drane (9 April 1960 - 1974) (divorced)
Patsy Ruth Kahle (10 December 1943 - 1960) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (6)

Spaghetti westerns
Sharp facial features
Beady eyes that frequently squinted in the Western sun
Sardonic, menacing characters
Low Authorative voice
When starring in westerns, his characters frequently use customized firearms, such as rifles and pistols with increased precision, fire rate, ammo magazine and additional muzzles.

Trivia (15)

He was missing the last joint of his middle finger, a disfigurement prominently featured in the climactic gunfight of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). He actually lost it while building a playhouse for his daughter, although there were rumors that it happened in a road accident or a bar fight.
He had three children from his first marriage: Alan (B. 1947), Deborah (B. 1948), and David. In 1960, when Lee married his second wife Joan Miller. They adopted a daughter, Denise.
One episode of his short-lived TV series, The Master (1984), was titled "The Good, The Bad and the Priceless".
He had almost given up his acting career in the mid-'60s and turned to painting when he was cast by Sergio Leone in For a Few Dollars More (1965). It made him a superstar in Europe and restarted his career in the US, making him again a recognizable and bankable name.
According to the book "Weird NJ" (Sceurman, Mark and Mark Moran, Barnes and Noble Books, 2004 ISBN 0-7607-3979-X) he was a descendant of the Morris County Van Cleefs who were infamous in the area for their strange living and "procreational" efforts. In fact, one trait that Lee had was that he had one green eye and one blue eye. According to the book, "this telltale characteristic was corrected in the movies with colored contact lenses".
Was the inspiration for the character Revolver Ocelot in the "Metal Gear" series of games.
During one summer in the early 1950s he was a camp counselor in NYC for Marc Furstenberg.
Son of Clarence Leroy Van Cleef and Maria Lavinia Van Fleet, both mostly of Dutch ancestry. He also had distant French, Swedish, Belgian (Flemish), English, and German, roots.
Was portrayed as a bounty hunter in the Lucky Luke comic book "The Bounty Hunter".
Interviewed in "Bad at the Bijou" by William R. Horner (McFarland, 1982).
Was on the short list of actors under consideration for arms dealer Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights (1987).
He was involved in a car accident in 1959 in which he lost his left kneecap. Doctors told him he would never be able to ride a horse again because of the injury. Within six months he was back in the saddle.
Producer Stuart Cohen recently revealed that Van Cleef was considered for the role of Garry in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), since Carpenter had recently worked with him on Escape from New York (1981).
Served in the US Navy from 1942-46.
When still working as an accountant, Van Cleef was offered an acting job "starting on Monday." He protested that he needed to give his employer two weeks' notice, only to be told that he started on Monday or didn't start at all. When Van Cleef's employer heard this, he promptly fired him, removing the need for any notice period.

Personal Quotes (2)

Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Bad guys have always been my bag . . . I look mean without even trying. Audiences just naturally hate me on screen. I could play a role in a tuxedo and people would think I was rotten. You can do much more with a villain part. Movies are full of leading men, most of whom aren't working. It's much harder to find a good villain.

Salary (2)

High Noon (1952) $500 /week
Per qualche dollaro in piĆ¹ (1965) $17,000

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