Lee Van Cleef

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  • January 9, 1925

- December 16, 1989

Lee Van Cleef, born on 9 January 1925 in Somerville, New Jersey, USA, is an American actor who had an impressive career as one of the best villians the cinema ever had. After World War II, in which he served as a minesweeper in the US Navy, 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). From 1952-1964 he played the villian in a lot of American movies, primarily in westerns, but also in crime dramas such as The Big Combo (1955). He had almost given up his acting career as a car accident in late 1959 nearly crippled him: broken leg, broken arm, shattered kneecap. Doctors supposedly told him he would never ride again, but then his career got a new push after Sergio Leone's For a few Dollars more in 1965, where he played Col. Mortimer, and Sergio Sollima's The Big Gundown in 1966. As a western hero (or better anti-hero) Lee Van Cleef became an international star, though in films of decreasing quality. In December 1989 he died of a heart attack and was buried at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. Lee Van Cleef today is one of the most well known and respected actors of the Spaghetti Western Cinema.


Good to know

  • He lost the tip of his middle finger on his right hand while building a playhouse for his daughter. (Seen in a scene in The Good,the Bad and the Ugly).
  • He had an alcohol problem.
  • He said about himself: "Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me." (it's sometimes wrongly claimed that his eyes had different colors, a green one and a blue one, but in fact, and also according to his Navy ID, his eye color was brown).

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