Lee Van Cleef was an American film actor who was usually cast as a villain. After serving in the Armed Services in World War II he was talked into trying out for an acting career. His first acting assignment in 1950 was in the travelling stage show “Mister Roberts”. He performed in many cities, and following the tour tried out for film parts. He became successful with his first role in “High Noon” in 1952.
Following his first film performance he had roles in several films each year during the 1950’s. His sharp features and piercing eyes enabled him to become the ideal villain in numerous productions. During his entire career, which lasted until 1989, the year of his death, he had roles in nearly 100 films, TV Series and other productions.
Some of the titles of the productions he was in are: “High Noon” in 1952, “Vice-Squad” in 1953, “Dawn to Socorro” in 1954, “The Vanishing American” in 1955, “Gunfight in the OK Corral” in 1957, “Bonanza” in 1960, A role in one of the Andy Griffith Show performances in 1965, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in 1966, “Commandos” in 1968, “Bad Man’s River” in 1972, “Escape from Death Row” in 1975, “The Rip-Off” in 1978, “The Octagon” in 1980, “Jungle Raiders” in 1985, and “Thief of Fortune” in 1989, the year of his death.
The type of roles played by Van Cleef did not produce many awards. He did, however, win one award in 1983. It was the Golden Boot Award, probably given out to performers in Westerns.
Lee Van Cleef was born in Somerville, New Jersey, on January 9, 1925. His parents were Clarence L. Van Cleef and Marion L. Van Fleet Van Cleef. He was married three times. He was married to Patsie Ruth from1943 to 1960, to Joan Drane from 1960 to 1974, and to Barbara Havelone from 1976 until 1989, the year of his death. He had three children named Alan, Deborah and David.
Van Cleef passed away in Oxnard, California on December 16, 1989, at age 64. Cause of his death was a heart attack. He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, California.
Image: Van Cleef in “Death Rides a Horse”, in 1969
Lee Van Cleef Biography, http://www.filmreference.com
NEW YORK TIMES, December 17, 1989, “Lee Van Cleef, Actor, Dies at 64”, Played Villains in Many Westerns.
Various other web sites such as IMDB and Wikipedia
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