Clarence Leroy Van Cleef Jnr, born on January 9th would have been 89 today. The “Bad” in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he made 171 films. What an output. One of the great movie villains, Lee Van Cleef started out as an accountant. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers 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 (Judgement at Nuremburg, The Defiant Ones, On The Beach, High Noon) 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 baddies, but in the mid-’60s 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 Oxnard, California in December 1989, and was buried at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. He was still only 64 with all those films behind him.

High Noon in 1952


High Noon Polish

He was Fat Jones in Tribute to a Bad Man with James Cagney.

Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza, Rawhide then The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.



Then in 1965, For a Few Dollars More.

The following year The Good the Bad and the Ugly.


More westerns, The Magnificent 7 Ride, a few TV spots then in 1981, John Carpenter picked him as Hauk in Escape From New York.






1988 saw him team up with Lewis Collins, Donald Pleasance in Der Commander:




A couple more forgettable TV movies and sadly, that was all.