The Man With A Name, The Menacing Lee Van Cleef
For nearly 40 years Lee Van Cleef was typecast. He made a living at playing villains. But as he observed, “I didn’t much care if I got out of that bad guy role. I fell in love with the characters. I could do things I couldn’t do in real life, and generally a bad guy is a more colorful part. It’s always more fun to be nasty.”
A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, a trio of “spaghetti westerns” made by Italian director Sergio Leone from 1964-1967 established Clint Eastwood “the man with no name” as a major film star.
The second and third films of the Eastwood- Leone films, also brought Lee Van Cleef from mid-level billing status to international stardom.
For 15 years with hawk-like looks, penetrating gaze and low voice, the lean six foot two Lee Van Cleef toiled in films and television, almost always cast as a bad guy. He struggled to make ends meet.
The Breakthrough Role
But on April 10, 1965 Lee signed a contract for 30 percent more than he had ever previously made to co-star as bounty hunter Colonel Mortimer in For A Few Dollars More.
Up until the signing, Lee and his wife Joan had been living on residuals from television appearances, unemployment checks and her salary as a secretary. Prior to committing to the film Lee had not appeared in a film since 1962. Continue reading