Ever seen the 1966 epic Italian Western thriller, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly? If you have, then you would certainly remember Lee Van Cleef, who portrayed the role of The Bad (Angel Eyes) in the highly acclaimed movie. The film which has other stars including Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach garnered positive reviews, hence bringing Van Cleef to the limelight.
Beyond that, the actor continued to score more interesting roles in epic movies during the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s before his sudden demise in 1989. The movie icon was said to have died of cardiac arrest in his California home at the age of 64. Although it has been over three decades since he passed on, Lee Van Cleef’s legacy has continued to live on and his life has inspired several contemporary movies. It will be interesting to find out more about this late actor; learn everything you need to know about Lee Van Cleef below.
Lee Van Cleef – Bio
It was on the 9th of January 1925 that the actor was born Clarence LeRory Cleef Jr. to Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef Sr and his wife, Marion Lavina Van Fleet. Although he was born in Somerville, New Jersey, Van Cleef is of Dutch descent. He spent his early years in New Jersey where he graduated from Somerville High School at the age of 17.
Soon after his graduation, the actor enrolled in the United States Navy in September 1942. Before his deployment, Van Cleef attended the Naval Fleet School and after his graduation, he was assigned to a submarine chaser. Subsequently, he worked as a Sonarman in the minesweeper, USS Incredible.
During his years of active service, Cleef partook in several operations during World War II. By the time he was discharged in 1946, he had attained the rank of Sonarman First Class (SO1). He was also honored with the World War II victory medal, American Campaign Medal, and many other accolades.
Movies And TV Shows
Not long after Lee Van Cleef left the US Navy, he ventured into acting; thus earning his first role in the production of the play, Our Town at the Little Theatre group, New Jersey. After that, he scored a few more roles in plays such as Mister Roberts and Heaven Can Wait, before making his first screen appearance in 1952. His first on-screen role was in the western film, High Noon. His impressive performance brought him to the attention of top filmmakers who later offered him roles in their movies.
From 1953 to 1965, the actor was seen in a handful of movies including For a Few Dollars More, How the West was Won, Pose From Hell, and Day of the Bad Man. Others are Raiders of Old California, The Conqueror, The Vanishing American, The Desperado, and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, among others.
Lee Van Cleef got his breakthrough in 1966 following his appearance in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He portrayed the role of Angel Eyes (The Bad) in the movie alongside Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood. In the latter part of his career, Lee Van Cleef appeared in over 30 movies from 1967 to 1988. Notable amongst them are Death Rides a Horse, The Grand Duel, Sabata, The Return of Sabata, Take a Hard Ride, God’s Guns, and Kid Vengeance, among others. His last film appearance was in 1988 when he portrayed the role of Sergio Danielo in Thieves of Fortune.
The actor also made his mark on Television and he starred in a good number of TV series during his active years. Some of his popular works include The Range Rider, Sky King, The Man Behind the Badge, Zorro, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Gunsmoke, Maverick, Branded, and The Hard Way. He was last seen in the NBC TV series, The Master in 1984.
Lee Van Cleef’s Family: Spouse And Children
Lee Van Cleef was married three times in his lifetime. His first marriage was with a woman named Patsy Ruth. The duo got hitched in 1943 and several years later, they went their separate ways in 1960. Their union produced three children; two sons named Alan Van Cleef (b. 1947) and David Van Cleef (b. 1960) as well as a daughter named Deborah Van Cleef (b. 1948).
Shortly after their divorce, Van Cleef also got married a second time, this time to Joan Marjorie Drane. His second marriage lasted for 14 years and they went their separate ways in 1974. Their union produced a daughter named Denise Van Cleef. His third and last wife was Barbara Havelone whom he married in 1976. The couple was still together until his sudden demise in 1989.
For someone like Lee Van Cleef who boasts an impressive resume with an acting career that spanned over three decades, one would expect nothing less than a huge financial worth. As a result, it comes as no surprise as the actor’s net worth has been pegged at $2 million. He made his wealth from his films and TV appearances as well as other business endeavors.