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Hollywood: Lee Van Clef the Eternal Gun Slinger

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places

1925-89

1925-89

The beginning

There are two films that I can never forget, in particular the scenes that bring out the macho capability of Lee Van Clef.I once saw the movie "Gods Gun." It is a western with an emotional streak. A boy traumatized during an incident unable to speak and a gunfighter who has become a priest, to avenge the death of his brother who was a priest. Its a wonderful movie and Lee van Cleef showed why he is such a great star in such roles as he literally becomes God's gun to kill the evil men and in a last dramatic scene the boy recovers his voice and warns Lee. It is a fitting finale.

In another movie, Lee plays the role of a boatman who pilots a raft to cross the river. The film 'Barquero ' brings out Van Clef at his macho best. A family is escaping from bandits and they have to be ferried across the river and Lee is all there to help them. But the wife feels she must reward Lee and the scene where she gives herself to leave Van clef is one of the most wonderful scenes shot by a Hollywood director. The desire in the eyes of Lee is translated by the wife.

Lee van Cleef acted in nearly 100 Western and cowboy roles. In most of his roles, he played the suave, slick well-dressed man with a hat and a cigar who was fast on the gun. His roles as the gunfighter have lived long after Lee passed away in 1989 at the age of 64 of a heart attack. One has only to see the movie the Good Bad and Ugly to realize the forte of Lee as an actor. There in the role of Angel eyes as the Ugly who faces Clint Eastwood, he is simply superb. Clint Eastwood is no mean actor in such roles, but Lee carried himself with aplomb in the role of the gunslinger out to search a lost gold shipment.


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The eternal gunfighter

Lee also starred in many other films the notable being Death rides a horse , Barquerero, The Lost Gun, The man who shot Liberty Wallace and many more. It is to his credit that he continued acting in films right till his death. Hollywood is the poorer for his death.

Earlier Lee had served with the Navy as an accountant and was an Admin Officer. He also served on the minesweeper USS Incredible. Lee saw action in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Black Sea and by the end of the war had become Sonarman class First Class. He left the Navy in 1946.

He had many nondescript roles till picked by Sergio Leone for the role of the suave bounty hunter in For a few Dollars more. This film saw the rise of Lee and after that, he never looked back.

His role as Angel Eyes in the good, the bad, and the ugly was a stand-out performance. Earlier this role has been offered to Charles Bronson but he had turned it down as he did not want to play second fiddle to Clint Eastwood. However, Lee in this film stole the scenes from Clint Eastwood and the last gunfight between the trio of Clint Eastwood, Eli Walach and Lee is still remembered to this day. He more than held his own against Clint Eastwood.


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Time to remember

Lee was born in 1925 in New Jersey. He married thrice. He died of a heart attack at a pretty young age he was only 64. He had three children all from his first wife Patsy Ruth Kahle who he divorced in 1958. He had married her in 1943. Lee was suffering from heart disease for quite some time and had a pacemaker fitted. He collapsed while shooting on the set.

His family had him buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetry, Hollywood Hills. The inscription on his grave marker is a telling reminder of his many acting roles as a villain: "BEST OF THE BAD".

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 14, 2021:

Devika, nice of you to have commented

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 14, 2021:

Devika, a pleasure to read your comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 14, 2021:

emge thank you for this informative hub. You share great history lessons.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

Thanks, Barbara, for commenting, your mother and me are on the same page.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

Bil, thank you, so welcome a comment.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

Peggy. Thanks for commenting. Yes, great actor in a gunslinger role.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on April 13, 2021:

Hi,

Lee Van Clef was one of my mother's favorites and since I watched movies with her--he became one of mine.

Thanks for the going back in time and sharing.

Until Later,

Bobbi Purvis

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 13, 2021:

I remember his acting, and he perfected the art of playing the gunslinger. It is a shame that he died at so early an age.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 13, 2021:

What a great actor! I can't begin to count the number of movies I saw him in as a kid.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

Thank you Manatitaji, it's always a pleasure to read your comments. Yes, sir, Clint is one of my favorites, I wrote about him a decade back but a fresh article is due.

manatita44 from london on April 13, 2021:

Such a good read!

Perhaps it helps that I like Lee. I like them both. Do a piece on Clint too, as he is still alive and went on to do movies like Unforgotten with Morgan Freeman, as a Director in his own right.

Sorry to hear that Lee died so young. I did not know. Excellent work!

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

Pamela, nice reading your commenti

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

Thank you Ravi.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 13, 2021:

This is an excellent review of Lee Van Clef, MG. I do remember him, but I didn't remember all of the facts. It is a shame he died so young as he was such a good actor. Thanks for sharing all of this information.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on April 13, 2021:

Interesting article on Lee Van Cleef.He was a great actor and had played a lot of roles. Thanks for sharing this information.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on April 13, 2021:

John, thank you for your comment. Nice, you appreciated Lee.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 12, 2021:

Lee Van Cleef was a wonderful actor, though often playing the bad guy opposing the likes of Clint Eastwood. he was instantly recognisable, and seemed to appear in almost every second western movie at the time. Thank you for this interesting account of his life, MG.

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