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43 Beady-eyed Villain with a Blawenburg Connection

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Actor Lee Van Cleef


In the classic spaghetti western movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Lee Van Cleef was the ugly guy, and he looked every bit like the bad guy he portrayed. In fact, in most of the westerns in which he starred in the 1950s and 60s, his beady eyes landed him the bad guy role. He once said, “Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me.”


Clarence Leroy (Lee) Van Cleef, Jr. was born in Somerville, NJ in 1925 to Clarence Leroy and Marion Van Fleet Van Cleef. He graduated early from Somerville High so he could enlist in the Navy in 1942. He spent time as a submarine chaser, then following sonar training, he spent the rest of his time in the Navy until his discharge in 1946 on a mine sweeper.


After the war, Van Cleef worked as an accountant and office administrator. In his spare time, he joined an amateur theater group in Clinton, NJ, where he was “discovered” by a talent agent from the Morris Agency in New York. Before long, he found himself in the original cast of Mr. Roberts. He remained with the show on Broadway and with the traveling cast for some time.


But it was his stereotypical villainous features that led him to his first film role. His hook nose, sharp cheeks, and steely eyes were perfect for a non-speaking part in High Noon. These bad looks led him to 13 years of westerns and other films where most of the time, he was the bad guy.


Famous Role


Movie poster for Van Cleef’s classic film


In the mid-1960s, Van Cleef ‘s most famous roles came in For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, playing with Clint Ea