Monday, May 21, 2012

Lee Van Cleef (1925-1989)

Handsome devil.

“Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

With Jean Wallace and Earl Holliman in The Big Combo (1955).
“I didn’t speak a word in High Noon. In 1951, Stanley and Earl Kramer saw me in a play, Mr. Roberts, and offered me the role eventually played by Lloyd Bridges in the film, providing I would have my nose fixed. I refused and wound up as one of the four villains.”

Still standing in For a Few Dollars More (1965).
“I believe in showing real violence, not toy violence. Real violence turns you off because you know it’s not the thing to do. If you show violence realistic enough, people don’t want to do it.” (1970 interview)

Taking aim in The Big Gundown (1966).
“Bad guys have always been my bag . . . I look mean without even trying. Audiences just naturally hate me on screen. I could play a role in a tuxedo and people would think I was rotten. You can do much more with a villain part. Movies are full of leading men, most of whom aren’t working. It’s much harder to find a good villain.”

Indelible poster art.
“Once I learned what I was doin’, which only took a picture or two, I tried to find some extra dimension to every character, a sympathetic area. Now, right or wrong, I’ve done that all these years. It gives you another thing to do. Sometimes you don’t find ’em. But if you can, and use them, it helps; like patting a child on the head instead of kickin’ him in the ass.” (1979 interview with William Horner)

My favorite Lee Van Cleef films: The Big Combo (1955), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Big Gundown (1966), Death Rides a Horse (1967), Day of Anger (1967)

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