Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef Jr. (January 9, 1925 – December 16, 1989) was an American actor. He appeared in over 170 film and television roles in a career spanning nearly 40 years, but is best known as a star of Italian Spaghetti Westerns, particularly the Sergio Leone-directed Dollars Trilogy films For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
Born and raised in New Jersey, Van Cleef served in the United States Navy during World War II aboard a minesweeper, earning a Bronze Star for his actions. After acting on stage in regional theatre, he made his film debut in the Oscar-winning Western High Noon (1952) in a non-speaking outlaw cast role. With distinctive, angular features and a taciturn screen persona, Van Cleef was typecast as minor villain and supporting player in Westerns and crime dramas. After suffering serious injuries in a car crash, Van Cleef’s acting career started to decline. However, he achieved unexpected stardom when director Sergio Leone offered him the co-leading role in For a Few Dollars More. The film proved to be a huge hit and cited him as a box-office draw, largely in Europe.
Van Cleef went on to appear in such films as Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Death Rides a Horse (1967), Day of Anger (also 1967), Sabata (1969) and its sequel Return of Sabata (1971), El Condor (1970), The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972), Mean Frank and Crazy Tony (1973), Take a Hard Ride (1975), The Octagon (1980), Escape from New York (1981) and Speed Zone (1989). He also played the lead role of John Peter McAllister on the martial arts television series The Master (1984).