Paul W. Hughes
Lee Van Cleef, who died at age 64 in 1989 of heart failure, was missing the last joint of the middle finger of his right hand. The finger was prominently featured in the 1966 film that starred Clint Eastwood as the “Man With No Name.” Rumors suggested he had lost it in a bad car wreck in 1958 or in a bar fight. The truth isn’t nearly so interesting—he lost it while building a playhouse for his daughter.
Van Cleef made a career of playing a villain in Westerns. He appeared in 1952’s High Noon, 1954’s The Yellow Tomahawk, 1957’s Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and in another Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, 1965’s For a Few Dollars More.
Eli Wallach was “Ugly,” and Van Cleef was “Bad.”
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org