I count Dennis Hopper’s appearances in at least two Western Classics: Gunfight at OK Corral with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas (1957); and True Grit (1969) with John Wayne. Even if Western movie fans didn’t count these movies as Classic, it would be recognized that Hopper had appeared with three of the Greatest Western Movie Stars of all time: Wayne, Lancaster and Douglas.
Some Western fans may also include Hang ‘em High (1968) with another of the Greatest Western Actors of all time: Clint Eastwood; and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) with John Wayne (again), Dean Martin and Earl Holliman.
Among Western TV Shows. Gunsmokeand Bonanzawould well be considered Classics. Cheyenne ? (Note: Hoppers roles in the TV Westerns were as a Guest Star – not a regular.)
Even so, not a bad legacy for one the legendary bad boys of the Entertainment industry.
- Van Cleef had almost given up on his acting career in the mid-’60s and turned to painting when he was cast by Sergio Leone in For a Few Dollars More(1965). It made him a superstar in Europe and restarted his career in the US, making him again a recognizable and bankable name.
- Lee had one green eye and one blue eye. This was corrected in the movies with colored contact lenses.
- He was involved in a car accident in 1959 in which he lost his left kneecap. Doctors told him he would never be able to ride a horse again because of the injury. Within six months he was back in the saddle. But the injury plagued him for the rest of his life.
- Other actors who turned the role down were Henry Silva, Rory Calhoun, Tony Russel, Steve Reeves, Ty Hardin, James Coburn and Richard Harrison.
Soundtrack For a Few Dollars More / Ennio Morricone
For a few pesos more …
From Wikipedia – The Online Encyclopedia
- 1965 – Clint Eastwood received $50,000 for returning in the sequel For a Few Dollars More, while Lee Van Cleef received $17,000.
- Charles Bronson was again approached for a starring role, but he passed it up, citing that the sequel’s script was like the first film. Instead, Lee Van Cleef then accepted the role.
- As all of the film’s footage was shot silent, Eastwood and Van Cleef returned to Italy where they dubbed over their dialogue and sound effects were added.
One of my favorite things is to investigate who turned down – or lost out – on certain movie roles.
For instance. Gary Cooper turned down The Big Trail, Stagecoach, and Red River. John Wayne took all three. Cooper carried on very nicely, but Wayne went on to become the Number One Star in Movies and possibly the greatest Western Star of all time.
“112,000 dollars” in 1964 for Clint – for 11 weeks work. And a Mercedes. Not bad at all actually – and he wasn’t even a star … yet. Though by todays Movie Star standards that might sound a bit weak. But as they say in Hollywood: “The only bad actor is an unemployed actor.”
Of course ‘nobody’ (if you’ll excuse the expression) had no idea of the success these movies would be – the start of the whole Spaghetti Western phenomenon. And very obviously – by the number of actors that turned these movies down – plenty of people didn’t think much of the opportunity.
But if Bronson hadn’t been so picky, Lee Van Cleef might very well have just faded away into the Western sunset.