I know smoking is bad but pipes have always been an interest of mine and I am intrigued by figuring out what kind of pipe Lee Van Cleef is smoking in “For A Few Dollars More”. I started collecting them for real only in the past couple years and would like to have a LVC FAFDM model on my rack. I have found a few references to it online at pipe discussion forums but no two posts seem to agree, thought I would bring the question here to the experts and my apologies if this has already been covered – Link me up! and move/delete as appropriate.
From what my eyes see and extrapolating what I have learned about pipe styles, it looks to be a 3/4 bent “billiard” or “apple” shape with what appears to be an off-colored amber or bakalite molded stem. Which by the way is specifically what got me thinking about it: Have the DVD on and to my eyes the stem appears translucent and enough of a yellow shade to suggest a molded plastic rather than carved amber (which would be more of a reddish tan) or even bone (which would be opaque). Here is an image though its a long shot view with his hand in the way:
The material the pipe bowl is carved from is very light in color and the common opinion I have found is that it’s a plain meerschaum with no decorative carvings. On one forum I found it was identified as a “3/4 bent amber stemmed WDC meer(schaum)” but I don’t know. It is certainly not a corn cob but for my money is a carved briar with either a “sandblast” or “light natural” finish to it. If you watch the DVD at the very beginning while he’s talking to the salesman on the train you can see a definite polish to the surface that is not consistent with a meerschaum. The off-white coloring looks right for that material but meerschaums tend to develop a matte patina that is more “lusterous” than polished to a reflection. That sucker is polished as they get, almost to the point where it looks plasticy.
Then again the polish is just the result of how the surface was worked and a polished meerschaum is as good an answer as any. But I am convinced that we’re seeing wood grain in the bowl that is quite distinctive. As meerschaums develop their used patina the coloring spreads in a uniform manner from the rim of the bowl out, where the “grain” on Van Cleef’s pipe appears to be more randomly shaped or mottled in appearance(look at time index 4mins 51secs on the 2005 Region 2 DVD by MGM). He may also be smoking different pipes in different scenes: On the train it appears that the rim of the bowl of his pipe has been sanded flat but in this image it appears to have a rounded or beveled lip and looks more like polished wood than a piece of stone with a patina:
I have no idea what the material is and same for the stem. When I first saw the movie my thinking was that it was all some sort of carved bone but on the DVD it is clearly seen that the stem & bowl are very different materials. One of the reasons why this intrigued me so all of a sudden is that I have wanted a nice Italian made designer pipe for a while and have been actively shopping them as of late, specifically for one with a yellow designer stem like that (brands I have been looking at are Il Ceppo, Pierluigi and Ser Jacapo, and I’ve been saving up for a while). Put on the DVD and it jumped right out at the screen at me: Lee Van Cleef is smoking a designer made Italian briar pipe with a 3/4 bent yellow stem & a sandblasted natural finish. Now I want one too!
Or at least one that looks like it ;] and conforms to the specifications seen and I’d be just as pleased to learn that it’s some sort of finish-decorated meerschaum. If anyone has specific intel on what kind of pipe and any sort of story about how his character was assigned it I’d be fascinated to know. I can say for one thing that if I had been booked to go to Italy and make a movie the first thing I would have done after cashing my paycheck at a bank in downtown Rome would be to find a high-end pipe shop and pick out something nice, preferably at the studio’s expense. Which then also got me thinking about whether maybe Leone and Van Cleef might have gone shopping for one specifically for the role.
I doubt that Leone would have let him use just any pipe too, that pipe is as important an attribute of Mortimer’s character as his gunbelt and hat are. Van Cleef also seems quite attached to it and sports it quite well which is one of the reasons I was thinking maybe he’d just gotten it after arriving in Rome. Then again its a prop in a film so who knows, maybe Carlo Simi picked it out? Was it one of Van Cleef’s that he just happened to bring along? Was it an antique or a modern creation? Tell me what you know, including anything about the other pipes he smokes in his other spaghettis, just figured I’d start with this one first.