Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Martin Landau, 'Ed Wood' Oscar victor, dies at 89

Flickr Jewish actor Martin Landau in April 2010 at TCM Classic Film Festival Flickr Jewish actor Martin Landau in April 2010 at TCM Classic Film Festival
Lamar Ellis | 17 July, 2017, 16:37

He had developed a strong talent for observing people's expressions and movements, as well as a flair for imitations and accents.

Landau's acting dreams came true in 1955 when he auditioned for Lee Strasberg and was accepted into the Actors Studio. When Landau asked what inspired the director to hire him to play villainous henchman Leonard, Hitchcock told him, "Marty, you have a circus going on inside you".

David Harbour, the Stranger Things star, mourned the loss and tweeted, "The great Martin Landau has died". Alfred Hitchcock gave Landau his second movie role ever in North by Northwest. The film starred Cary Grant as a NY adman accidentally ensnared in an global spy ring. At the time of his death, he was still active in film, with one 2017 release, "The Last Poker Game", and another, "Without Ward", in post-production, according to the Internet Movie Database.

In a 2011 TV interview, he said, "I turned down Star Trek". But it was the 1966 TV show "Mission: Impossible', which helped him make a mark in the industry". Or Gepetto. Or Mission: Impossible's Rollin Hand.

"It was an impulsive move on my part to do that", Landau said in 2013 (via THR). And while he's an Oscar victor (and multi-time nominee), he also has on his resume such "masterpieces" of TV schlock as The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island and The Return of the Six Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Landau, nearly unrecognizable with aging makeup and a mustache, played Tucker's partner. He even received the best supporting actor nomination for his performance. "I didn't have to drive a cab", he told The Boston Globe in 1989. He would follow that nomination up with another Best Supporting Actor nod for his role in Crimes and Misdemeanors, but he would fall short again.

Newsweek arts writer Cathleen McGuigan spoke for many critics when she wrote that his "delicate, tortured performance as a successful man caught in the web of his deceits is a tour de force". He won the Oscar for the "Ed Wood" role. "He had just celebrated his 89th birthday".

After winning the Oscar in March 1995, Landau gushed: "My God!" The quirky cast in Burton's homage to fabled bad-movie director Wood included Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Sarah Jessica Parker and wrestler George "The Animal" Steele.

Landau had guest appearances on dozens of hit TV shows throughout his career, including Twilight Zone, Man from U.N.C.L.E. Landau was also involved in further collaborations with Burton, including the animated film Frankenweenie.

He would go on to star in another enormously popular, franchise-spawning television series, Mission: Impossible, for three years. "Is that something you might be interested in?"

"The ladies always loved Martin Landau". His father, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, was a skilled machinist. An artistic kid, he studied at the Pratt Institute and began working at 17 as a cartoonist at The Daily News, illustrating Billy Rose's "Pitching Horseshoes" column and assisting "The Gumps" cartoonist Gus Edson. "But I knew if I took that job I would never leave, so I quit. When I got Tucker I thought, "Thank God, a human being".

During the 1970s, the couple moved to England to get work and landed the lead roles in "Space: 1999", an adventure drama about a moon-base crew who get into strife when an explosion sends the moon out of Earth's orbit and into deep space.

Landau's marriage to Bain ended in divorce. Landau would ultimately be instrumental in opening a West Coast branch of the Studio, and he'd continue teaching for the rest of his life. In 2008, he had a lead role in the indie romance Lovely, Still, opposite Ellen Burstyn.

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