Tall drink of water and eyebrow legend Martin Landau has died at the age of 89. The versatile and acclaimed actor passed away on Saturday of “unexpected complications” at ULCA Medical center after a brief stay, says The Hollywood Reporter.
Martin took a circuitous route to stardom having begun his career in New York City as a newspaper cartoonist in the 1950’s, a job he quit in order to pursue acting. In 1955, he auditioned for Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio and was accepted along with Steve McQueen (the only two to make it in that year). And if that’s not enough cool for you, he also became close friends with James Dean and briefly dated Marilyn Monroe. Martin was also a highly respected acting teacher, one of his most famous students being Jack Nicholson.
In 1959, Martin made his first indelible celluloid mark in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest playing the murderous Leonard who (60 year old spoiler alert!) meets his fate on Mt. Rushmore. Martin had a leading role on the TV series Mission Impossible in the 1960’s garnering Emmy nominations for each of the three seasons in which he starred.
In the 1970’s, Martin’s career took a bit of a side trip. The Washington Post reports:
The New Yorker once described him as “a survivor of B-movie hell,” noting his long midcareer run of disaster films, blaxploitation movies and fright flicks. “None of them were porno,” the actor once quipped, “though some were worse.”
His career saw a resurgence in respectability in 1988 when Francis Ford Coppola cast him in Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which earned him an Oscar nomination in a supporting role. He received a second nomination for his work in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors the following year. In 1995, Martin finally won an Oscar for his bravura performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Since then, Martin had been working steadily in film, on stage and on television. For many years he was executive director of The Actors Studio West with an active role directing and teaching.
As for Ed Wood, it’s one of my all-time favorite movies and Martin’s version of Bella Lugosi is a so breathtakingly good; heavy with pain, longing and sadness. But, also funny and light! He could do both so well. He gave so much dignity and life to that role.
His latest film was The Last Poker Game, which debuted at this years Tribeca Film Festival. They also left a nice note to him on their Twitter:
— Tribeca (@Tribeca) July 17, 2017
With over 200 film and television roles to his credit, Martin Landau’s life and works are to be celebrated and admired.
Rest in Peace, Martin.