With a career spanning six decades and industry accolades including an Academy Award and a trio of Golden Globes behind him, Hollywood veteran actor Martin Landau passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928, Landau began his creative career as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News at age 17, but gave up the work five years later to concentrate on theater. His acting career began in earnest when he was one of only two applicants accepted to the Actor’s Studio in 1955 – of the 2,000 to audition, only he and Steve McQueen made the cut that year. Landau would continue his association with the organization until the end of his life.
His first major role on the silver screen was two years later as Leonard, the antagonist’s henchman in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterwork North by Northwest. His career continued upward in the 1960s with prominent roles alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra (1963) and supporting Max von Sydow and Charlton Heston in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
His career on the small screen began in earnest two years later when he landed the role of actor, escape artist, and master of disguise Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible, where he co-starred with his then-wife Barbara Bain in 76 episodes. This role garnered him his first acting awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama in 1967.
Landau’s career slowed somewhat in the 1970s, with sporadic television guest roles and parts in mostly forgettable movies sprinkled throughout the decade. Opportunity knocked in 1977 with a leading role in the British sci-fi series Space: 1999, but Landau found himself again out of steady work when the series was abruptly canceled two years later.
Landau experienced a stunning career resurgence in the late 1980s with an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe for a supporting role in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), and another Oscar nomination for a supporting part in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Landau would finally strike Oscar gold (as well as his third Golden Globe, a BAFTA nomination, and a Saturn Award), winning acclaim for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s biopic Ed Wood (1994).
Landau continued work on both big and small screens in the 1990s, with roles in City Hall (1996) and Rounders (1998). Accolades continued to roll in during the decade of the 2000s, with Primetime Emmy nominations for guest spots in Without a Trace and Entourage. His final role was in The Last Poker Game (2017), making an appearance at the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring.
Landau passed away at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, succumbing to “unexpected complications” according to his representative. Surviving Landau are his daughters, Susan Landau Finch and Juliet Rose Landau, both of whom are from his marriage to Bain, and both of whom followed their father into film and television. He is also survived by Bain, with whom he was married until 1993.
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