Tributes To Classic Stars

Farewell To Martin Landau

I’ve just heard the sad news that Martin has died. He was 89 years old.

A hugely talented actor who stole every scene he was in. Suave, dapper and the owner of one of the most distinctive voices in film and TV history; Martin really was every inch the star.

Surprisingly though he never became a leading man on the big screen, despite having the talent to have done so. He became a reliable character actor in films.

His biggest screen successes came on the small screen. His most famous (and my favourite among all of his performances)role was as Rollin Hand in Mission Impossible (1966-1973). Rollin was the teams master of disguise, a tough and suave badass who could be relied upon in tough situations. Martin was married to his co-star from that series, Barbara Bain, from 1957 until their divorce in 1993. The pair also starred together in the cult Sci-Fi series Space 1999.

In 1959, Martin sent shivers down the spines of many viewers, when he played the sadistic henchman in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest. This is a perfect example of an actor making the most of a fairly small role. Martin steals every scene he is in and shows you this man is dangerous and loves violence and pain.

He won an Oscar in 1994, for his performance as horror legend Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.

Martin was friends with James Dean, and also worked as an acting coach (Jack Nicholson is among the actors who were taught by Martin.)

He famously turned down the role of Commander Spock in the Star Trek TV series. Whilst I’ve always been intrigued imagining how he would have played the role, I’m very glad he declined and that Leonard Nimoy was cast, he was the right man for the role.

He continued working steadily in TV and film into the 90’s and beyond and was always a welcome presence.

My favourites among his later roles are The XFiles: Fight The Future (1998) , in which he played a scared informant of Agent Mulder. I also like him in The Aryan Couple (2004) in which he played a Jewish businessman caught up in WW2.

R.I.P Martin. All sympathies to his family and friends.

What are your thoughts on Martin and his career? Any favourite performances?

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9 thoughts on “Farewell To Martin Landau”

  1. Maddy, it is so sad to hear about Martin Landau.A fine actor with many wonderful performances to his credit. The one that immediately springs to mind is his fantastic turn as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. I have never been a fan of the real Lugosi, but Landau’s touching portrayal of the man made me look at him in a more appreciative way.

    From North By Northwest, through They Call Me Mister Tibbs, Mission Impossible and Space 1999, to his later work with Woody Allen, Martin Landau left a rich, diverse body of work.He will be sorely missed.

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    1. Hi Canterbury. Nice to hear from you! Hope all is well with you. It is very sad indeed, but at least he had a good long life and career. He is very moving as the frail Bela in Ed Wood. I’ve always felt sorry for Bela, who was a very fine actor but who always seemed to get typecast as the vampire. The shadow of Dracula literally haunted that man everywhere he went. Martin portrays him as someone who knows the material is beneath him, but who will do it because they have no real choice. Good performance. Martin appeared in so many films and series. I also like him in an episode of The Twilight Zone, called The Jeopardy Room.

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  2. For some reason, I love him in _The Hallelujah Trail_ as a blue-eyed native American called Sky Eyes. His comedic capacity allowed him to hold his own in an cast of heavy hitters all trying to outdo one another. Pure silliness and about as far removed from his role in North by Northwest as it is possible to be.

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  3. I was never a huge fan but that might have more to do with my Mom not liking him which I think she based solely on looks. Kind of liked a creepy horror flick he did called Alone In The Dark but like many it was his turn as Bela that hooked me to dig deeper in his list of films. His Lugosi is literally one of all time favorite performances and yes that might also be due to the fact that I love all of those old creaky Bela films.

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