Martin Landau, one of the most celebrated actors in Hollywood, with a career that spans film and television and nearly 60 years, died on Saturday, July 15, 2017. He was 89 years old.
The man who would eventually star in Mission: Impossible and Ed Wood began his career as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News, but eventually segued into acting, attending the famed Actors Studio with James Dean and Steve McQueen. Even his early, smaller roles were impressive: his second motion picture credit was in Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless suspense classic North By Northwest, followed by key supporting roles in unforgettable films like Cleopatra and The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Martin Landau would also work steadily in television throughout his long, storied career. Amongst his many early credits include two classic episodes of The Twilight Zone (“The Jeopardy Room” and “Mr. Denton on Doomsday”), and he was offered the role of Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek television series… which he turned down, uninterested as he was in playing an unemotional role.
He would go on to star in another enormously popular, franchise-spawning television series, Mission: Impossible, for three years. Ironically, after he left the series due to contract disputes, Landau would eventually be replaced on the series by Leonard Nimoy… the actor who took over the role of Mr. Spock after Landau rejected the role.
Martin Landau spent the next two decades struggling to find worthy roles, and appeared in a large number of genre motion pictures and television series, notably the motion picture thrillers Alone in the Dark and Without Warning, and the sci-fi show Space: 1999.
Fortunately, Landau earned himself an enormous career resurgence in the late 1980s. Oscar-nominated for Francis Ford Coppola’s earnest and exceptional biopic Tucker: The Man and His Dream, he followed that film up with Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, playing an adulterer who murders his mistress and then wrestles with his feelings of guilt. Crimes and Misdemeanors earned Martin Landau his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, an award he would finally win for his iconic performance as an aging, drug-addicted, foul-mouthed Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s celebrated drama Ed Wood.
For decades now, Martin Landau has been one of the most respectable elder statesmen in the entertainment industry, with prolific appearances in good films, bad films and every film in between. But for his whole impressive career he has given his all to every single performance, earning an important and invaluable place in the Hollywood pantheon.
Our condolences go out to Martin Landau’s friends and family. He will forever be missed, but at least we’ll have his many wonderful films and television shows to remember him by.
Top Photo: CBS via Getty Images
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.