Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies at 89July 17, 2017 9:29pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Landau, the chameleon-like actor who gained fame as the crafty master of disguise in the 1960s TV show "Mission: Impossible," then capped a long and versatile career with an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of aging horror movie star Bela Lugosi in 1994's "Ed Wood," has died. He was 89.

Landau died Saturday of unexpected complications during a short stay at UCLA Medical Center, his publicist Dick Guttman said.

"Mission: Impossible," which also starred Landau's wife, Barbara Bain, became an immediate hit upon its debut in 1966. It remained on the air until 1973, but Landau and Bain left at the end of the show's third season amid a financial dispute with the producers. They starred in the British-made sci-fi series "Space: 1999" from 1975 to 1977.

Landau might have been a superstar but for a role he didn't play — the pointy-eared starship Enterprise science officer, Mr. Spock. "Star Trek" creator Gene Rodenberry had offered him the half-Vulcan, half-human who attempts to rid his life of all emotion. Landau turned it down.

"A character without emotions would have driven me crazy; I would have had to be lobotomized," he explained in 2001. Instead, he chose "Mission: Impossible," and Leonard Nimoy went on to everlasting fame as Spock.

Ironically, Nimoy replaced Landau on "Mission: Impossible."

After a brief but impressive Broadway career, Landau had made an auspicious film debut in the late 1950s, playing a soldier in "Pork Chop Hill" and a villain in the Alfred Hitchcock classic "North By Northwest."

He enjoyed far less success after "Mission: Impossible," however, finding he had been typecast as Rollin Hand, the top-secret mission team's disguise wizard. His film career languished for more than a decade, reaching its nadir with his appearance in the 1981 TV movie "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island."

He began to find redemption with a sympathetic role in "Tucker: The Man and his Dream," the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film that garnered Landau his first Oscar nomination.

He was nominated again the next year for his turn as the adulterous husband in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

His third nomination was for "Ed Wood," director Tim Burton's affectionate tribute to a man widely viewed as the worst Hollywood filmmaker of all time.

"There was a 10-year period when everything I did was bad. I'd like to go back and turn all those films into guitar picks," Landau said after accepting his Oscar.

In "Ed Wood," he portrayed Lugosi during his final years, when the Hungarian-born actor who had become famous as Count Dracula was ill, addicted to drugs and forced to make films with Ed Wood just to pay his bills. A gifted mimic trained in method acting, Landau had thoroughly researched the role.

"I watched about 35 Lugosi movies, including ones that were worse than anything Ed Wood ever made," he recalled in 2001. "Despite the trash, he had a certain dignity about him, whatever the role."

So did the New York-born Landau, who had studied drawing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and worked for a time as a New York Daily News cartoonist before switching careers at age 22.

He had dabbled in acting before the switch, making his stage debut in 1951 at a Maine summer theater in "Detective Story" and off-Broadway in "First Love."

In 1955, he was among hundreds who applied to study at the prestigious Actors Studio and one of only two selected. The other was Steve McQueen.

On Broadway, Landau won praise for his work in "Middle of the Night," which starred Edward G. Robinson. He toured with the play until it reached Los Angeles, where he began his film career.

Landau and Bain had two daughters, Susan and Juliet. They divorced in 1993.

___

The late Associated Press entertainment writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2014 file photo, Chester Bennington poses in the press room at the 25th annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas in Inglewood, Calif. The Los Angeles County coroner says Bennington, who sold millions of albums with a unique mix of rock, hip-hop and rap, has died in his home near Los Angeles. He was 41. Coroner spokesman Brian Elias says they are investigating Bennington’s death as an apparent suicide but no additional details are available. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)
Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington dies in LA at 41
Actor Red West, longtime Elvis confidant, diesActor and songwriter Robert Gene "Red" West, a longtime confidant of Elvis Presley, has died in Memphis
Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington dies at 41, Los Angeles County coroner saysLinkin Park singer Chester Bennington dies at 41, Los Angeles County coroner says
Jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane dies in NY at age 85Costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, whose creations caught the fancy of high society and the QVC crowd alike, has died in New York
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2013, file photo, model and actress Lauren Hutton poses for photos after arriving for Chanel's Metiers d'Art fashion show in Dallas. Hutton has been honored at a Maine film festival with its Mid-Life Achievement Award. The organizers of the Maine International Film Festival decided to honor the 73-year-old Hutton for her work in films like "Paper Lion" and "A Wedding."  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Lauren Hutton thrilled to get 'Mid-Life Achievement Award'
FILE - In this July 25, 2013 file photo, O.J. Simpson, in custody at the Lovelock Correctional Center, is shown on the video screen above Nevada Board of Parole hearing representative Robin Bates, left, and Commissioner Susan Jackson during a video conference parole hearing in Carson City, Nev. Simpson could have a good chance at parole when he asks officials Thursday, July20, 2017, to let him out of a Nevada prison after serving more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia.   (Geoff Dornan/Nevada Appeal via AP, file)
Key events in OJ Simpson's fall from sports hero, movie star
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices