Re­mem­ber­ing Martin Lan­dau, Ed Wood Oscar-win­ner and drama teacher to the greats


Re­ceiv­ing his Best sup­port­ing Ac­tor Oscar for Ed Wood, Martin Lan­dau (1928-2017) thanked his di­rec­tor tim Bur­ton for giv­ing him “the part of my life”. hav­ing trained at the Method-ori­en­tated Ac­tors stu­dio along­side steve Mc­queen (he later taught Jack ni­chol­son and An­jel­ica hus­ton there), Lan­dau went deep to play Béla Lu­gosi, can­ing 35 of the washed-up hor­ror great’s movies to catch the tragi­comic des­per­a­tion of a man ad­dicted to both mor­phine and his own leg­end. it was a high-wa­ter mark for both ac­tor and di­rec­tor.

Lan­dau’s ca­reer hit its stride with hitch­cock’s North By North­west, hu­man­is­ing a sadis­tic heavy by adding a waft of ho­mo­erotic at­trac­tion to­ward spy­mas­ter James Ma­son. tele­vi­sion would bring him fame. he turned down spock, but em­bod­ied the dead­pan cold War fun of Mis­sion:

Im­pos­si­ble, mar­ry­ing co-star Bar­bara Bain. they’d pair up again in gerry An­der­son’s cult sci-fi Space: 1999.

Age would bring de­served recog­ni­tion. At 60, he picked up the first of three Oscar nods in Fran­cis Ford cop­pola’s Tucker: The

Man And His Dreams. sum­mon­ing his dark side to play a homi­ci­dal oph­thal­mol­o­gist in

Crimes And Mis­de­meanors for his sec­ond, his cal­cu­lat­ing air landed to per­fec­tion. Fol­low­ing his win for Ed Wood, he worked along­side Al Pa­cino and harrison Ford, and re­united with Bur­ton for Sleepy Hol­low and Franken­wee­nie. his fierce ded­i­ca­tion to his craft never waned.

Lan­dau called his late suc­cess “a gift”, but in seven decades in the busi­ness he found sub­tle shades in ev­ery­thing he did. he was an ac­tor of rare poignancy, poker-faced hu­mour and ob­vi­ous in­tel­li­gence. Few act­ing lives have been longer — or fuller.

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