Farewell to legends
SPORTSCASTER WOLFF, ‘LIVING DEAD’ DIRECTOR ROMERO AND OSCAR-WINNING ACTOR LANDAU
EVEN AS a lowly Comanchero during a guest appearance in an early episode of the classic TV western “Bonanza,” actor Martin Landau was easily the best performer on the screen.
Landau, who gained fame as a member of the daring spy team in “Mission: Impossible,” and won an Academy Award in 1994’s “Ed Wood,” died Saturday. He was 89.
His publicist said Landau died after unexpected complications during a short stay at UCLA Medical Center.
Though he is best remembered for supporting roles that anchored a long list of movies, including “Cleopatra,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the Brooklyn-born Landau actually began his career at the Daily News as a staff cartoonist and illustrator when he was just 17.
He quit The News five years later to pursue his acting career. In 1955, Landau was among hundreds who applied to study at the prestigious Actors Studio and one of only two people selected. The other was Steve McQueen.
In 1957, Landau made his debute on Broadway in “Middle of the Night,” and in 1959 he made his first movie appearance in 1959 in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “North by Northwest.”
Landau was still an up-andcoming actor when he met and married actress Barbara Bain. The couple went on to star together in “Mission: Impossible,” where he played master-of-disguise Rollin Hand, only to leave together after Season 3 in a contract dispute.
Landau and Bain also costarred in the British-made sci-fi series “Space: 1999.”
Landau turned down the iconic role of Mr. Spock in the cult classic “Star Trek.” In a twist, Spock portrayer Leonard Nimoy replaced Landau when he left “Mission: Impossible.”
Landau received Academy Award nominations for his roles in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” (1988) and Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989).
He finally won the big prize for his supporting turn in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood,” where he portrayed aging horror film star Bela Lugosi.
“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.
More recently, he played an Auschwitz survivor in the 2015 movie “Remember,” which costarred Christopher Plummer. His upcoming movie, “The Last Poker Game,” premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
Landau had also returned to TV in the 2000s for roles in “Without a Trace” and “Entourage.”
“So sad to read about the passing of Martin Landau,” tweeted actress Marlee Matlin. “A great talent with a kind heart; always so warm to me. I will miss you. RIP.”
Landau and Bain, who is 85, had two daughters, Susan and Juliet. They divorced in 1993.
George Romero Martin Landau
Martin Landau (left, in April) started out as a Daily News artist (above, in 1951) before becoming an actor. Top right, he stars as Bela Lugosi with Johnny Depp in 1994’s “Ed Wood,” which won him an Oscar (inset, center).