A great actor who grew into his gravitas: Martin Landau remembered

A great actor who grew into his gravitas: Martin Landau remembered

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

He made his Broadway debut in 1957's Middle of the Night and appeared on film for the first time in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest in 1959.

Five years later, Landau would finally win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of washed-up Dracula actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood.

Though Martin Landau was a two-time Oscar nominee when Tim Burton tabbed him to play Bela Legosi in 1994's Ed Wood, he identified with the Hungarian horror has-been and the deliciously bad 1950s director.

The actor spent five years as a newspaper cartoonist in his native NY before deciding to focus on acting; As Landau often stated, he and Steve McQueen were notably the only two applicants accepted into the Actors Studio in 1955.

Martin Landau's influence in the film industry is vast, inspiring countless actors and directors. He then became a household name with his starring role in "Mission: Impossible", but left the show after three seasons in a dispute over pay.

'I would've probably died playing that role.

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A con artist at times, or a pickpocket, thug or other lowlife, Landau's Hand, the possessor of sleight of hand and various accents, also impersonated a bookseller, doctor, photographer or public prosecutor.

The desperation of a talented movie star reduced to appearing in such schlock must have come easily to Landau, who'd had to make do with mid-career roles in what he called "meaningless roles in mindless movies", including The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island and monster movie The Being. The film revolves around Wood's life when he made his best-known films as well as his relationship with actor Bela Lugosi.

Landau had small roles in movie epics such as "Cleopatra" (1963) and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) while pursuing a prolific TV career. He received another three Emmy nominations, for his work on "Without a Trace" in 2004 and 2005, and for "Entourage" in 2007.

A year later, Landau was nominated again for Woody Allen's Crimes And Misdemeanors, where he played a well-to-do ophthalmologist who experiences a moral crisis after he has his mistress killed.

The Brooklyn-born Landau was a 17-year-old senior at James Madison High School with a talent for art when he lied about his age and took a job at the paper, eventually going on to illustrate the popular comic strip "The Gumps".

Landau and Bain had two daughters, Susan and Juliet.

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