Martin Landau was an American film and television actor with a career that lasted through the Fifties to the Eighties, probably best known for his supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" in 1959 and his regular roles in the television series "Mission: Impossible" and "Space: 1999."
Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 20, 1928, Landau was the son of Jewish parents; his father, Morris Landau, an Austrian-born machinist, who fled to the United States with relatives from the Nazis. He attended James Madison High School and the Pratt Institute before finding full-time work as a cartoonist. At 17, Landau started working as a cartoonist for the Daily News, illustrating Billy Rose's column "Pitching Horseshoes" and assisting Gus Edson on the comic strip, "The Gumps" during the 1940s and 1950s, eventually drawing the "Sunday strip" for Edson. Influenced by Charlie Chaplin and the escapism of the cinema, Landau left the Daily News to pursue an acting career at the age of 22. He attended the Actors Studio with Steve McQueen, becoming good friends with James Dean. He made his Broadway debut in "Middle of the Night" in 1957. In 1959, Landau made his first major film appearance in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest."
From 1966 to 1973, Landau played the role of master of disguise, Rollin Hand, in the TV series, "Mission: Impossible." becoming one of its better-known stars. At first declining to be contracted by the show because he did not want it to interfere with his film career, he was instead credited as a special guest star during the first season, later becoming a full-time cast member in the second season. Landau received several Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe Award for his work in the series and romanced his co-star, Barbara Bain, who later became his wife.
After "Mission: Impossible," Landau and Bain returned to TV in the British science-fiction series, "Space: 1999," loosely inspired by the popularity of the American TV-series, "Star Trek." Although the series became a cult classic for its high production values, critical response to the series was unenthusiastic during its original run, and it was cancelled after two seasons. Landau himself was critical of the scripts and storylines, especially during the series' second season, but he always praised the cast and crew.
After his time on television, Landau returned to making movies, starring in "Meteor," "Alone in the Dark," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Treasure Island," "Empire State" and the TV film, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island with his wife, the final time they appeared together on screen. They divorced in 1993. In the late 1980s, Landau made a career comeback and earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" in 1988, followed by a second nomination for "Crimes and Misdemeanors" in 1989. He also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1994 for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in "Ed Wood," directed by Tim Burton. He dedicated the award to the late Bela Lugosi. He also received a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Saturn Award for the role, as well as accolades from a number of critics groups.
Landau was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the Alzheimer's-afflicted father of FBI Special Agent in Charge Jack Malone in the TV series, "Without a Trace." In 2006, he made a guest appearance in the series "Entourage" as a washed-up but determined and sympathetic Hollywood producer attempting to relive his glory days, a portrayal that earned him a second Emmy nomination. He also appeared in the film, "Have a Little Faith," based on Mitch Albom's book of the same name. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6841 Hollywood Boulevard.
Encouraged by Lee Strasberg, Landau has also taught acting; his students include Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. He lived in West Hollywood, California until his death on July 15, 2017 at the age of 89. He had two daughters, Susan and Juliet Landau, from his marriage to Barbara Bain.