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Martin Landau Passes Away at 89

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Oscar winner Martin Landau has died at the age of 89. TMZ reports that Landau passed away at 1:30pm on Saturday at UCLA Medical Center after a short hospitalization where he apparently suffered unexpected complications. Landau is best known for the Mission: Impossible television show, playing Rollin Hand, master of disguise, as well as the movies Tucker, and Ed Wood, the latter of which he won the Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi.

Martin Landau, who shot to fame playing a homosexual henchman in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, was an all purpose actor had worked under Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton to name a few. He was recognized for his acting abilities in 1995 when he finally won an Oscar for his amazing portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Burton’s biopic on Ed Wood, the director of Plan 9 From Outer Space and other notoriously weird movies. “Lugosi… had a palpable intensity and a presence that you can’t buy,” Landau said in 1995 before his Oscar win. “But this town f$%^&’ town shat on him… And I can relate to that. I’ve seen it happen a lot. I’ve seen it happen to me.”

Martin Landau started his career in entertainment at the age of 17 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. Landau was heavily influenced by Charlie Chaplin and the escapism of the movie theater. He attended the Actors Studio where he befriended the late James Dean and shared a class with Steve McQueen. Landau’s first major role was as Leonard, the right-hand man of a criminal mastermind in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Later his role of Rollin Hand in the Mission: Impossible television series earned him praise from fans and critics as he became one of the best-known characters on the show. Apparently Landau almost didn’t take the part because he did not want it to interfere with his movie career.

In the late 1980s Martin Landau made a comeback after some canceled shows in the 70s. Landau gained an Academy Award nomination for his role in 1988’s Tucker: A Man and His Dream. The actor even got a second Academy Award nomination in 1989 for Crimes and Misdemeanors. But it was 1994’s Ed Wood that scored him his first big win when he received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor opposite Johnny Depp as Ed Wood. Landau was visibly frustrated when the orchestra’s music got louder in an effort to get him to finish his speech, he ended up pounding his fist on the podium shouting “No!”

In addition to the Academy Award, Landau also won a SAG award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Saturn Award for his genius portrayal of Bela Lugosi. Landau is survived by his two daughters Susan and Juliet from his marriage to actress Barbara Bain. The couple were married in 1957 and later divorced in 1993. It’s a sad day in Hollywood with the loss of the amazing talent of Martin Landau. RIP.

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