Better is a handful of ease than two handfuls of toil and chasing after the wind.

Kohelet 4:6

Martin Landau - biography

Martin Landau (born June 20, 1928) is an American actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s; his early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959). He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible for which he received Emmy Award nominations, and Space: 1999. He received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture and his first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and was also Oscar nominated for his role in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). His performance in the supporting role of Béla Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994) earned him the Academy Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe. He continues to perform in film and television and heads the Hollywood branch of the Actors Studio.

Early life

Landau was born into a Jewish-American family in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Selma (née Buchanan) and Morris Landau, an Austrian-born machinist who scrambled to rescue relatives from the Nazis. At the age of 17, he began working as a cartoonist for the Daily News, assisting Gus Edson on The Gumps comic strip during the 1940s and 1950s.

Influenced by Charlie Chaplin and the escapism of the cinema, he pursued an acting career. He attended the Actors Studio in the same class with Steve McQueen and in 1957, Landau made his Broadway debut in Middle of the Night. Encouraged by his mentor Lee Strasberg, Landau also taught acting. Actors he has coached include Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston.


In 1959, Landau made his first major film appearance in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest at the age of 31. Landau took the role of master of disguise Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible, becoming one of the show's better-known stars. According to The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier, by Patrick J. White (Avon Books, 1991), Landau initially declined to be contracted to the show as he did not want it to interfere with his film career; instead, for the first season he was credited in "special guest appearances by" him. He became a "full-time" cast member with the second season, although the studio agreed to only contract him on a year-by-year basis rather than the then-standard five years. The role of Rollin Hand required Landau to perform a wide range of accents and characters from dictators to thugs, and several episodes saw Landau playing dual roles - not only Hand's impersonation, but also the person Hand is impersonating. He co-starred in the series with his then wife, Barbara Bain.

In the mid-1970s, Landau and Bain, teamed with Barry Morse, returned to television in the British science fiction series, Space: 1999, produced first by Gerry Anderson in partnership with Sylvia Anderson and then by Fred Freiberger. Although it remains a cult classic for its high production design values, the series was critically derided during its run and was cancelled after two seasons. Landau himself became very critical of the show's scripts and storylines, especially during its second season, but praised the cast and crew. He wrote forewords for Barry Morse's 2006 theatrical memoir Remember With Advantages and for Jim Smith's critical biography of Tim Burton. After Space: 1999, Landau appeared in supporting roles in a number of films and television shows of varying quality, including The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, which again co-starred Bain. This was the last time the two acted together on screen, as of December 2007.

In the late 1980s, Landau staged a major career comeback by winning an Academy Award nomination for his role in Tucker: The Man and His Dream. He later received a second nomination for Crimes and Misdemeanors and won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his uncanny portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. Upon accepting the award, he was visibly frustrated by the orchestra's attempt to cut short his speech. When the music level rose, he pounded his fist on the podium and yelled "No!" He later stated that he had intended to thank Lugosi and dedicate the award to him and his frustration was that he did not get to mention the man whom he portrayed. Landau received a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe, and a Saturn Award for the role, as well as awards from several critics groups. When Landau won the Academy Award, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times said that "the award goes to Martin Landau; its shadow goes to Bela Lugosi." Landau admitted, on the Ed Wood DVD, to having been very impressed by the comment.

In 2006, Landau made a guest appearance on the TV series Entourage, playing a washed-up, but determined and sympathetic, Hollywood producer attempting to relive his glory days. Landau received a 2007 Emmy Award nomination for his performance in this role. In 2009, Landau, working with director Mark Rydell and Screenwriter/Playwright Lyle Kessler have teamed up to produce an educational seminar, The Total Picture Seminar. It is a unique two-day event covering the disciplines of acting, directing and writing for film. The three have worked together as a team for many decades at the Actors Studio teaching and coaching professional actors, writers, and directors. They are now bringing their industry experience and personal success, as well as a lifetime of teaching experience to a wider audience.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Landau has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6841 Hollywood Blvd.

Personal life

Landau has two daughters, Susan and Juliet, from his marriage to Barbara Bain. Landau and Bain married on January 31, 1957 and divorced in 1993. He lives in West Hollywood, California.

Article author: Zipora Galitski
Article tags: biography
The article is about these people:   Martin Landau

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