Breaking: Martin Landau, character actor, dies at 89

Breaking: Martin Landau, character actor, dies at 89
Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-16 17:45:20-04

(RNN) - Oscar-winning character actor Martin Landau died Sunday following a short hospitalization, his publicist has confirmed. Landau was 89.

Landau won three Golden Globes and played a master of disguise in the original Mission: Impossible television series. At the time of his death, he was still active in film, with one 2017 release, The Last Poker Game, and another, Without Ward, in post-production, according to the Internet Movie Database

He received the 1995 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for portraying Dracula star Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994). 

"When I was growing up, every impressionist did terrible Bela Lugosi imitations - 'I want to drink your blood' - and I realized this was a field with tiger traps throughout," Landau told critic Roger Ebert, "and I had to walk carefully." 

He did. Makeup faithful to Lugosi and knowledge of the horror star's body language he gleaned from filmed interviews helped Landau stride away from his Ed Wood performance with both an Oscar and a Golden Globe. 

That 1995 Golden Globe Award, his second for best supporting actor in a movie, trailed one for his role as an emigre financier in the story about a maverick car designer, Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1989).

"In size and dimension, it's probably the best role I've had since Cleopatra, and my 10 best scenes in Cleopatra weren't in the movie," he told The New York Times. "This role allowed me to act. I loved it.'

He received the 1968 Golden Globe Award for Best Male TV Star for portraying Rollin Hand, a master of disguise with the Mission: Impossible (1966 - 1973) covert operations unit. 

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.

Landau's Oscar and Golden Globe wins in 1995 temporarily boosted his career.

"It helped me get better roles and more roles and better money," he told The Hollywood Reporter, but "then I went back to just being a normal actor." 

Normality for Landau meant he never became a Hollywood A-lister, but he saw a benefit in not being a highly sought-after actor.

"... I played more things, had more fun and," he told journalist Tim Teeman. "I'm still doing it."  

He started doing it, acting, in his early twenties after ending a five-year stint he began at age 17 as a New York Daily News cartoonist. 

Landau studied theater in New York at The Actor's Studio. Years later, he taught at the group's second location, in West Hollywood, CA, the Actors Studio West

He earned hundreds of film and television credits, one for an early sitcom, The Goldbergs, (1949-1957) about a Jewish family. He himself was born to a Jewish family on June 20, 1928, in Brooklyn, NY. 

After making his Broadway debut in Middle of the Night (1957), Landau began his movie career in the Korean war film Pork Chop Hill (1959). He had his first major movie role, as a villain, in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959).

Landau co-starred with his then-wife, Barbara Bain, on the British science-fiction television series Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977). During their marriage (1957 - 1993), they had two daughters and worked together on Mission: Impossible

He acted in the movies They Call Me Mr. Tibbs (1970), Destination Moonbase-Alpha (1978), Meteor (1979), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), City Hall (1996), Lovely Still (2008) and Remember (2015). 

No one had directed him in several decades, he said, adding that he brought his ideas to a role.  

"I think if they don't like what I'm doing, they'll say something," he told the Los Angeles Times. They don't say anything. So I hit the mark, say the words and get the hell out of there." 

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