Martin Landau is a film and television actor born in Brooklyn. Sources disagree about his date of birth, with some claiming June 20, 1928, and others the same date but in 1931.
Regardless, Landau has remained active on the silver screen for more than 50 years, pursuing his career with a passion into his 80s. His early roles included Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” and “Mission: Impossible,” as well as television appearances on “Entourage” and “The Simpsons” in recent years. He received an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in the 1994 film “Ed Wood.” The former Kew Gardens resident was married to Barbara Bain for 36 years and has two children.
The future star was born to Selma Buchanan and Morris Landau. His father was an immigrant from Austria who struggled to save his Jewish relatives as the clouds of fascism and approaching war darkened Europe.
Landau attended The Pratt Institute before landing his first job as a cartoonist for the Daily News. He left at age 22 to begin his lifelong pursuit as an actor, attracted by the sense of escapism offered by film and the roles it offered.
The aspiring entertainer launched his career by attending the Actors Studio in New York City, where he rubbed shoulders with fellow future greats James Dean and Steve McQueen. By the late 1950s, Landau was on his way. He landed his first Broadway role in 1957 in the Paddy Chayefsky production “Middle of the Night” and followed this up two years later with his film debut in Hitchcock’s mistaken identity thriller “North by Northwest.”
In 1963, the actor performed in the blockbuster “Cleopatra” as Rufio, the right hand man of Julius Caesar.
After making a name for himself on Broadway and the silver screen, the talented New Yorker added television to his résumé, appearing in “Mission: Impossible” as master of disguise Rollin Hand. His new role demonstrated the range of Landau’s talent, as the show often required him to play not only his character but the character’s disguise as well. He appeared in the series with Barbara Bain, his then-wife.
In the 1970s, the versatile actor disappeared from the limelight, performing in programs such as the British science fiction series “Space: 1999” and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.” In the following decade, Landau returned to Hollywood in grand style, earning an Academy Award for his performance as Abe Karatz in “Tucker: The Man and His Dream.”
His best, however, was yet to come. His unforgettable portrayal of Bela Lugosi in the Tim Burton comic drama “Ed Wood” not only resulted in another Academy Award, this time for Best Supporting Actor, but rounded out his trophy case with a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe and a Saturn Award.
In more recent years, Landau has returned to television, revisiting his connection to Queens as a guest star on “Entourage,” a series following the career of a fictional actor from the borough who makes the A-list in Hollywood.
In 2011, the octogenarian actor appeared as a rabbi in the telemovie “Have a Little Faith,” based on the Mitch Albom non-fiction book of the same name, about the role of spiritual belief in people’s lives.
In recognition of his six decades of achievement, Landau has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Reflecting on his years of success, he simply offers, “What I do best, what I’ve always done best, is act.”
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©2012 Community News Group
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