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Martin Landau of Original ‘Mission Impossible’ Dead at 89

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Martin Landau
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His résumé includes ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ and ‘North by Northwest.’ It does not, however, include ‘Star Trek.’

Martin Landau, the all-purpose actor who showcased his versatility as a master of disguise on the Mission: Impossible TV series and as a broken-down Bela Lugosi in his Oscar-winning performance in Ed Wood, has died. He was 89.

Landau, who shot to fame by playing a homosexual henchman in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest, died Saturday of “unexpected complications” after a brief stay at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, his rep confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

After he quit CBS’ Mission: Impossible after three seasons in 1969 because of a contract dispute, Landau’s career was on the rocks until he was picked by Francis Ford Coppola to play Abe Karatz, the business partner of visionary automaker Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges), in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988).

Landau received a best supporting actor nomination for that performance, then backed it up the following year with another nom for starring as Judah Rosenthal, an ophthalmologist who has his mistress (Angelica Huston) killed, in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).

Landau lost out on Oscar night to Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington, respectively, in those years but finally prevailed for his larger-than-life portrayal of horror-movie legend Lugosi in the biopic Ed Wood (1994), directed by Tim Burton.

Landau also starred as Commander John Koenig on the 1970s science-fiction series Space: 1999 opposite his Mission: Impossible co-star Barbara Bain, his wife from 1957 until their divorce in 1993.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I remember him as a kid, very distinctive face and voice. Way more talented artist than we find today. I mean in the days of reality tv and the Jack Blacks of todays world. You dont have be talented in the entertainment world today to become rich and famous.

  2. Ed Wood quotes where Martin won his Oscar playing Bela Lugosi:

    Bela Lugosi: Karloff? Sidekick? F*CK YOU! Karloff did not deserve to smell my shit! That limey c*cksucker can rot in Hell for all I care!

    Edward D. Wood, Jr.: What happened?

    Bela Lugosi: How dare that assh*le bring up Karloff? You think it takes talent to do Frankenstein? It’s all makeup and grunting.

  3. I remember him from not only “Mission Impossible”…but as a buddy sci-fi fan…I saw him as John Koenig on “Space 1999” in the mid 70’s. RIP Martin Landau.

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