Landau (center) with "Mission:Impossible" co-stars (clockwise) Peter Graves, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus and Barbara Bain.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau has passed away at age 89. Landau had originally intended to be a cartoonist before studying at the esteemed Actors Studio in New York City. With his intense looks and persona, he began to be noticed by Hollywood studios. In 1959 he was cast as James Mason's gay henchman in Alfred Hitchcock's classic "North by Northwest". It was Landau who suggested playing the role as a not-so-closeted homosexual, a rather daring strategy for the era. The result made Landau standout in a cast of heavyweights that included Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and Leo G. Carroll. Roles in epic films such as "Cleopatra" and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" followed. Landau also appeared regularly on popular TV programs including "The Twilight Zone", "The Untouchables", "I Spy", "The Wild, Wild West" and many others. Between 1966-1969 he co-starred on the hit spy series "Mission:Impossible", playing Rollin Hand, a master of disguise. His real-life wife Barbara Bain also starred in the show. They both left due to either "artistic differences" or salary disputes with the producers. Between 1975-1977, Landau and Bain co-starred in the cult sci-fi series "Space: 1999". Landau's career went into decline although he never stopped working. It was the quality of the projects that had diminished. He had an unexpected renaissance in 1988 when director Francis Ford Coppola cast him in "Tucker: The Man and His Dreams". Landau received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The following year he was nominated in the same category for a brilliant performance in Woody Allen's dark comedy "Crimes and Misdemeanors". Landau finally won the award for his performance as actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film "Ed Wood". (Ironically, Landau had played a Lugosi-like character in "The Bat Cave Affair", a 1966 episode of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.").
Landau spoofed Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Dracula in an episode of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" (seen here with David McCallum). In 1994, he would win the Oscar for playing Lugosi in "Ed Wood".
Landau had been nominated for Emmy awards on numerous occasions beginning with "Mission: Impossible" and extending to more recent nominations for "Without a Trace" and "Entourage". Landau had been producer Gene Rodenberry's first choice to play the role of Spock in "Star Trek" but Landau decided to go with "Mission:Impossible". The role went to Leonard Nimoy, who ironically ended up starring in "Mission:Impossible" after Landau's departure from the series. For more click here.