Celebrated actor Martin Landau, an Oscar winner and longtime television star, has died, his publicist announced Sunday.
Landau, 89, died Saturday after a brief illness and stay at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.
Landau — winner of an Academy Award for his supporting role as Bela Lugosi in the 1994 cult film “Ed Wood” — rose to fame playing a killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 tale of intrigue, “North by Northwest.”
He then starred for three years in the hit series, “Mission Impossible,” leaving in 1969 because of a contract dispute, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Landau’s career was then resurrected by director Francis Ford Coppola who picked him to play Abe Karatz — the business partner of automaker Preston Tucker, played by Jeff Bridges — in the 1988 film, “Tucker: The Man and His Dream.” The role earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, as well as his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Landau also had the major role of Judah Rosenthal in Woody Allen’s 1989 movie, “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” for which he earned another Oscar nod for best supporting actor.
Landau also portrayed a space commander John Koenig in the 1970s TV series, “Space 1999,” in which Landau again played opposite his “Mission Impossible” co-star and former wife, Barbara Bain.
Landau and Bain were married from 1957 to 1993.
Landau turned down the role of Mr. Spock in the original “Star Trek” series, a role that ultimately went to Leonard Nimoy, who had replaced Landau on the “Mission Impossible” show after Landau quit.
Landau also taught acting at the famed Actor’s Studio, and at his death was serving as its artistic director, a post he shared with director Mark Rydell. Landau was best friends with James Dean and a one-time beau of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Landau — born and raised in Brooklyn — landed a job as a cartoonist at the New York Daily News at age 17, until he quit five years later to pursue acting.
Landau began his career on the stage in New York, doing roles in such plays as “Stalag 17,” “Goat Song,” “First Love,” and “Middle of the Night,” the first play written by famed playwright Paddy Chayevsky.
Landau also played roles in such movies as “Cleopatra,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Hallelujah Trail,” “Nevada Smith” and “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs.”
Landau is survived by Bain and their two daughters, Susan Landau Finch and Juliet Landau.
–City News Service
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