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Martin Landau, Oscar-Winner for Ed Wood and Classic Television Star, Dies at 89

It’s fitting that Martin Landau played master of disguise Rollin Hand on the old Mission: Impossible series. As a character actor, he disappeared completely into his roles. Versatile enough to be anybody, he worked with everybody, from Alfred Hitchcock to Francis Ford Coppola to Woody Allen to Tim Burton. Long undervalued, he finally earned the recognition he deserved in his 60s, winning an Academy Award in 1995. Landau didn’t rest on his laurels, however; he continued to create memorable characters on the big and small screens until his death on July 15 at age 89.

Landau was born in Brooklyn on June 20, 1928. An artistic kid, he studied at the Pratt Institute and began working at 17 as a cartoonist at The Daily News, illustrating Billy Rose’s “Pitching Horseshoes” column and assisting “The Gumps” cartoonist Gus Edson. But he didn’t see a future in that line of work. Inspired by screen icons like Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, he quit cartooning after five years at The Daily News. “I told the picture editor I was going into the theater,” Landau recalled in 1989. “I think he thought I was going to be an usher.” As a struggling auditioner, he found a handful of small roles on TV, in summer stock, and Off-Broadway, and he became the best friend of another cattle-call regular, James Dean.

He made his Broadway debut in Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night alongside his idol, Robinson. Alfred Hitchcock saw the play and gave Landau his big break in movies, casting him in the 1959 classic North by Northwest. When Landau asked what inspired the director to hire him to play villainous henchman Leonard, Hitchcock told him, “Marty, you have a circus going on inside you. Obviously, if you can do that part I saw you do

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