Martin Landau: 10 Career Highlights, From Hitchcock to 'Ed Wood' and Beyond

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Martin Landau, who died on July 16 at age 89, was a familiar face in movies and TV for almost 60 years. He made an impression on big-screen audiences opposite James Mason and Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest in 1959, after steady work in TV, then largely stayed on the small screen until hitting it big as a regular on the hit spy series Mission: Impossible, from 1966 to 1969. In the mid-’70s, he played the captain on the much-hyped British sci-fi series Space: 1999, but it didn’t become the next Star Trek. He worked steadily for the next 10-plus years until striking gold with a supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Tucker in 1988, which earned him an Oscar nomination, a feat he’d duplicate in 1989 in Woody Allen‘s Crimes and Misdemeanors. He’d finally collect an Oscar win in 1994, for his performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood. For more on his standout career, click through the slideshow above, illustrating the highlights of his decades in movies/TV.


‘North by Northwest’ (1959)

This classic Alfred Hitchock thriller gave Landau his breakout film role as Leonard, right-hand man to the villainous spy Vandamm (James Mason), who is attempting to murder a victim of mistaken identity (Cary Grant). Though he had few lines, Landau’s menacing, oddly playful presence is unforgettable. (Photo: Everett)

Years of TV Character Roles

Much of Landau’s lengthy career consisted of one-off parts on TV shows. When he was getting started in the ’50s and ’60s, he brandished his pistol on popular Westerns like Wild Wild West and Bonanza; during a slow stretch in the 1980s, he showed up on the Twilight Zone revival and Murder, She Wrote. (Photos: Everett)

‘Mission: Impossible’ (1966-69)

Tom Cruise was barely out of diapers when Landau (pictured with costar Greg Morris) made his debut on TV’s original Mission: Impossible, the long-running CBS series about a secret government spy agency. Landau played “man of a million faces” Rollin Hand, a master magician and impersonator, for three seasons (and received an Emmy nod for each one). (Photo: Everett)

‘Space: 1999’ (1975-77)

Starring opposite his then-wife, Barbara Bain, Landau played an astronaut stranded on an out-of-orbit moon in this high-budget British sci-fi drama, which aired for two seasons. (Photo: Everett)

‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ (1988)

After playing countless villains and suspicious characters, Landau (pictured, left) embraced the role of dream-making financier Abe Karatz in Francis Ford Coppola‘s drama about automobile innovator Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges, center, with Lloyd Bridges, right). The film earned Landau his first Oscar nomination. (Photo: Everett)

‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ (1989)

The only actor nominated for an Academy Award for Woody Allen‘s acclaimed drama, Landau (pictured, left, with Allen) played Judah Rosenthal, a respected doctor who takes a dark turn when his mistress (Anjelica Huston) threatens to reveal herself to his family. (Photo: Everett)

‘Ed Wood’ (1994)

After two nominations, Landau (pictured, left, with Johnny Depp) won an Oscar at age 66 for his portrayal of Dracula star Bela Legosi — as a cantankerous, regretful old actor putting his heart into one last horror flick — in Tim Burton‘s schlock-filmmaker biopic. (Photo: Everett)

‘Frankenweenie’ (2012)

Landau reunited with Ed Wood director Burton to lend his voice to this Disney-produced Frankenstein spoof. The actor played Mr. Rzykruski, the science teacher who inspires the young protagonist’s daring experiments in renaimation (and who sounds suspiciously like horror icon Vincent Price). (Photo: Disney)

‘Without a Trace’ (2004-09)

Decades after Mission: Impossible, Landau received his fourth and fifth Emmy nominations for a recurring role as Frank Malone, FBI agent Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia)’s father who is battling Alzheimer’s disease, in this CBS police procedural. (Photo: CBS)

‘Entourage’ (2006-08)

“Is that something you might be interested in?” That was the catchphrase of Landau’s recurring character on the hit HBO comedy: a hilariously past-his-prime movie producer who has never stopped wheeling and dealing. Landau reprised this Emmy-nominated role in the 2015 Entourage movie. (Photo: HBO)

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