Martin Landau, an Oscar-winning character actor whose dagger-like physique, Cheshire-cat grin and intense gaze made him ideally suited to play icy villains and enigmatic heroes, notably disguise master Rollin Hand on the hit 1960s TV series “Mission: Impossible,” died July 15 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 89.
Dick Guttman, a publicist for Landau, told the Associated Press that the actor died of “unexpected complications,” but did not provide additional details.
Landau’s seven-decade career featured verdant artistic peaks – including his work for directors Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Tim Burton – and long stretches of arid desert.
The New Yorker once described him as “a survivor of B-movie hell,” noting his long midcareer run of disaster films, blaxploitation movies and fright flicks. “None of them were porno,” the actor once quipped, “though some were worse.”
A precociously gifted artist, Landau had been a cartoonist, illustrator and theater caricaturist at the New York Daily News in his teens before embarking on an acting career at 22. He had developed a strong talent for observing people’s expressions and movements, as well as a flair for imitations and accents. Of thousands of applicants, only he and Steve McQueen were accepted in that class at the prestigious Actors Studio in Manhattan.
The school employed the Method philosophy, which calls on a performer to draw from his own, often painful, memories to illuminate a character. The system helped mold a generation of brooding stars, including Marlon Brando and James Dean. The 6-foot-3 Landau distinguished himself with…
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