Home > News & Advice > News Obituaries > Martin Landau (1928 – 2017)

Martin Landau (1928 – 2017)

by Legacy Staff

“Mission: Impossible” actor won an Oscar for his role in “Ed Wood”…

Martin Landau, the Oscar-winning actor known best for his role on the 1960s TV series “Mission: Impossible,” has died of a heart attack, according to multiple news sources. He was 89.

“We are overcome with sadness to report the death of iconic actor Martin Landau on July 15th, 2017 at 1:30 pm at UCLA Medical Center, where he succumbed to unexpected complications during a short hospitalization,” his publicist said in a news release.


Landau received several Emmy Award nominations for his role as Rollin Hand, the master of disguises, on “Mission: Impossible,” which ran from 1966 to 1973. He also won a Golden Globe for the role.

But he won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his supporting role as the actor Bela Lugosi in 1994’s “Ed Wood.”

“What a night. What a life. What a moment. What everything,” he said in his 1995 Oscar acceptance speech.


Click to get weekly celebrity death news delivered to your inbox.

Landau was born June 20, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York. After high school, he worked as an editorial cartoonist for the New York Daily News. He left at 22 to pursue an acting career.

He studied alongside Steve McQueen at the Actors Studio in 1955. Two years later, he debuted on Broadway in “Middle of the Night.”

His first major film role was in 1959’s “North by Northwest,” the Alfred Hitchcock film, playing the assistant to a criminal played by the actor James Mason.

The film actor became one of the most famous stars on television when he was cast as Rollin Hand on “Mission: Impossible.” The character used incredibly lifelike masks to impersonate dictators, strong men, and other villains that the Impossible Missions Force sought to bring down.

After “Mission: Impossible,” Landau starred on the short-lived TV science fiction series “Space: 1999.”

The late 1980s found Landau back on the big screen. He played Abe Karatz, a role he relished, in 1988’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time playing roles that didn’t really challenge me,” Landau said at the time. “You want roles that have dimension. The role of Abe Karatz gave me that.”

He received a Golden Globe Award for the role. He also was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Judah in actor-director Woody Allen’s 1989 comedy-drama film “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“I just couldn’t find anybody good for the part of Judah,” Allen said in a 1993 interview. Landau read for the part, Allen said, “and he was completely natural. It’s an interesting thing. Of all the actors I’ve ever worked with, he gives expression to my dialogue exactly as I hear it. His colloquialisms, his idiom, his inflection is exactly correct.”

Landau won his Academy Award for the 1994 biopic “Ed Wood,” in which he played horror film actor Bela Lugosi. Landau researched for the role by studying more than two dozen Lugosi movies. His impersonation skills honed on “Mission: Impossible” kicked in for his Lugosi role, as he perfected Lugosi’s Hungarian accent.

Landau also received a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Saturn Award for the critically acclaimed role.

Landau is survived by his ex-wife, Barbara Bain, who acted alongside Landau on “Mission Impossible.” They were married from 1957 to 1993. He is also survived by two daughters, Susan and Juliet, from that marriage.

We invite you to share condolences for Martin Landau in our Guest Book.

More Stories