Hugs and condolences for the friends, colleagues and fans of Martin Landau, who’s suddenly gone at age 89. He was a bit of a testy guy in person, I must say. He didn’t suffer fools, or at least didn’t seem all that delighted with journalistic inquiries the two or three times I ran into him during the ’90s. But that goes with being a ferociously committed but somewhat frustrated actor, I guess.
Landau spent much of his career making swill, but he was gifted and lucky enough to hit grandslam homers with two great roles — Judah Rosenthal in Woody Allen‘s Crimes and Misdemeanors (’89 — that scene when he goes back to his old home and speaks to his family during dinner, and especially the one with Jerry Orbach in the pool house) and Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood (’94 — Lugosi tangling with the fake octopus in the pond).
My Landau favorites after these two, and in this order: Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible (’66 to ’69), sleek and effete Leonard with the “woman’s intuition” in Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest (’59), Rex Harrison‘s loyal Rufio in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s Cleopatra (’63), and Lieutenant Marshall in Lewis Milestone‘s Pork Chop Hill (’59). These are the only ones that have stuck in my mind.