North By Northwest an Alfred Hitchcock classic that Martin Landau won him his first important role: Leonard.
Martin Landau 1928-2017
Mr. Landau was a working actor for over 60 years. He came up in the 1950s at the Actors Studio, where he made friends with James Dean, and so he took his profession very seriously and even self-seriously as a Method actor. That was a part of being from his generation of performers, particularly those that studied with his guru, Lee Strasberg.
Landau was born in Brooklyn and worked as a cartoonist before beginning his career as an actor. He made some appearances on television before being selected by Hitchcock for Leonard, who is a right-hand man and a jealous lover to James Mason’s Phillip Vandamm. Hitchcock had seen Landau play a macho role on Broadway with Edward G. Robinson in the play “Middle of the Night,” and Landau asked the Master why that performance had gotten him the role of Leonard. “Martin, you have a circus going on inside you,” Hitchcock told him. “If you can play that in the theatre you can play this role.”
Hitchcock liked actors who were good at “doing nothing”
He had previously had some trouble with actors trained in the Method, but he saw that Landau could give him just what he needed. “I chose to play Leonard as a gay character,” Landau said in 2012. “It was quite a big risk in cinema at the time. My logic was simply that he wanted to get rid of Eva Marie Saint with such a vengeance, so it made sense for him to be in love with his boss. Vandamm, played by James Mason. Every one of my friends thought I was crazy, but Hitchcock liked it. A good director makes a playground and allows you to play.”
Martin Landau and Barbara Bain married both played on Mission Impossible
In the last half of the 1960s, Landau was the lead on the TV show “Mission: Impossible” opposite his wife Barbara Bain, and that series functioned as an actor’s showcase because his character was a master of disguise. Landau still worked regularly after the show went off the air, but rarely in worthy parts. And then, at the age of 60, Landau received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” (1988). And he got another nomination for probably his most demanding role: Judah Rosenthal, a man who has his mistress Dolores (Anjelica Huston) murdered in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989).
Credited to Rogert Ebert In Memoriam 1942-2013