Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies at 89

This file photo taken on November 14, 2016 shows US actor Martin Landau attending the posthumous star ceremony for Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune in Hollywood, California. (AFP / CHRIS DELMAS)
Updated 17 July 2017
0

Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies at 89

LOS ANGELES: Martin Landau, the chameleon-like actor who gained fame as the crafty master of disguise in the 1960s TV show “Mission: Impossible,” then capped a long and versatile career with an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of aging horror movie star Bela Lugosi in 1994’s “Ed Wood,” has died. He was 89.
Landau died Saturday of unexpected complications during a short stay at UCLA Medical Center, his publicist Dick Guttman said.
“Mission: Impossible,” which also starred Landau’s wife, Barbara Bain, became an immediate hit upon its debut in 1966. It remained on the air until 1973, but Landau and Bain left at the end of the show’s third season amid a financial dispute with the producers. They starred in the British-made sci-fi series “Space: 1999” from 1975 to 1977.
Landau might have been a superstar but for a role he didn’t play — the pointy-eared starship Enterprise science officer, Mr. Spock. “Star Trek” creator Gene Rodenberry had offered him the half-Vulcan, half-human who attempts to rid his life of all emotion. Landau turned it down.
“A character without emotions would have driven me crazy; I would have had to be lobotomized,” he explained in 2001. Instead, he chose “Mission: Impossible,” and Leonard Nimoy went on to everlasting fame as Spock.
Ironically, Nimoy replaced Landau on “Mission: Impossible.”
After a brief but impressive Broadway career, Landau had made an auspicious film debut in the late 1950s, playing a soldier in “Pork Chop Hill” and a villain in the Alfred Hitchcock classic “North By Northwest.”
He enjoyed far less success after “Mission: Impossible,” however, finding he had been typecast as Rollin Hand, the top-secret mission team’s disguise wizard. His film career languished for more than a decade, reaching its nadir with his appearance in the 1981 TV movie “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.”
He began to find redemption with a sympathetic role in “Tucker: The Man and his Dream,” the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film that garnered Landau his first Oscar nomination.
He was nominated again the next year for his turn as the adulterous husband in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
His third nomination was for “Ed Wood,” director Tim Burton’s affectionate tribute to a man widely viewed as the worst Hollywood filmmaker of all time.
“There was a 10-year period when everything I did was bad. I’d like to go back and turn all those films into guitar picks,” Landau said after accepting his Oscar.
In “Ed Wood,” he portrayed Lugosi during his final years, when the Hungarian-born actor who had become famous as Count Dracula was ill, addicted to drugs and forced to make films with Ed Wood just to pay his bills. A gifted mimic trained in method acting, Landau had thoroughly researched the role.
“I watched about 35 Lugosi movies, including ones that were worse than anything Ed Wood ever made,” he recalled in 2001. “Despite the trash, he had a certain dignity about him, whatever the role.”
So did the New York-born Landau, who had studied drawing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and worked for a time as a New York Daily News cartoonist before switching careers at age 22.
He had dabbled in acting before the switch, making his stage debut in 1951 at a Maine summer theater in “Detective Story” and off-Broadway in “First Love.”
In 1955, he was among hundreds who applied to study at the prestigious Actors Studio and one of only two selected. The other was Steve McQueen.
On Broadway, Landau won praise for his work in “Middle of the Night,” which starred Edward G. Robinson. He toured with the play until it reached Los Angeles, where he began his film career.
Landau and Bain had two daughters, Susan and Juliet. They divorced in 1993.


Twin brothers reunited 74 years after WWII death at Normandy

Family members lay flowers on the casket of WWII US Navy sailor Julius Pieper during a reburial service at the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 2 min 18 sec ago
0

Twin brothers reunited 74 years after WWII death at Normandy

  • The story of how the twins died and were being reunited reflects the daily courage of troops on a mission to save the world from the Nazis and the tenacity of today’s military to ensure that no soldier goes unaccounted for
  • "They are finally together again, side by side, where they should be,”

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France: For decades, he was known only as Unknown X-9352 at a World War II American cemetery in Belgium where he was interred.
Today, he has recovered his identity — and was being reunited with his twin brother in Normandy, where the two Navy men died together when their ship shattered on an underwater mine while trying to reach the blood-soaked D-Day beaches.
Julius Heinrich Otto “Henry” Pieper and Ludwig Julius Wilhelm “Louie” Pieper, two 19-year-olds from Esmond, South Dakota, will rest in peace side-by-side later Tuesday at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France, 74 years after their deaths on June 19, 1944.
While Louie’s body was soon found, identified and laid to rest, his brother’s remains were only recovered in 1961 by French salvage divers and not identified until 2017.
They will be the 45th pair of brothers at the cemetery, three of them memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the cemetery. But the Piepers will be the only set of twins among the more than 9,380 graves, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Julius, radioman second class like his brother, was being buried with full military honors at the cemetery, an immaculate field of crosses and stars of David. The site overlooks the English Channel and Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of the Normandy landing beaches of Operation Overlord, the first step in breaching Hitler’s stranglehold on France and Europe. Family members were in attendance.

Twin brothers Julius Pieper, left, and Ludwig Pieper in their US Navy uniforms.
Twin brothers Julius Pieper, left, and Ludwig Pieper in their US Navy uniforms. (AP)

“They are finally together again, side by side, where they should be,” said their niece, Susan Lawrence, 56, of California.
“They were always together. They were the best of friends,” said Lawrence. “Mom told me a story one time when one of the twins had gotten hurt on the job and the other twin had gotten hurt on the job, same day and almost the same time.”
The story of how the twins died and were being reunited reflects the daily courage of troops on a mission to save the world from the Nazis and the tenacity of today’s military to ensure that no soldier goes unaccounted for.
The Pieper twins, born of German immigrant parents, worked together for Burlington Railroad and enlisted together in the Navy. Both were radio operators and both were on the same unwieldy flat-bottom boat, Landing Ship Tank Number 523 (LST-523), making the Channel crossing from Falmouth, England, to Utah Beach 13 days after the June 6 D-Day landings.
The LST-523 mission was to deliver supplies at the Normandy beachhead and remove the wounded. It never got there.
The vessel struck an underwater mine and sank off the coast. Of the 145 Navy crew members, 117 were found perished. Survivors’ accounts speak of a major storm on the Channel with pitched waves that tossed the boat mercilessly before the explosion that shattered the vessel.
Louie’s body was laid to rest in what now is the Normandy American Cemetery. But the remains of Julius were only recovered in 1961 by French divers who found them in the vessel’s radio room. He was interred as an “Unknown” at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville, Belgium, also devoted to the fallen of World War II, in the region that saw the bloody Battle of the Bulge.
Julius’ remains might have stayed among those of 13 other troops from the doomed LST-523 still resting unidentified at the Ardennes cemetery. But in 2017, a US agency that tracks missing combatants using witness accounts and DNA testing identified him.
The Pieper family asked that Louie’s grave in Normandy be relocated to make room for his twin brother at his side.
The last time the United States buried a soldier who fought in World War II was in 2005, at the Ardennes American Cemetery, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.