Saturday, July 22, 2017

Graphic Grandeur (The Road Not Taken Edition)

Yes, the signature on these strips reads Gus Edson, who took over The Gumps after Sidney Smith's death in 1935, but he had an assistant in the late 1940s who may have penciled or inked or lettered or do whatever comic strip assistants do. According to some sources, he even drew the whole strip on occasion.

Martin Landau 1920-2017
The assistant later caught the acting bug.

North by Northwest (1959) That's the back of Cary Grant's head.

From the same film, that's Landau's foot and Grant's hand (unless they're stunt doubles--you can never be sure.)

 Landau played master-of-disguise spy Rollin Hand on TV's Mission: Impossible for three seasons. That's his real-life then-wife Barbara Bain in the center.

 Landau and Bain also appeared together on the runaway moon TV science fiction series Space:1999.

Not generally considered a high point in Landau's career, but I just had to show it. The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, a 1981 made-for-TV movie in which he played a mad scientist, with Bain as his, I don't know, lab assistant, I guess. This would be the last time husband and wife performed together on screen. The two divorced in 1993. That's 12 years after this film debuted, so I really don't think it was the cause of the split.

Things turned around for Landau in 1988 when Francis Ford Coppola cast him as Abe Karatz, business associate of 1940s automobile designer Preston Tucker in Tucker: The Man and His Dreams, based on a true story. Landau was nominated for, but did not win, an Academy Award.

A clip. That's Jeff Bridges as Tucker.

In Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Landau played Judah Rosenthal, a successful ophthalmologist who has his mistress just as successfully dispatched, and, for a while anyway, feels a tad guilty about it.  Landau was nominated for, but did not win, an Academy Award.


In this clip a conscience-stricken Judah relives a childhood memory. Man, listen to that family talk about the Holocaust and the nature of evil over dinner. I can't imagine what the conversation was like during dessert.

 As a down-on-his-luck Bela Lugosi in 1994's Ed Wood. Johnny Depp plays the title character, an independent film director who tries to engineer a comeback for the former horror star, and acquire a bit of fame for himself in the process (which he actually succeeded in doing, though both men were long dead when it finally happened.)

Lugosi's opinion of a fellow horror movie icon.

Makes up for not winning that Reuben.


  1. A fascinating post. I never knew that Landau was a comic strip assistant.

    1. He was a fascinating man. Thanks for dropping by, Jon.

  2. Amazing post today. Never knew he was a comic strip assistant.
    What we do when we need to work. I have had so many different jobs that started off when I worked at a concession stand at a Drive In Theater.

    cheers, parsnip

  3. I've many different jobs, too, but I don't know that's what's at play here, parsnip. From what I can tell, Landau wasn't working as a comic strip assistant between acting gigs the same way other actors wait tables. Landau seems to have had a genuine interest in cartooning, but it was superseded by an even greater interest in acting. So it was basically a career change. It shouldn't be surprising that he might have two such seemingly diverse interests, as they both involve a certain amount of creativity. As for myself, I've covered both comics and show biz on this blog. I simply see them as two sides of the same coin.

  4. Hi, Kirk!

    I was very happy to see your comment on my blog today and very much appreciate your interest. I also thank you for paying tribute to one of my favorite actors Martin Landau. It made me sad to read the news of his death. I have watched N X NW at least a dozen times over the years and always enjoy Landau's performance in it. I was a teenager when Martin took his role in the main cast of M:I, one of my favorite TV series of the 60s and early 70s. I also saw the film Ed Wood and loved Landau's spot-on portrayal of Bela Lugosi.

    Thanks again for coming over to SDMM today, Kirk. I look forward to connecting with you again soon, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Shady. I've actually been reading you for a couple of months now. Enjoy your lively blog.

    2. That's great to know, Kirk. Thanks!

  5. I have been a Martin Landau fan ever since I saw him in "Mission Impossible" and "Space 1999" when I was a kid. His performance in "Ed Wood" (one of my favourite movies) was magnificent and very deserving of that Academy Award. Have you ever seen the second-to-last movie he made called "Remember" in which he co-starred with Christopher Plummer? It's an outstanding movie and, while Plummer is brilliant in it, so is Landau in a dark and complex role. Please see it if you can, it's that good! This old post of mine has the trailer in it:

  6. Debra, I did not see, or, I ashamed to say, was even aware of "Remember". Thanks for bringing it to my attention!