He was an Oscar winner who worked with such iconic directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen; earned three Emmy nominations for his role as a suave spy in the cult ’60s series “Mission Impossible” — and even taught Method acting to a young Hollywood hopeful named Jack Nicholson.
Yet Martin Landau, who died Sunday at age 89 and was still acting in a career that spanned six decades, was just as proud of the first job he ever held — cartoonist for the New York Daily News.
The Brooklyn-born Landau was a 17-year-old senior at James Madison High School with a talent for art when he lied about his age and took a job at the paper, eventually going on to illustrate the popular comic strip “The Gumps.”
“The Daily News was grooming me to be the theatrical caricaturist, which was a great job,” Landau told The News in a video interview taped in April.
Martin Landau, ‘Ed Wood’ Oscar winner, dead at 89
The job, he said, would have entailed “going to dress rehearsal or opening night” of a Broadway show and “doing a cast drawing for the Sunday paper.
“I didn’t even have to come to the News building,” he added.
But Landau, who spent five years at The News beginning in the late 1940s, said he caught the acting bug after going to see a News colleague who was appearing in an Off-Off Broadway play.
Calling it “the worst acting I’ve ever seen in my life to this day,” Landau said he figured he couldn’t do any worse.
So at 22, he decided to give up his day job and pursue acting.
“I realized that if I got that job (as a caricaturist) I’d never quit, so I quit,” Landau said. “And I could still hear my mother say, ‘You did what?!’
“I quit to become an out-of-work actor in New York, and everyone thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy.
“But it worked out okay.”
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