Monday, July 17, 2017

When Martin Landau Was a Cartoonist

Academy Award winning actor Martin Landau died this past weekend at the age of 89. Here's some information on him that you may not know:

Like I said, maybe you know this or maybe it's news to you, but actor Martin Landau was a staff cartoonist at the New York Daily News in the 1940s. He was just a kid, assisting other cartoonists (the Daily News' theatrical caricaturist Horace Knight and, later on, THE GUMPS cartoonist Gus Edson). He was seriously thinking that he would maybe be a pro cartoonist one day. Actually, he was; he assisted Edson for several years in the late 1940s, graduating from drawing backgrounds and lettering to drawing THE GUMPS Sunday pages.

Above: a Horace knight caricature of Edward R. Murrow from the Tufts Digital Library.

Bhob Stewart recounts the cartoonist years of Martin Landau, complete with some screen captures of Mr. Landau drawing for the 2008 film LOVELY, STILL, and some GUMPS scans. Above: a close up of Mr. Landau drawing from the beginning of the movie.

On September 2, 2010, Mr. Landau gave an interview to Neal Conan on NPR's Talk of the Nation program (full audio here). While promoting LOVELY, STILL, he recounted his cartooning days at The Daily News:

CONAN: There is a part in the film you play, a character who is involved. We see him sketching at first, later painting. And that's you. You did that, right?
Mr. LANDAU: Well, I did that professionally, actually. I mean, I started on The New York Daily News as a kid when I was 17 years old, as a cartoonist and illustrator, and I was being groomed to be the theatrical caricaturist. And I know if I got that job, I'd never quit. So I quit.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: So you were getting offered a - you believed you were about to be offered a nice, cushy job in newspapers, and then...
Mr. LANDAU: It was a great job, actually. I'd go to opening nights, and the PR people would give me 8x10s of the dress rehearsal. And I would go home, actually - I didn't have to go to the news building - and do a drawing of the cast, which would appear in a Sunday paper. If there were two openings that week, two drawings. The old fellow, Horace Knight, was an old English fellow who had that job was retiring. And I was - I had the ability to do that. So I - but I knew I wanted to go into the theater. I mean, I wanted to act. And I knew if I got that job - which was, again, a cushy job and very well-paying job, and the only - you know, I mean, my style was sort of a nouveau - art nouveau style, an art deco style, as opposed Hirschfeld's, who had a very flowing line.
CONAN: Yeah.
Mr. LANDAU: And it was a different look, but it had a look. And - but I quit. And my - you know, my family - I had to put up with a lot of - you did what?

A big hat tip to Bhob Stewart. Landau joins the ranks of other actor/cartoonists, like Caruso, Jackie Gleason, Orson Bean, Robert Lansing, Rita Moreno, Ginger Rogers, Al Roker, Denis Leary and Morley Safer.

Above: Albert Dorne, Carol Burnett and Bill Holman from the cover THE PRO CARTOONIST AND GAG WRITER. It's 1962 and she's receiving an NCS ACE (Amateur Cartoonist Extraordinary) award. Complete link to the entire PRO CARTOONIST issue here.

UPDATE: Marc Maron interviewed Martin Landau and there was more talk of his cartooning years. Link to this January 23, 2017 interview here

-- Edited from a November 29, 2010 blog entry.

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