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March 26 in Twilight Zone History: Remembering actor Strother Martin on the anniversary of his birth

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Mar 26, 2018

Today, March 26th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember actor Strother Martin on the anniversary of his birth.

Martin (1919-1980) co-starred in "The Grave" as Old West townie Mothershed, who baits bounty hunter Connie Miller (Lee Marvin) into visiting the grave of an outlaw he failed to capture. Motheshed and his compatriots Johnny Rob (James Best) and Steinhart (Lee Van Cleef) really give Connie the business until, his pride and reputation at stake, the bounty hunter heads out to the cemetery.

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Because their town's posse was forced to kill the outlaw he was assigned to bring down, Mothershed (Strother Martin, left) and Johnny Rob (James Best) really mess with the pride of Connie Miller (Lee Marvin) in "The Grave." 

Martin was always an ace in any casting hand you were playing. His specialty was playing less than wholesome characters with plenty of energy and grit. Probably his signature role was the warden in Cool Hand Luke, whose immortal line to Paul Newman's escape-minded title character was "What we've got here is failure to communicate."

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Strother Martin as the Warden who just doesn't like the attitude of "Cool Hand Luke."

Interestingly, Martin and Van Cleef would shortly team up with Marvin in director John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In fact, Martin was part of Ford's stock company of colorful character actors, appearing in a number of the director’s films.

And if you look carefully and quickly, you'll also notice him without his western gear as a man in the opening police lineup in John Huston's seminal noir film The Asphalt Jungle.

Strother Martin was to westerns what coffee is to donuts. So, on this the anniversary of his birth, let's hoist a shot of rot gut to a classic character actor, comfortable in oaters, and forever immortalized on the dusty back street of The Twilight Zone.