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June 20 in Twilight Zone History: Remembering actor Martin Landau on the anniversary of his birth

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Jun 20, 2018

Today, June 20th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the birth of actor Martin Landau, who was born on this day in 1928.

The legendary Landau (1928-2017) co-starred in the first season episode "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," playing a brash gunfighter who bates ex-gunman/turned town drunk Al Denton (Dan Duryea). He returned in the final season episode "The Jeopardy Room," playing defecting Soviet army officer Major Ivan Kuchenko, a man seemingly caught in a deadly trap by Soviet agents.

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Young Martin Landau is the gunfighting bully who suddenly sees Al Denton (Dan Duryea) in a different light in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday."

Mr. Landau's Zone appearances occurred at the very beginning of his career. He had just come out to California to co-star in MGM's Alfred Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest, playing villainous James Mason's key henchman, Leonard. That same year, he played one of the surviving infantry officers of Love Company in Lewis Milestone's Pork Chop Hill. Landau went on win an Oscar for playing an aging Bela Lugosi opposite Johnny Depp in director Tim Burton's Ed Wood; he had previously been nominated for both Tucker: The Man and His Dream and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Lee Strasberg originally accepted Landau as one of his Actors Studio students, one of only two actors who were accepted of 2,000 applicants. The other: Steve McQueen.

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Defecting Soviet army officer Major Ivan Kuchenko (Martin Landau, right) thinks he has Commissar Vasiloff (John Van Dreelen) in his sights, but all is not what it seems in "The Jeopardy Room."

So on this, the day of Martin Landau's birth, let us salute actor gold, a true gentleman who played both sides of the spectrum — menacing bad guy and desperate good guy — in The Twilight Zone.