Real Story Behind The Bain-Landau Split!
Most Hollywood insiders knew about those “Mission Impossible”
rumors long before the bid stories ever broke.
For months, there had been speculation that Martin Landau would
be quitting the show and that Leonard Nimoy would be taking his place
opposite Barbara Bain, the real life Mrs. Landau.
But Barbara crossed them all up. When Martin finally did resign
from the cast, she joined her husband in the ranks of the unemployed,
just as any loyal wife would do.
Barbara and Martin have a lot to look forward to now and
perhaps the greatest burden fell on Nimoy, who was forced to take the
place of his life-long friend.
At this writing the celebrated pair have decided to “split”
from the series which has brought them unprecedented popularity and
The conditions – financial and otherwise – laid down by
Martin for repacting his one-year-at-a-time deal were so difficult
that CBS decided to replace him. When Barbara chimed in and said,
“Me too,” the problem got little more sticky. Unlike Martin,
Barbara had a long-term pact, and when she didn’t show up for a
wardrobe call, CBS bared its fangs and muttered something about
“breach of contract,” they promptly hired Dina Merrill for the
first show of next season – a two-parter.
This situation may very well present a real challenge to the
integrity of the Landau marriage. “Togetherness” has been the
constant theme of this pair. Teamed together for so many years in a
situation in which neither of them had much opportunity to
“upstage” the other, there was no question of disparage career
prestige levels to could their union. Nor was there any problem of
logistics – Martin being sent to Hong Kong for four months, while
Barbara went to Cairo on a different location for a different picture.
Their working time dove-tailed perfectly, which naturally permitted
their private time, their vacation time, to do the same.
Martin – admittedly the better actor of the two – is now at
an important crossroads in his career. He has been offered three
picture deals by two different studios. Both consider him a lifetime
star of great dramatic magnitude, in the mold of Laurence Olivier,
Richard Burton and others of that caliber.
Wherever the winds of chance take Barbara, there id good reason
to believe she will never have an opportunity to progress beyond the
“hep blonde” portrayals. Will she be able to rise above the
widening professional breach between them?
Barbara met her first marital crisis, and faced up to her first
momentous decision before the ink was dry on her wedding certificate.
This decision changed the course of her whole married life.
The courtship of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain has been widely
chronicled in the press. All know how Barbara, flushed with scholastic
triumphs at the University of Illinois, had come to New York to
conquer the Big City, how she worked as a teacher until she discovered
she could earn more money as a model in one hour than she could earn
in a week utilizing her college degree in sociology. But modeling, in
spite of its monetary rewards, was not enough to satisfy a girl of
Barbara’s intellectual curiosity. Before long she followed the
suggestion of a college mate and enrolled in Curt Conway’s acting
One of the advance students, a working professional named
Martin Landau, was assigned to work with her, to play scenes against
her and provide a sounding board for her fledgling talent.
“He saw me at my worst to start with,” Barbara admits
candidly. “And it was very, very bad. I could only get better from
Then they went for a historic walk in the park one day. He
discovered that she possessed a university degree, that she had read
omnivorously since childhood and that – most miraculous of all –
she knew the difference between Paddy Chayefsky and Paddy the Welshman
of nursery rhyme lore.
Barbara, by the same token, discovered that Martin, besides
being an intense, dedicated actor or rare talent, was a compassionate,
gentle man, a man who loved books and music and poetry, who understood
her wild mercurial moods, her flights of fancy as no one ever had
before. This was the understanding she had been longing for since
And so they fell in love.
But “happily ever after” only exists in the fairy tales.
The courtship of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain was marred by the ugly
fact that Barbara could still pick up, in an hour or so of modeling,
almost as much as an actor could earn in a week – when he earned
anything at all!
Martin was proud. For the entire period of their courtship the
going was hard, financially. He was stubbornly insistent on spending
only what he could afford. Consequently, there were no champagne
dinners. When they went out, it was to a neighborhood hamburger joint
where Martin demonstrated his devotion by dismembering and
reassembling the hamburgers, giving Barbara both tops because they
contained the sesame seeds, and keeping both bottoms for himself!
They were assured of at least one substantial meal a week
because of their friendship with Shelley Berman, who invited them,
along with a group of other close friends, to his apartment every
Sunday night for dinner which he offered in return for their critical
appraisals of his new comedy routines.
When eventually they were married there were two ceremonies –
the first a spontaneous, hurried formality at City Hall, and then, 10
days later, a religious ritual to satisfy the two sets of parents,
both of them closely knit and steeped in the beauty and tradition of
the Jewish faith.
Immediately after the second ceremony Martin made a trip to
pick up his unemployment insurance so they could buy groceries and set
This set Barbara to thinking.
Martin was an actor. More than that, he was an “actor’s
actor”, one who lived, breathed, walked and slept theatre. He had
gone the whole route – studied at the Actor’s Studio under Lee
Strasberg and Elia Kauan, been praised by the New York critics and
anointed the Second Brando.
He was an actor in the tradition of Barrymore, Olivier, one who
looked upon acting not as a profession, but as a sort of Holy Grail.
But he was also a very proud man.
Barbara knew instinctively that he would be destroyed if he
failed to support her, relying on the vagries of a stage career, which,
up to this point, had been quixotic.
She could suggest that he return to his first profession.
Martin had been a cartoonist for the New York Daily News before he
decided to stake his destiny in acting. Barbara knew that he could
earn a very adequate living returning to newspaper work. But she also
knew that, once an actor, he could never be happy retrogressing,
returning to the old routine of drawing the Gumps, illustrating Billy
Rose’s newspaper column.
Barbara began thinking about Hollywood as a sort of comprise.
She knew there was a much greater, less highly specialized market for
actors on the west coast. She knew, also, that dedicated actors of the
Broadway stage regarded Hollywood as a sort of freak by-product of the
true acting profession.
Undaunted, she put out a few discreet feelers. How would Martin
react to working in television?
His response was exactly what she would have expected. “It
would literally kill me to be so restricted,” he said. “It would
be like treading water and going no place but down, down, down.”
Martin’s theatre friends seconded this opinion. Martin could
never fulfill his expectations in TV, they said. He would surely
dissipate his vigor, Edward G. Robinson applied the clincher when he
assessed Landau as one of the most interesting actors to come along in
the past 15 years. “I think his qualities of heroic presence are
seen at their best only in the theatre,” he added.
Barbara thought her own plans, but wisely said nothing. Just as
a writer is no writer if he writes only for his desk, she knew, so is
an actor no actor if he has no stage to display his talents. To be an
actor, he must have a forum on which to act!
Moreover, Barbara knew only too well what failure would do and
was doing to a man of Martin’s proud temperament.
She laid her plans carefully.
Her break – the break she had been waiting for – occurred
when Martin got a chance to go on the road show production of Paddy
Chayefsky’s “Middle of the Night”, which starred Edward G.
Robinson. Martin was to take over the role vacated by Lee Philips from
the Broadway production, and Barbara went along to understudy the
feminine lead, Mona Freeman. Barbara knew the tour would terminate on
the West Coast, Los Angeles, and then San Francisco would be its final
During the Los Angeles run – the next to the last lap –
Barbara induced her husband to check into opportunities in the movie
and television industry. Martin did so in a half-hearted way, but at
the same time he shipped their trunks back to New York, so sure was he
that they would return to Broadway and its limited opportunities. He
had a nebulous plan to join Eva LeGallienne’s repertory theatre.
But Barbara didn’t give up. When the show finally finished in
San Francisco, she induced him to return to Hollywood, and before he
knew what had happened to him, he was discovered by Hitchcock and cast
in a Cary Grant picture, “North by Northwest”.
Hollywood seemed new, and strange and alien to them both in the
beginning. “The sky was down on the ground,” Barbara said, “and
the sun shone too brightly.” They took a house near Paradise Cove in
the Malibu area and went out and bought entire new wardrobes to
replace those which had been sent back and were now reposing in trunks
in a warehouse. “Martin never wanted to unpack anything,” Barbara
recounts. “It was the longest time before I could get him to bring
back anything more than a six-pack!”
Meanwhile, something else was happening to them. They were able
to afford steak dinners! It was all very dashing to pour champagne
over their cereal in a New York apartment when they were very young
and crazily in love. But the Landaus were by now well along in their
twenties – and a baby was on its way.
By the time little Susan Meredith (named for both her
grandmothers) arrived, the Martin Landaus were a well established
segment of the Hollywood scene. Martin was getting good roles
regularly, and to his surprise, he was finding that there was no truth
to the saw that Hollywood offered no opportunities to dedicated actors.
He was enjoying his work, his financial self-respect and his growing
They celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Rome, where
Martin had the coveted role of Rufio, Caesar’s first general and
Anthony’s best friend in the marathon production “Cleopatra”.
Barbara had turned down tempting screen offers herself to go along,
bringing the baby, and they spent some of the happiest days of their
lives in the Italian capitol. Barbara learned to speak fluent Italian,
and they did all the “tourist things” – threw coins in the
Fountain of Trevi, traversed the Spanish Steps, explored the ruins and
the catacombs. Both of them had a strong sense of history, and never
had they been more compatible than now, lost in the splendor of their
love in a glamorous new setting.
Never, Martin now realized, would they have such an opportunity
in the Broadway Theatre to travel and at the same time earn their way
However, another crisis arose when they finish Cleopatra.
Martin was offered a chance to star in Shimon Wincelberg’s play,
“Homage to Blinholt”. Barbara announced at this point that she had
found a dream home for them – a lovely, English style cottage in
Westwood, complete with large pool and plenty of room for Susan to
Martin saw the home, and just as Barbara had anticipated, he
couldn’t resist it. The house is a warm and friendly one, built
around a courtyard.
Everywhere is evidence of the pleasures and hobbies they share.
The walls are covered with Martin’s oil paintings. He has ample
opportunity to develop his second talent, art. Books and music are
Martin is strictly the boss, but Barbara also functions
effectively in her own role. She is the better business head of the
two. It was she who insisted martin employ a press agent to help
advance his career, to be seen at important parties and participate in
the complex social life of the film colony.
Barbara’s chief concern is her husband. That is why she is
putting her own career on the line right now the sexy “Cinnamon
Carter” was perfect foil for Martin in his continually changing role
of Rollin Hand, the counteragent of a million disguises in Mission
Impossible. But when they go their separate ways, career-wise,
problems may develop of which neither of them now dreams.
The only time they had any real career problem previously was
when Barbara won her “Emmy” while Martin was nominated but passed
over in favor of Bill Cosby. This was an ironic situation, since
Martin is admittedly the more complex, sophisticated actor of the two.
Barbara handled it with perfect taste and tact when she announced from
the stage the great debt she owed her husband, who had taught her most
of what she knew about acting.
The Landaus, now both in their thirties, celebrated their 12th
wedding anniversary this year. Their two children are extraordinarily
talented. Susan, the older, had learned the entire alphabet at the age
of two and was reading by the time she was three. A year or so later
she was writing and illustrating her won books. Now, at eight, she is
enrolled in the Los Angeles County Museum art classes, and is given to
reviewing paintings by Jackson Pollock and other abstract
Juliet, four-and-a-half years younger, is musical. She started
singing when she was 10 months old and listens to the radio constantly.
“Martin and I are continually amazed and fascinated by our
two little girls,” Barbara says. “They are so different. Julie is
the cooler of the two. It’s like she’s from some other planet. Sue
is a child who is very delving, socially. She’s always got an eye
out for who she’s with. With Juliet, it’s how she’s doing, and
how what she’s doing affects other people.”
Barbara is constantly striving to bring up her children in love
and harmony, as both she and Martin were brought up. “We both came
from very happy, well adjusted homes,” she says, “and we’re
determined to provide that same background for our children.”
“We never pass up the chance to do things with them, and
explain things to them, and to put everything within their reach that
will stimulate their curiosity and creativity.”
“When I was a child, I wanted to understand everything. I
guess that’s why I read all the time. I think that my reading gave
me a great understanding of people, and probably helped me make
decisions in my own marriage.”
“I had a library card as soon as I could write my name, and I
had a marvelous librarian in grade school. I would get impatient with
the class itself because I’d finish my work fairly fast and the
teacher didn’t know what to do with me. But the librarian – I
guess she was glad she had a customer. She worked it out with the
teachers so that I could have an open pass whenever I finished my
lessons. I was in the library all the time reading. I think I went
through all he shelves. Reading showed me: ‘Hey, I can be all the
people in the world!’”
Barbara has very strong opinions on how to make a marriage work.
“Marriage isn’t 50-50,” she says. “It’s a 60-40 proposition.
The woman has to give more. Too many girls think about what they’re
going to receive rather than give. A wife must be understanding, and
she must have a sense of humor. And she must always be proud of her
“I’m still just as much impressed with Martin as I was when
I married him. I’m never bored, because he never ceases to surprise
me. He still has the same qualities that first attracted me. When we
were courting, he used to bring me books and records, and he still
brings me books and records. We have lots of memories together of
precious years, well lived. Ours is a very special relationship of
love mixed with laughter. There aren’t many happy people in the
world, are there? Our life hasn’t always been what you’d call
tranquil ... But is has given us both fulfillment.”
One needs only see her with her husband, and to watch the
adoring way she looks at him, to realize that here is that great
rarity, a truly happy wife.