Ross Martin (March 22, 1920 – July 3, 1981) was a Polish-born American radio, stage, film and television actor. Martin is known for portraying Artemus Gordon on the CBS Western series The Wild Wild West, which aired from 1965 to 1969.
Martin was born Martin Rosenblatt into a Jewish family in Grodek, Poland. His family emigrated to New York when he was an infant. He spoke Yiddish, Polish and Russian before learning English and later added French, Spanish and Italian to his repertoire.
Martin attended City College of New York where he graduated magna cum laude. He later earned a law degree from George Washington University.
Despite academic training in business, instruction, and law, Martin chose a career in acting. He was partners in a comedy team withBernie West for several years, then appeared on many radio and live TV broadcasts before making his Broadway debut in Hazel Flaggin 1953.
Martin's first film was the George Pal 1955 production Conquest of Space, followed by a brief, but memorable appearance in The Colossus of New York (1958), as the scientist father of Charles Herbert. In 1959, Martin appeared in the episode "Echo" on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. He appeared in two 1959 episodes of David Janssen's crime drama series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective. Soon after, he caught the eye of Blake Edwards who cast him in a number of widely varied roles; as Sal in the 1959 Peter Gunn episode "The Fuse", his breakout role as the comic sidekick Andamo in the 1959 CBS drama series Mr. Lucky, the asthmatic kidnapper Red Lynch in the 1962 thriller Experiment in Terror, culminating with a role in The Great Race, as the smoothly villainous Baron Rolfe Von Stuppe. According to co-star Stephanie Powers, Martin himself suggested that his billing in Experiment in Terror be held until the film's end, lest audiences who fondly remembered him as Andamo might not accept him in a villainous role if they knew beforehand it was him.
The Wild, Wild West
Martin as Artemus Gordon withAnn Elder
in The Wild, Wild West
After his performance in The Great Race, CBS cast Martin in what was to become his most famous part, Secret Service agent Artemus Gordon in The Wild Wild West, opposite Robert Conrad. Martin's character, a master gadgeteer and disguise artist, fitted Martin perfectly. Martin created most of his disguises for the show, and most of the cast had no idea what he would look like until seeing him during the shooting of the episode. The recent DVD release of the first season of the series includes a recently-discovered pre-production sketch Martin had made of his very first make-up design for the pilot episode. Another episode revealed another of Martin's talents: he was a concert-trained violinist.
In 1968, Martin broke his leg and then suffered a near-fatal heart attack, forcing The Wild Wild West to replace him with other actors, includingCharles Aidman, William Schallert and Alan Hale, Jr for nine episodes. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for the fourth and final season of The Wild Wild West. The series was cancelled in 1969.
After The Wild, Wild West ended, Martin continued his career in various guest roles on television and in roles in television films. In 1970, Martin portrayed Alexander Hamilton in the NBC television special Swing Out, Sweet Land, hosted by John Wayne. The following year, Martin tried his hand at directing. He guest starred in a 1971 episode of Love, American Style, which he also directed. Martin directed another episode of the series in 1973. Later that same year, he appeared as the famed Asian detective Charlie Chan The Return of Charlie Chan. He made a guest appearance on Barnaby Jones in 1974, and also lent his voice to an episode of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home later that year.
In 1976, Martin returned to the stage as John Adams in a touring production of the musical 1776. In 1978, he did more voice work for the animated series Jana of the Jungle. He reprised the role of Artemus Gordon in two Wild, Wild West television movies: The Wild Wild West Revisited in 1979 and More Wild Wild West in 1980. Martin's final role was in the 1983 television movie I Married Wyatt Earp. The film aired two years after his death.
Martin married his first wife, Muriel Weiss, in 1941. They had one child together, a daughter, Phyllis Rosenblatt (successful New York artist), before Weiss' death from cancer in 1965. In 1967, Martin married Olavee Lucile Parsons (previously a successful model and documentary director) and adopted her two children Rebecca (Martin) Schacht and George Martin. Martin and Parsons remained married until Martin's death, and she died in 2002.
On July 3, 1981, Martin suffered a fatal heart attack after a game of tennis at a club in Ramona, California. He is interred in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles,California.