R.I.P. Martin Landau and George A. Romero

Yesterday, the film world lost a pair of legends as reports came in that both Martin Landau and George A. Romero had passed away over the weekend. These two titans of the industry impacted Hollywood in very different ways, but both left an indelible mark on cinema, that’s for sure. One was an actor whose career spanned decades, including recent awards worthy work. The other was an independent filmmaker who revolutionized a whole genre, one he would tinker with for decades, creating a franchise that spanned his entire career. Both will be greatly missed. The film world is a lesser place for having lost them. Let us now celebrate Landau and Romero a bit with a small tribute to the two departed talents.

Landau (1928-2017) was a giant of acting. An Oscar winner for his supporting turn in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, he also had nominations to his credit for his work in Crimes and Misdemeanors as well as Tucker: The Man and His Dream. A three time nominee in Best Supporting Actor, the third time was the charm for him. The same was the case with the Golden Globes, so Burton was responsible for getting him over many finish lines, not just the Academy Award one. Beyond that, Landau worked with plenty of icons behind the camera. From Woody Allen to Alfred Hitchcock, and beyond, Landau collaborated with many of the big ones. He was 89 years old.

Romero (1940-2017), the father of the zombie movie, was one of the industry’s best indie filmmakers and genre creators. From the original Night of the Living Dead all through to his Land of the Dead, his franchise really put forward what the undead would look like on the silver screen. The social commentary of especially Dawn of the Dead, as well as Night of the Living Dead, will stand the test of time. Mixing scares with the issues of the day were his specialty. At 77 years old, Romero certainly had more to offer the industry, though his contributions already are among the greats in horror, and beyond.

Both men had slowed down in recent years, though neither had quit completely. Landau had a few movies still to come, including The Last Poker Game, plus some that had yet to be shot. Romero had moved towards somewhat of a godfather status, though recently he had announced a new “Dead” installment, one he would co-write, called George A. Romero Presents: Road of the Dead. It’s a real shame, on both counts, but of course, the contributions of both gentlemen are beyond reproach. While only Landau tasted awards glory, Romero had a legion of fans who worshipped them. Both had Hollywood wealth in that sense, and that’s rather invaluable.

These would be my ten favorite performances by Landau

10. Ready to Rumble
9. Entourage
8. Frankenweenie
7. The Majestic
6. City Hall
5. Remember
4. North by Northwest
3. Tucker: The Man and His Dream
2. Crimes and Misdemeanors
1. Ed Wood

As for Romero, here is how I would rank his filmography:

15. There’s Always Vanilla
14. The Dark Half
13. Knightriders
12. Season of the Witch
11. Martin
10. Survival of the Dead
9. Monkey Shines
8. Bruiser
7. Land of the Dead
6. Creepshow
5. Day of the Dead
4. The Crazies
3. Diary of the Dead
2. Dawn of the Dead
1. Night of the Living Dead

The world lost two supremely gifted individuals over the weekend. No one who saw either Landau or Romero at the top of their games could deny that. Movie land is at a loss, as we’ll never see the former turn in another iconic supporting performance (as he was doing right up until his passing…just look two years ago at his work in Remember), while the latter has closed the book on his zombie franchise. What we’re left with are fond memories and a lifetime of work in front of and behind the camera to celebrate. Be sure to pop in one of their flicks at some point soon and pay tribute to their talents. They deserve nothing less from us…

Rest In Peace

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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