aka Strother Martin, Jr.
American character actor of tv and film
Born in Kokomo, Indiana on March 26, 1919. Strother was the youngest of 3 children born to father Strother Douglas Martin and mother Ethel Dunlap Martin.
Martin became National Junior Springboard Diving Champion at the age of 17. He went on to attend the University of Michigan and was a star on the diving team. He served in the US Navy during WW II as a swimming instructor. Martin narrowly missed qualifying for the 1948 US Olympic Diving Team by finishing 3rd in the adult National Springboard Diving Championships.
Strother Martin decided to try his hand at acting and made the move to Los Angeles. There he supported himself as a swimming instructor, most notably to the children of Charlie Chaplin and to Marion Davies.. It was there that he landed his first role, albeit a small one, in The Damned Don't Cry as a springboard diver. He found other bit parts as a swimmer and, oddly enough, as a leprechaun in a children's tv program Mable's Fables.
It was during this time frame that Martin met director Sam Peckinpah, who utilized Martin in various tv projects as well as becoming a lifelong friend. Martin also found work with iconic director John Ford, and along the way became a familiar face to moviegoers.
Strother Martin gained his breakthrough role in the 1967 Paul Newman film Cool Hand Luke, playing the part of a tough prison warden. His twangy drawled line "What we got here...is a failure to communicate!" became famous.
Martin built on that success, finding substantial roles in other projects including another Paul Newman film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, (1969).
Martin also worked with John Wayne, landing roles in True Grit (1969) and Rooster Cogburn, (1975), as well as others.
His appearances on the small screen were quite varied. Though he had made a mark in westerns, he was quite diverse in the roles he took. He appeared in such varied fare as Gunsmoke, Gilligan's Island, I Love Lucy, Lost In Space, Perry Mason, Saturday Night Live, and a host of other tv programs.
Martin specialized in portraying unique though unlikable (and unsavory) characters, working steadily throughout the 70s. His career was cut short when he died of heart failure at the age of 61 on August 1, 1980 at Thousand Oaks, California. Martin is interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his wife Helen, to whom he had been married since 1967.
Love and Bullets (10-Aug-1979)
The Villain (20-Jul-1979)
The Champ (Apr-1979)
Stubby Pringle's Christmas (17-Dec-1978)
Up In Smoke (15-Sep-1978)
The End (10-May-1978)
Slap Shot (25-Feb-1977)
Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday (23-Jun-1976)
Rooster Cogburn (17-Oct-1975)
Hard Times (04-Sep-1975)
Pocket Money (1-Feb-1972)
Hannie Caulder (25-Dec-1971)
Fools' Parade (18-Aug-1971)
The Brotherhood of Satan (6-Aug-1971)
Red Sky at Morning (12-May-1971)
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (13-May-1970)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (23-Sep-1969)
The Wild Bunch (18-Jun-1969)
True Grit (11-Jun-1969)
Cool Hand Luke (1-Nov-1967)
The Flim-Flam Man (22-Aug-1967)
The Sons of Katie Elder (1-Jul-1965)
Invitation to a Gunfighter (14-Oct-1964)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (22-Apr-1962)
The Deadly Companions (6-Jun-1961)
The Horse Soldiers (12-Jun-1959)
The Shaggy Dog (19-Mar-1959)
Kiss Me Deadly (18-May-1955)
The Silver Chalice (20-Dec-1954)
South Sea Woman (3-Jun-1953)
The Magnetic Monster (18-Feb-1953)