Ross Martin (March 22, 1920 – July 3, 1981) was an American Emmy-nominated actor known for playing Artemus Gordon in the western TV series The Wild Wild West, starring Robert Conrad, and Andamo on Mr. Lucky, starring John Vivyan.
Martin was born into a Jewish family as Martin Rosenblatt on March 22, 1920, in Grodek, Poland, but grew up on New York City's Lower East Side. He spoke Yiddish, Polish and Russian before learning English and later added French, Spanish and Italian to his repertoire.
Despite academic training (and honors) in business, instruction, and law, Martin chose a career in acting. He made his Broadway debut in Hazel Flagg in 1953. He appeared three times on the NBC public affairs television series The Big Story in 1954 and 1956. Martin's first film was the George Pal 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 Alcoa Presents - One Step Beyond in the episode Echo. Soon after, he caught the eye of Blake Edwards who cast him in a number of widely varied roles, Mr. Lucky and Experiment in Terror, culminating with a role in The Great Race, as the smoothly villainous Baron Rolfe Von Stuppe.
After his performance in The Great Race, CBS cast him in what was to become his most famous part, Secret Service agent Artemus Gordon in The Wild Wild West, opposite Robert Conrad, formerly the principal star of the ABC detective series, Hawaiian Eye. Martin's character, a master gadgeteer and disguise artist, fitted Martin perfectly. Unknown to most, Martin created most of his disguises for the show and most of the cast had no idea what he'd 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, that he was a concert-trained violinist. Martin was nominated for an Emmy award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series for the fourth and final season of Wild Wild West (1968–69).
In 1967, he married Olavee Grindrod and adopted her two children. He'd had a daughter with his first wife. Martin suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1968, forcing The Wild Wild West to temporarily replace him with other actors, including Charles Aidman, William Schallert and Alan Hale, Jr. (the series was cancelled the following year).
He appeared as a guest star in several programs from the 1950s to the 1970s, including Honestly, Celeste!, Sheriff of Cochise, Wonder Woman, Sanford and Son, Columbo, The Twilight Zone, The Law and Mr. Jones, Night Gallery, Mork &Mindy, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie's Angels, voiced Agent 000 (pronounced "Oh-Oh-Oh") in The Robonic Stooges and appeared in the game show Your First Impression.
Martin starred in a 1973 made-for-TV movie, The Return of Charlie Chan, portraying famed Asian detective Charlie Chan as a retiree forced to return to detective work. Although the movie received ratings more than sufficient enough for a regular series to be ordered, intense pressure from Asian actors' groups who protested an Occidental playing an Oriental character caused plans for such a series to be discarded.
He reprised the role of Artemus Gordon in a pair of Wild, Wild West television movies in 1979 and 1980, reuniting with his co-star Conrad. The films were highly rated and there were plans to revive Wild Wild West as a series, but Martin collapsed while playing tennis on July 3, 1981, and died from a heart attack, aged 61.
Martin is interred in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.