Thursday, March 26, 2009

Remembering Strother Martin

Strother Martin Jr. was born on March 26, 1919 in Kokomo, Indiana. As a child he was an excellent swimmer and diver. At 17 he won the National Junior Springboard Championship. He served as a swimming instructor during World War II and was a member of the diving team at the University of Michigan. He finished third in the 1948 National Springboard Diving Championships which cost him a spot on the Olympic Team. Moving to Los Angeles after the war he became a swimming instructor and extra in films. He quickly became a fixture in TV and films during the 1950s. His distinctive voice and menacing demeanor made him perfect for villainous roles. By the end of the 60s he was as well known as any leading man in Hollywood. His most famous roles were as the prison warden in “Cool Hand Luke” (1967) and his classic line, “What we have here, is failure to communicate.” and “The Wild Bunch” (1969). Martin appeared in only one Euro-western “Hannie Caulder” (1971). Martin died of a heart attack on August 1, 1980. We will always remember Strother Martin but today especially on what would have been his 90th birthday.


  1. Strother must have only been 60 or 61 when he died.What a loss for all of the 80s and 90s not to have him in them and working.How does Strother drop at that age while over weight and yet ernie who played his brother in Hannie keeps on chugging? I know,luck of the draw but I ask it anyway.He came back here for Slapshot and visited the jimmy stewart home.Only and I repeat only Strother would say that he wished jimmy would tear that wig off and do some real acting even if it was character acting.He was brutally totally frank and honest.The 1980s would have found him in very very few westerns.But I wish he had lived and worked until his mid eighties.You couldn't stare at the star of the film if Strother was in the shot.You only stared at him.One in a million.

  2. About 28 years ago, I was shopping at Aaron's Records, back when it was across from Fairfax High School, and I recognized a familiar voice. His back was to me, but there was no mistaking Strother Martin in deep discussion with one of the guys who worked there. He was handling some audio cassettes and they were discussing various operas which were available. Who would have thunk-it?

  3. Okay. Let's make it about 30 years ago.