Childhood & Early Years
Martin was born Martin Sam Milner, on December 28, 1931, in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Sam Gordon Milner, was a Polish Jewish immigrant and worked as a film distributor, while his mother, Mildred, was a 'Paramount Theater' circuit dancer. At the age of 9, Martin and his family moved to Seattle, Washington, where he worked in productions of a children's theater group at the 'Cornish Playhouse.'
Martin later shifted to Los Angeles, where he was coached as an actor. After a screen test, he made his first film appearance in the 1947 film 'Life with Father.' Unfortunately, a couple of weeks after he completed filming for the movie, Martin contracted polio. He, however, recovered within a year and graduated from 'North Hollywood High School' in 1949. He simultaneously continued acting in brief roles in films.
Martin attended the 'University of Southern California' to study theater but dropped out in 1950 to pursue acting.
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Martin made his first TV appearance with the 'ABC' drama 'The Lone Ranger’ in 1950. He was then seen in his first significant TV role, as 'Drexel Potter,' in the 'ABC' sitcom 'The Stu Erwin Show.'
After appearing in a number of war films during the 1950s, he met and befriended legendary actor Jack Webb while filming the 1951 war film 'Halls of Montezuma.' The friendship earned him a recurring role in the radio–TV motion-picture series 'Dragnet.' Martin took a break from acting in 1952 to join the ‘US Army.’
For 2 years, Martin served in the US military's entertainment department at Fort Ord and was stationed in California’s Monterey Bay Peninsula. He majorly worked as a director of training films during his stint in the army. After completing his military services, Martin was heard in the radio sitcom 'The Life of Riley.'
Martin again collaborated with Jack in the 1955 musical crime film ‘Pete Kelly’s Blues.’ Under his contract with the production house 'Hecht-Lancaster,' Martin appeared in the notable role of a young jazz guitarist named ‘Steve Dallas’ in the 1957 film noir ‘Sweet Smell of Success.’ The character required him to play the instrument numerous times on screen. Since Martin was not skilled in playing the guitar, the makers had to resort to trick shots. This film credited Martin as “Marty,” a name that was mostly used by his near and dear ones.
During this phase, Martin flourished in his film career. However, on TV, he mostly made guest and brief appearances. However, Martin’s TV career took an enormous leap when he was cast as ‘Tod Stiles’ in the 'CBS' TV series 'Route 66.'
In 1960, Martin began his journey in the one-of-a-kind show 'Route 66.' This was a different experience for Martin as an actor, because the plotline of the series was based on journeys all over the US. Martin’s character, ‘Tod,’ was on a continuous road trip with his friend, ‘Buz Murdock.’ As a result, Martin had to travel a lot while filming and was often joined by his wife and children on the sets. In his 4-year stint with the series, Martin appeared in 116 of its episodes.
Martin’s first project as an associate producer was the 1960 comedy 'Sex Kittens Go to College.' He also essayed the role of ‘George Barton’ in the film. In 1967, Martin appeared as ‘Mel Anderson’ in the drama film 'Valley of the Dolls.'
Martin also had an association with theater, and in 1967, he appeared in the ‘Broadway’ comedy 'The Ninety Day Mistress.' He was also part of the 1974 ‘Kenley Players’ production titled 'The Tunnel of Love.'
In 1968, Martin had his second recurring role, in the ‘NBC’ police-procedural drama 'Adam-12.' This was his one of his most significant collaborations with his long-time friend Jack Webb, who had co-created the show. From 1968 to 1975, Martin portrayed the role of ‘LAPD’ veteran patrol officer ‘Peter Joseph "Pete" Malloy,’ one of his most memorable characters. Martin had once revealed that he had initially declined the offer to star in 'Adam-12,’ as he was then already working in a play. He had thought that the play would be more beneficial for his career, but to his disappointment, the play flopped.
After 'Adam-12,' Martin was seen in numerous guest appearances, in shows such as the action-adventure series 'MacGyver,' 'Airwolf,' 'Murder, She Wrote,' and 'RoboCop: The Series.' In 1983, he hosted one of San Diego’s most popular morning radio wake-up shows, on ‘AM 600 KOGO.’
With several TV movies and a few brief recurring roles to his credit, Martin made his final TV appearance in the 'CBS' action comedy-mystery-medical crime drama 'Diagnosis: Murder' in 1997. In 1998, he appeared in the documentary film 'Route 66:
Return to the Road With,' to pay tribute to this marvelous series, which is regarded as a milestone in Martin’s career.
Family & Personal Life
Martin met singer and actor Judith Bess Jones at a Hollywood dinner party in May 1956, and they got married on February 23 the following year. They had four children. Martin’s eldest daughter, Amy, died of acute myeloid leukemia in December 2004. His other surviving children are his daughter, Molly, and his two sons, Stuart and Andrew.
Martin died of heart failure on September 6, 2015, at his home in Carlsbad, California. He was cremated at the 'Eternal Hills Memorial Park' mortuary in Oceanside, California.