Birthday: March 26, 1919
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Strother Douglas Martin Jr.
Born in: Kokomo, Indiana
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Helen Meisels (m. 1967 – his death. 1980)
father: Strother Douglas Martin
mother: Ethel Dunlap Martin
Died on: August 1, 1980
place of death: Los Robles Regional Medical Center, Thousand Oaks, California
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
U.S. State: Indiana
education: University of Michigan
Who was Strother Martin?
Strother Douglas Martin, Jr. was an American actor who gained fame for portraying supporting roles in films starring John Wayne and Paul Newman. An Indiana native, Martin was a prodigious swimmer and diver as a child and went on to serve in the United States Navy during the World War II. When the war ended, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he started working as a swimming instructor. Martin debuted as an actor in an uncredited role in the 1950 crime-drama ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’. He first credited film role was in the 1952 adventure film ‘Storm over Tibet’. He made his television debut in 1951, in an episode of ‘Stars Over Hollywood’. Over the course of his three-decade-long career, Martin accumulated over 170 film and TV credits. In 1974, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his performance in CBS’ crime drama ‘Hawkins’.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on March 26, 1919, in Kokomo, Indiana, USA, Martin was the youngest of three children of Ethel (née Dunlap) and Strother Douglas Martin. The family lived in San Antonio, Texas, for a brief period before coming back to Indiana.
Since he was a child, he was exceptionally good at swimming and diving. After enlisting in the US Navy during the World War II, he was assigned as a swimming instructor for recruits.
When he was 17 years old, he became the winner of the National Junior Springboard Diving Championship. He studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was part of the diving team.
He had aspirations to join the US springboard delegation to the Olympics and took part in the adult National Springboard Diving competition. However, he ended the competition in third place.
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Following the end of the World War II, Strother Martin moved to Los Angeles and started working as a swimming instructor. He also served as a swimming instructor on the sets of various films. One of his earliest memorable performances was as a man with learning difficulties in an episode of the first season of ‘Gunsmoke’.
He worked with John Wayne in six films, ‘The Horse Soldiers’ (1959), ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962), ‘McLintock!’ (1963), ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ (1965), ‘True Grit’ (1969) and ‘Rooster Cogburn’ (1975).
With Paul Newman, he appeared in films like in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967), ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969), and ‘Slap Shot’ (1977).
He and L.Q. Jones were close friends in real life and worked together in multiple films, most memorably as Coffer (Martin) and T.C. (Jones) in the 1969 epic western film ‘The Wild Bunch’.
Known for portraying grimy, unlikeable villains, Martin was often referred to by the press as the “The Andy Devine for the Age of Anxiety" and "A Gabby Hayes without Honor."
He portrayed a character named Stoner in two films that were not connected to each other, ‘SSSSSSS’ (1973) and ‘Up in Smoke’ (1978). In CBS’ western television show ‘Hotel de Paree’ (1959-60), Martin played Aaron Donager.
He played recurring characters in shows like ‘Have Gun - Will Travel’ (1957-62), ‘Perry Mason’ (1961-65), and ‘Death Valley Days’ (1964-67).
In 1980, Martin served as the host of an episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’. His last cinematic appearance was in the 1980 action comedy ‘Hotwire’.
He was supposed to star in the cult film ‘Dark Night of the Scarecrow’. He had contributed to his friend and filmmaker J.D. Feigelson’s screenplay for the film. However, he died before the filming could begin and Charles Dunning was brought in to portray the character that was supposed to be played by Martin.
Between 1973 and 1974, Strother Martin portrayed R.J. Hawkins in CBS’ short-lived critically acclaimed mystery drama TV series ‘Hawkins’. The show earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor on Television and James Stewart, who played Billy Jim Hawkins, a Golden Globe for Best Actor Television Drama Series.
Family & Personal Life
Strother Martin married Helen Beatrice Meisels on December 18, 1966. They were married for 14 years until Martin’s death in 1980. The couple did not have any children.
Martin had been suffering from cardiac problems for a long while and was under doctor’s care. On August 1, 1980, he had a heart attack and passed away at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 61 years old at the time.
His wife was ten years older than him. She died in 1997. Their ashes are interred in Court of Remembrance, Columbarium of Radiant Dawn, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.