Born in Grodek, Poland, Ross Martin grew up on New York City’s Lower East Side. He spoke Yiddish, Polish, and Russian before even learning English and later added French, Spanish, and Italian to his amazing repertoire.
Despite academic training (and receiving honors in) business, instruction, and law, M. Martin chose a career of acting. His first film was the George Pal production Conquest of Space (1955). Soon after, he caught the eye of Blake Edwards who cast him in a number of widely varied roles, culminating with a fantastic part in The Great Race (1965).
Ross somehow managed a series in between, the short-lived Mr. Lucky (1959). With the release of The Great Race (1965), CBS cast him in what was to become his most famous part, Secret Service agent Artemus Gordon in The Wild Wild West (1965), opposite Robert Conrad. Perhaps the show’s cancellation in 1969 was for the best – he suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1968.
Afraid to take the risk of having a lead actor with a heart condition, the networks snubbed him with regards to a lead role, yet he appeared as a guest star in an amazing number of programs, not all dramatic masterpieces. Yet Ross loved to act, and took every role which came his way. Ross Martin collapsed while playing tennis, the heart condition finally taking its toll on July 3rd, 1981.
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