Family & Companions
Ross Martin was as versatile in his art as Secret Serviceman Artemus Gordon, the character he played in the adventure series "The Wild Wild West." The actor turned down potential careers in business and law to pursue theater and screen work, appearing on various television shows during the '50s before director Blake Edwards cast him in the adventure series "Mr. Lucky," in which he served as trusty sidekick of the main hero, played by John Vivyan. He and Edwards collaborated again on the 1962 thriller "Experiment in Terror," with Martin as Garland Humphrey "Red" Lynch, a criminal with a memorably asthmatic voice who terrorizes an ordinary woman into helping him commit a crime. This was followed by Edwards' 1965 action-comedy "The Great Race," in which he played a different kind of villain--the slyly cunning Baron Rolfe Von Stuppe. If these earlier roles only hinted at his ability to recreate himself, "The Wild Wild West" provided a stage on which to do so every week; as Gordon, the gimmick-wielding master-of-disguise, he not only used make-up and costumes to change his appearance for each new episode but often designed Gordon's new looks himself during pre-production. In the late '70s and early '80s, a decade after the show went off the air, he revisited the Emmy-nominated part--along with fellow star Robert Conrad--for two television films that returned viewers to "The Wild Wild West." The films were supposed to revive the series but Martin passed away before that could happen. He was 61.