Character Actor – Strother Martin

By | Mar 26, 2010

March 26th is the 88th anniversary of the birth of Strother Martin. You may not know who he is, but nearly everyone is aware of his most famous movie line, “What we’ve got here is … failure to communicate” from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke.

Martin’s part in the movie was a minor one one, but it also helped his movie career to become one of the most familiar character actors of the 1960’s and 70’s.

In 1969 he appeared in all three of the classic westerns released in that year. The Wild Bunch (as Coffer, a bloodthirsty bounty hunter); Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (as Percy Garris, the Bolivian mine boss); and True Grit (as Colonel Stonehill, a horse dealer).

In his youth Strother Martin excelled at swimming and diving. He served as a swimming instructor during World War II. When the war was over he moved to Los Angeles working as a swimming instructor. This lead to bit roles in movies as a swimming extra.

In the Cheech and Chong movie Up In Smoke, Martin played the role of Arnold Stoner, the father to Tommy Chong’s Man Stoner.

Martin was at the top of his career when he suffered a fatal heart attack on August 1, 1980. he was only 61 years old.


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