Ross Martin is an American actor, perhaps best known as Artemus Gordon, inventor and master of disguise on The Wild Wild West.
Ross Martin was a lingual and musical talent as a child, mastering several languages and developing a talent with the violin.
Martin's first film role was in George Pal's Conquest of Space. He had a busy film and television career throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, with appearances on The Twilight Zone, Mr. Lucky, Experiment in Terror and Blake Edward's The Great Race, as Baron Von Stuppe.
It was his performance in The Great Race that brought Martin to the attention of CBS network executives who were eyeing him for what would be his most famous role - Secret Service Agent Artemus Gordon in The Wild Wild West. The character, a master of disguise with a theatrical flair, suited Martin perfectly. He would design several of the disguises and costumes that Artemus used over the course of the series. Martin's performance, along with his chemistry and friendship with co-star Robert Conrad, helped to make The Wild Wild West a hit. In 1968, a year before the series was cancelled, Martin suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Though he would return to the show, he was temporarily replaced with guest actors, including Charles Aidman.
Following the cancellation of West, Martin remained busy, though he did not star in another series. He could be seen on Wonder Woman, Mork & Mindy, and Columbo, where he had the chance to appear opposite his former acting student, Peter Falk. Martin almost got the chance for a new series when he played Charlie Chan in a 1973 TV movie. Though it garnered decent ratings, protests about the famous Asian detective being played by a Caucasian sidelined the series.
In 1979 and 1980, Martin got the chance to return to his most famous role in a pair of Wild Wild West reunion movies. The revival West films were so well received that plans for a new series were in the works. Unfortunately, Martin's heart condition caught up with him in 1981, when he collapsed and died while playing tennis. He was 61 years old.