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Helen Dorothy Martin
(1909-07-23)July 23, 1909
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||March 25, 2000(2000-03-25) (aged 90)
Monterey, California, U.S.
|Known for||Wanda – Good Times
Pearl Shay – 227
|Home town||Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.|
Helen Dorothy Martin (July 23, 1909 – March 25, 2000) was an American actress of stage and television. Martin's career spanned over 60 years, appearing first on stage and later in film and television. Martin is best known for her roles as Wanda on the CBS sitcom Good Times (1974–1979) and as Pearl Shay on the NBC sitcom 227 (1985–1990).
Early life and education
Martin was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of William Martin, a minister, and Amanda Frankie (née Fox). Raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Martin attended public schools, which at the time were segregated. During her teenage years, Martin led a band and performed with local theater groups. For college, Martin attended Fisk University in Nashville for two years before dropping out.
After leaving college, Martin moved to Chicago, and New York thereafter to study acting with the WPA Theater and the Rose McClendon Players. She was a founding member of the American Negro Theater in Harlem. Martin became a Broadway character actress for many decades, debuting in 'Orchids Preferred' in 1937 and thereafter Orson Welles' production of Native Son in 1941.
Martin appeared in a dozen Broadway shows, including Jean Genet's The Blacks, the musical Raisin from 1973 until 1975, Ossie Davis' Purlie Victorious (and later the musical version, which was called Purlie), The Amen Corner and Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment.
Martin became widely known later in life due to her roles in popular television series, which brought her a large audience. She had a recurring role as Wanda "Weeping Wanda" on the television series Good Times, and later as the neighbor Pearl Shay on the television sitcom 227, which lasted from 1985 until 1990. Martin also had a role on the short-lived sitcoms Baby, I'm Back (as mother in-law, Luzelle) and That's My Mama. Martin portrayed a variety of grandmothers in films: Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996), I Got the Hook Up (1998), House Party 2 (1991), and Mama Doll in Bulworth (1998).
Personal life and Death
- 1955: The Phenix City Story .... Helen Ward
- 1969: J.T. (TV Movie) .... Mrs. Hill
- 1970: Cotton Comes to Harlem .... Church Sister
- 1970: Where's Poppa? .... Second Job Applicant
- 1971: The Anderson Tapes .... Minor Role (uncredited)
- 1973: Big Daddy (TV Movie)
- 1973-1974: Maude (TV Series, 2 episodes) .... Stella
- 1974: Death Wish .... Alma Lee Brown
- 1974-1979: Good Times (TV Series, 7 episodes) .... Wanda
- 1975: That's My Mama (TV Series, 6 episodes) .... Laura
- 1976-1979: What's Happening!! (TV Series) .... Millie / Mrs. Lloyd
- 1976-1977: Sanford and Son (TV Series) .... Millie / Nurse / Church Sister #1 / Lady #1
- 1977: Insight (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Bessie
- 1977: Starsky and Hutch (TV Series, 2 episodes) .... Dirty Nellie / Vivian Fellers
- 1978: Baby, I'm Back (TV Series, 13 episodes) .... Luzelle Carter
- 1978: A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich .... Mrs. Bell
- 1978: Cindy (TV Movie) .... Flower lady
- 1979: Lawman Without a Gun (TV Movie) .... Mrs. Cartwright
- 1979: Dummy (TV Movie) .... Mrs. Harrod
- 1979: Better Late Than Never (TV Movie)
- 1980: The Stockard Channing Show (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Maid
- 1980-1981: The White Shadow .... Louise / Old Woman
- 1981-1983: Hill Street Blues .... Neighbor / Woman Onlooker
- 1982: T. J. Hooker (TV Series,1 episode) .... Mrs. Sears
- 1982: Wacko .... Harbinger's mother
- 1983: Alice (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Customer
- 1983: The Jeffersons (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Alice
- 1983: Deal of the Century .... Baptist #3
- 1984: Hardcastle and McCormick (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Mrs. Prufrock
- 1984: The Jerk, Too (TV Movie) .... Grandma Johnson
- 1984: St. Elsewhere (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Elderly Lady
- 1984: Repo Man .... Mrs. Parks
- 1984: Benson (TV Series) .... Benson's Aunt
- 1985-1990: 227 (TV Series, 116 episodes) .... Pearl Shay
- 1985: Amos (TV Movie) .... Mrs. McKenzie
- 1987: Hollywood Shuffle .... Bobby's Grandmother
- 1989: A Raisin in the Sun (TV Movie) .... Mrs. Johnson
- 1989: Full House (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Shirley
- 1989: Jackée (TV Series) .... Pearl Shay
- 1990: Night Angel .... Sadie
- 1990: The Flash (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Sadie Grosso
- 1991: A Rage in Harlem .... Mrs. Canfield
- 1991: Doc Hollywood .... Maddie, Welcoming Committee
- 1991: House Party 2 .... Mrs. Deevers
- 1993: The Pitch (Short) .... Old Woman
- 1994: Beverly Hills Cop III.... Grandma
- 1995: The Parent 'Hood (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Ms. Morris
- 1995: The Wayans Bros. (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Mother Evans
- 1996: Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood .... Loc Dog's Grandma
- 1997: Kiss the Girls .... Nana Cross
- 1997: I'm Bout It (V) .... Mrs. Alberta
- 1998: The Jamie Foxx Show (TV Series, 1 episode) .... Mother Superior
- 1998: Since You've Been Gone (TV Movie) .... Old Lady
- 1998: Bulworth .... Momma Doll
- 1998: I Got the Hook Up (aka I Got the Hook-Up (USA: review title)) .... Grandmother
- 1999: At Face Value (Short) .... Miss Ella
- 2000: Something to Sing About (TV Movie) .... Elderly woman (final film role)
- 1937: Orchids Preferred .... Evy
- 1941: Native Son .... Vera Thomas
- 1945: Deep Are the Roots .... Honey Turner
- 1953: Take a Giant Step .... Poppy
- 1960: The Long Dream .... Maude Carter
- 1960: Period of Adjustment .... Susie
- 1960: The Blacks ....
- 1961: Purlie Victorious .... Missy Judson
- 1963: My Mother, My Father and Me .... Hannah
- 1965: The Amen Corner .... Sister Douglas
- 1967: Something Different .... Sarah Goldfine
- 1970: Purlie .... Idelia
- 1973: Raisin .... Mrs. Johnson
- Contemporary Black biography, Volume 31
- Black America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1 By Alton Hornsby.Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2000.Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- Helen Martin Biography ((?)-2000)
- JET, April 17, 2000.Retrieved February 2, 2020.
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