Helen Martin

Helen Martin
Helen Martin.jpg
Helen Dorothy Martin

(1909-07-23)July 23, 1909[1]
Died March 25, 2000(2000-03-25) (aged 90)
Education Fisk University
Occupation Actress
Years active 1937–2000
Known for Wanda – Good Times
Pearl Shay – 227
Home town Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.

Helen Dorothy Martin (July 23, 1909 – March 25, 2000)[2][3] 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).[4]


Early life and education

Martin was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of William Martin, a minister, and Amanda Frankie (née Fox).[4] Raised in Nashville, Tennessee,[5] 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.[citation needed]


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

Martin never married or had children.[citation needed] Martin died of a heart attack on March 25, 2000 in Monterey, California, aged 90.[5]


Stage work

  • 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


External links