Orlando Martins

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Orlando Martins
Born (1899-12-08)December 8, 1899
Lagos, Lagos State, Nigeria
Died September 25, 1985(1985-09-25) (aged 85)
Lagos, Lagos State, Nigeria
Other names Pa Orlando Martins (Epega Family Great Uncle)
Years active 1931-1971

Orlando Martins (1899–1985) was a pioneering Nigerian film and stage actor. In the late 1940s, he was one of England's most prominent and leading "black" actors,[1] and in a poll conducted in 1947, he was listed among England's top 15 favorite actors.[2]


Martins was born in Lagos, to a civil servant Brazilian father. He was related to the Benjamin Epega family. During World War I he served as a stoker on the RMS Mauretania to avenge German cruelty to his family.

Following the end of the war, he moved to England: on arrival in 1919 he joined Sanger's Circus and started his performing career in the chorus. He also worked as a wrestler (known as "Black Butcher Johnson")[3]


In 1920, Martins was an extra acting with the Diaghilev ballet company, and was on the tour with the British company of Show Boat as a professional singer. He was an extra in silent films, having made his debut in If Youth But Knew.[3] In the 1930s he went into acting on the London stage, starring in among other things, Toussaint L'Ouverture, a 1936 play by C.L.R. James that starred the legendary Paul Robeson. Martins also featured with Robeson in the 1935 film Sanders of the River[4] and Men of Two Worlds (1946) alongside Robert Adams.

Martins died at the age of 85 in Lagos and was buried at Ikoyi Cemetery.[3]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1935 Sanders of the River Klova
1945 The Man from Morocco Jeremiah
1946 Men of Two Worlds Magole
1947 The End of the River Harrigan
1949 The Hasty Heart Blossom
1954 West of Zanzibar M'Kwongi
1955 Simba Headman
1956 Safari Jerusalem
1957 Abandon Ship Sam Holly
1957 Tarzan and the Lost Safari Chief Ogonooro
1958 The Naked Earth Tall Bearer
1959 Sapphire Barman
1959 The Nuns Story Kalulu
1960 Killers of Kilimanjaro Chief Chief
1963 Call me Bwana Chief Tribal Chief
1965 Mister Moses Chief Chief
1965 A Boy Ten Feet Tall Abu Lubaba
1973 Kongi's Harvest Dr. Gbenga


  1. ^ Harry Levette, "This is Hollywood". Chicago Defender, September 10, 1949, p. 25.
  2. ^ Al Monroe, "Swinging the News," Chicago Defender, October 18, 1947, p. 19.
  3. ^ a b c Stephen Bourne, Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television, London: Continuum, 2001; chapter 7, "Robert Adams and Orlando Martins: Men of Two Worlds", pp. 76-80.
  4. ^ "Orlando Jones," AFI Catalog.

Further reading[edit]

  • Takiu Folami, Orlando Martins, the Legend: an intimate biography of the first world acclaimed African film actor, Lagos, Nigeria: Executive Publishers, 1983.

External links[edit]