Tony Martinez (Puerto Rican-American actor)
January 27, 1920|
San Juan, Puerto Rico
|Died||September 16, 2002
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, singer, bandleader|
|Spouse(s)||Myra Martinez (1981-2002, his death)|
|Children||David, Renee, Christian, Lessette, and Kimra|
Tony Martínez (January 27, 1920 – September 16, 2002) was an actor, singer, and bandleader originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, best remembered for having played the Mexican farmhand Pepino García in the ABC and CBS situation comedy The Real McCoys from 1957 to 1963. Along with Leo Carrillo and Desi Arnaz, Sr., Martinez was among the earliest Latinos featured in regular television roles during the early years of the medium.
Martínez came to New York City to study at the Juilliard School at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. He studied acting and gained small parts in several films in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1954, he made his first television appearance as himself on The Colgate Comedy Hour. He again appeared with his band, Tony Martinez and His Mambo, in the 1956 musical picture Rock Around the Clock.
For his role on The Real McCoys, Martínez was discovered by the brother producer-writing team of Irving Pincus (1914–1984) and Norman Pincus (1906–1978) while Martínez was performing at a club in Hollywood, California. Martínez sang and played five instruments. Kathleen Nolan, as Kate McCoy, one of the last two surviving members of The Real McCoys cast, recalls that Martínez initially failed to contact the Pincus brothers because he thought their interest in his talent was merely a joke, but the producers pursued Martinez and signed him to the cast.
Nolan, who served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1975–1980, called Martínez's selection "a major breakthrough in terms of minority representation on television. It may not have been the representation that we are seeking now, but it certainly was a breakthrough to have a major character on television that was not white... He was just a natural, and he had this enormous sense of comedy timing." Nolan noted, too, that the Pepino character, despite the stereotype, was "wise" and often used common sense to help the McCoys resolve their family squabbles.
After The Real McCoys series ended, Martínez appeared as a guest star in only a few other television programs, such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., F Troop, My Favorite Martian, and the 1970 series Storefront Lawyers, renamed Men at Law.
In the middle 1960s, Martínez appeared for almost 40 years and 2,245 performances in the role of Sancho Panza in Man of La Mancha on Broadway, based on Miguel de Cervantes's novel Don Quixote. He played opposite a dozen various actors in the role of Don Quixote, including Richard Kiley and Jose Ferrer. Beginning in 1967, Martínez participated in a national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical.
In the early 1980s, Martínez was the executive director of the Institute of Motion Pictures, the government film commission of Puerto Rico. In Nevada, where he spent his later years, Martínez used "PEPINO" for his vanity license plates.
His last television appearance was at age 80 in 2000 in The Real McCoys Reunion, broadcast by the former Nashville Network. Martínez died of natural causes, aged 82, in a hospital in Las Vegas. He had five children: David, Renee, Christian, Lisette, and Kimra. At the time of his death, he had been married for 21 years to Myra Martinez of Las Vegas.
- Angel on the Amazon (1948)
- "Tony Martinez, 'Pepino' on 'Real McCoys', Dies at 82". latinamericanstudies.org. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "Tony Martinez, 82; Actor Was Among First Latinos on TV, September 21, 2002". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2011.