Orlando Martins: First Nigerian Hollywood star

by Duke Magazine
Pa Orlando Martins/ Twitter

Orlando Martins was a Nigerian Hollywood star actor who first grace the screen. He was in 1947 listed among England’s top 15 rated actors.

Even as the Nollywood industry has not been birthed at the pre-independence years in Nigeria, a Nigerian is already pulling waves in the United Kingdom tickling the fancy of movie lovers.

Orlando Martins was born in Lagos on December 8, 1899 to a Brazilian father and a Nigerian mother from Ijebu part of Ogun State. He then moved to London after World War 1 and landed his career on movie acts for sustenance. At the Lyceum Theatre, Martins got his first theatre job as an actor in training.

Between the 1920s and the beginning of World War II, Martins has featured in several films such as the infamous ‘Sanders of the River’ that was directed by Alexander Korda, and which also starred the legendary American actor, Paul Robeson. The muscular fitness of Orlando made him display some skills in circuses and professional wrestling.

Orlando Martins and Ronald Reagan on movie set
Image credit: Twitter/ @seemeseeNigeria

At the post-second World War, Orlando’s acting career experienced a  great trajectory that put him up his acting in movies. He started in movies like ‘The Men From Morocco’ (1945), ‘Men of Two Worlds’ (1946), ‘The Hasty Heart’ (1949), ‘BBC Sunday-Night Theatre’ (1950), ‘Where No Vultures Fly’ (1951) among others.

Starring in all these great movies, Orlando became more than popular and sought-after actor for movie roles.

He moved back to Lagos, Nigeria in 1959, and took part in stage performances like the stage adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s ‘Kongi’s Harvest’. With a successful career journey in acting, Orlando capped up his acting with an act in the film adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’. 

Pa Orlando Martins passed away in Lagos on September 25, 1985 at 85.

Orlando Martins in ‘Killers of Kilimanjaro’ (1959)
Image credit: Twitter/ @thepaorlando

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