Monday, January 22, 2018

The Popular Street Named After Orlando Martins, First Nigerian Hollywood Star

Orlando Martins Street on the Lagos Island of Lagos State in southwest of Nigeria is named after the first Nigerian Hollywood star, Orlando Martins who had an illustrious career as an actor in Britain, America and Nigeria from 1926 to 1971.

Orlando Martins Street (formerly Strachan Street) is located in the southeast of Lagos Island. It is about 212 meters long; in one of the busiest business districts and residential areas of Africa's largest megacity. It connects the popular Igbosere Road and the Tafawa Balewa Square beside the
Lagos State High Court, Court of Appeal and the old Federal Supreme Court. The beginning of the street is opposite the Lapal House with SCOA Motors Plc and a branch of FirstBank Plc beside the MRS filling station by the Lawson Street and Strachan Street. The end of the street from the Igbosere Road to the Tafawa Balewa Square is the military zone of the offices of Ministry of Defence and is cordoned off from vehicular traffic for security reasons.
The street has been taken over by local food restaurants called "bukas" selling hot foods straight from the cookers for hungry residents and the workers from the nearby government offices and private companies. Roadside mechanics have also found enough space for their garage.

Orlando Martins in "Sapphire".
Orlando Martins with Ronald Reagan and others in "The Hasty Heart".

Orlando Martins had the record of being the black actor with the longest acting career in Britain, from being an extra in "If Youth But Knew" in 1926 to 1971.

"I am happy to say I am one of the pioneers, if not the pioneer African film star," Orlando Martins said in his biography published in 1983.

Orlando Martins, MON (8 December 1899 – 25 September 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 and in a poll conducted in 1947, he was listed among England's top 15 favourite actors.

Orlando Martins' family. The photo is taken in Lagos, Nigeria, circa 1928. My late father is in the front row, left, the youngest member of the family gathering. He looks like he has just woken from sleep. One of the women is his mother. Is it the furthest woman seated on the right? Alongside her are her three sisters, Orlando’s sisters (two further sisters are missing from the photo), and my father’s maternal grandmother, Orlando’s mother, Madam Paula Soares is at the back. All the women assembled are traders. There are four generation of women traders.

He was an all round actor on stage, TV and cinema and known for the following films.
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
1948 Good Time Girl - Kolly
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
1970 Kongi's Harvest - Dr. Gbenga
1971 Things Fall Apart

Notable Honours
British Actors Equity Association
Honorary life membership in 1970.
MON in 1982 by President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria.
1983, National Award in Theatre Arts by the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artistes at the University of Calabar, Cross River State. He was a prominent life member of the Lagos State Arts Council.

PS: From the research for the documentary film, "I Saw Her On Orlando Martins Street" to be released in April, 2018.

© 2018. Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima. All Rights Reserved. No copying, duplication or reproduction in any medium of communication without the authorisation and permission of the copyright owners and publishers.

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