Helen Martin (July 23, 1909 – March 25, 2000) appeared in different roles in four guest appearances on Sanford and Son, her first being in the episode The Escorts (Season 5, episode #19) who perhaps most well known for her role in the sitcom 227 (1985-1990) opposite Marla Gibbs (who played Florence on The Jeffersons TV series) and Hal Williams (Officer "Smitty" Smith on Sanford and Son) as the Jenkins's busybody neighbor Pearl Shay, also would appear with Demond Wilson in the short-lived CBS-TV sitcom series Baby I'm Back in 1978.
Early life and educationEdit
Martin was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Amanda Frankie (née Fox) and William Martin, a minister. She attended public schools, which at the time were segregated.
Martin moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. She was chiefly a Broadway theatre character actress for many decades, debuting in Orson Welles' production of Native Son in 1941. She appeared in at least a dozen Broadway shows, including Jean Genet's The Blacks, the musical Raisin from 1973 to 1975, Ossie Davis' Purlie Victorious (and later the musical version, which was called Purlie), The Amen Corner and Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment. She was an original member of the American Negro Theater.
Martin became widely known later in life due to her roles in popular television series, which brought her a large audience. She had a guest role as Wanda on the television series Good Times, and later as the wisecracking neighbor Pearl Shay on the television sitcom 227, which lasted from 1985-1990. She also played on the short-run sitcoms Baby, I'm Back (as mother in-law, Luzelle) and That's My Mama.
She played 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), and Mama Doll in Bulworth (1998).
Helen Martin died of a myocardial infarction on March 25, 2000.