Martha Henry Biography

Martha Henry photo

Born: February 17, 1938


Date of Birth: February 17, 1938


Date of Birth: February 17, 1938

Heralded as one of Canada's greatest actresses, Martha Henry was born Martha Buhs in Detroit, Michigan. Daughter of Kathleen and Lloyd Howard Buhs, she attended the private Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Martha showed a very early interest in the performing arts and in 1954, began studying acting at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh.

After graduating from Carnegie Tech, she came to Canada in 1959 to audition for the Crest Theatre in Toronto. She was hired and played many roles at the theatre, in addition to auditioning for TV, where in 1960 she appeared on an episode of the TV series First Person and two episodes of the series Encounter. While at Crest Theatre, she worked with director Powys Thomas, who had just co-founded the National Theatre School in Montreal. He urged her to further her acting studies at the school and she did, becoming one of the first graduates in 1962.

Martha was immediately hired by the world-renowned Stratford Festival in Ontario, where she become one of its leading performers. Having changed her last name to Henry, Martha made her Stratford debut in 1962 as Miranda in The Tempest, to critical acclaim. In the decades after her breakout performance, she went on to play some of theater's most recognizable women, from Tatiana in A Midsummer's Night Dream (1969), to Olga in Three Sisters (1976), Isabella in Measure for Measure (1976), and Paulina in The Winter's Tale (1978).

Throughout the '60s and early '70s, Martha also began exploring various endeavors off stage. She appeared in a number of TV movies and mini-series, including Wojeck (1968), NET Playhouse (1970) and Daniel Deronda (1970).

In 1980, Martha won a Genie Award for her role in The Newcomers: 1978: The Italians, an educational film sponsored by Imperial Oil and co-starring Bruno Gerussi. It would be the first of many accolades. Although she found great success on both the stage and small screen, it wasn't until 1983 that Martha, then 45, would make her feature film debut in the war drama The Wars, for which she won her second Genie Award.

The remainder of the decade found Martha taking another lead role in the drama Dancing in the Dark (1986), for which she won her third Genie Award for Best Actress. She then earned her first Gemini Award for her guest appearance on the CTV prime time soap opera Mount Royal, followed by another Gemini-winning role in the television movie Glory Enough for All in 1988.

It was around this time that Martha took over as artistic director at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, a position she held until 1994. During her time at the Grand, Martha travelled to Guyana to shoot Darrell Wasyk's film, Mustard Bath (1993). For her work as Grace in the war drama, she earned her fourth Genie Award. The following year, she returned to her theater roots to star as Mary Tyrone in Stratford's production of Long Day's Journey Into Night.

In 1996, her 22nd season at the Stratford Festival, Martha played Regina in Little Foxes and Princess Kosmonopolis in Sweet Bird of Youth. Despite her busy schedule on stage, Martha continued to guest star in TV series like Poltergeist: The Legacy and Emily of New Moon, winning her yet another Gemini Award for the latter.

While she continued working steadily at the Stratford Festival in productions of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (2001) and The Trojan Women (2008), Martha's onscreen work dwindled considerably in the 21st century. In 2000, she starred in the television movie Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, followed by the Deepa Mehta dramedy The Republic of Love (2003), and the Olivier Assayas romantic drama Clean (2004). Her final two projects of the decade earned her two more Gemini Award nominations — the Paul Gross miniseries H2o (2004) and the musical drama series At the Hotel (2006).

After 12 years away from film, Martha made her triumphant return to the big screen in 2016 in the Irish-Canadian drama Unless, starring alongside Catherine Keener and Hannah Gross.

Becoming a naturalized Canadian citizen early on in her career, Martha has received some of Canada's greatest honors. In 1981, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and promoted to Companion in 1990. In 1994, she was made a Member of the Order of Ontario, and in 1996, she won a Governor General's Performing Arts Award for her lengthy contribution to the stage.

Martha’s first marriage was to actor Douglas Rain, with whom she has a daughter, Emma. Although the marriage was short-lived, the two remain friends and she has since directed him in the play Brief Lives at Stratford. In 1962 Martha married actor Donnelly Rhodes, a fellow student at National Theatre School. However, the two eventually divorced. She is now married to actor Rod Beattie, who is known across Canada for his tours in the one-man series of plays about Walt Wingfield, beginning with Letter From Wingfield Farm. The two have also starred together at Stratford in several productions, including Macbeth (1999), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (2001) and The Beaux' Stratagem (2014).


Unless (2016)
Clean (2004)
The Republic of Love (2003)
Mustard Bath (1993)
White Light (1991)
A Gift for Kate (1986)
Dancing in the Dark (1986)
The Wars (1983)
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