Memorable Manitobans: Donnelly Rhodes (1936-2018)
Born Donnelly Rhodes Henry at Winnipeg on 4 December 1937, son of journalist Ann Donnelly Henry and brother of actor Tim Henry and Loa Henry, he initially trained to be a park warden. While an airman mechanic with the Royal Canadian Air Force, in 1956 he joined the RCAF Station Winnipeg Drama Group and decided to pursue a career in theatre. The following year, he became stage manager with John Hirsch’s Theatre 77, a forerunner to the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. His first professional stage appearance was in the company’s March 1958 production of Death of a Salesman. He was also stage manager of Rainbow Stage in the summers of 1959 and 1960. At Hirsch’s urging, he auditioned for the newly created National Theatre School of Canada and was the only Manitoban accepted in its inaugural year.
It was there that he met his first wife Martha Buhs who adopted the stage name Henry, her husband’s legal surname. She became a well-known actor and later married Douglas Rain, voice of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rhodes’ diverse interests included music and horses but his real passion was boats. He often said if he never made it as an actor, he would have pursued a career as a naval architect.
After appearances on the Stratford stage and in a number of CBC television dramas, he signed a contract with Universal Studios. His film debut was Gunfight in Abilene (1967) followed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). His greatest success was as a character actor on television. His numerous recurring roles included The Young and the Restless (CBS, 1974-1975), Sidestreet (CBC, 1975-1978), Soap (ABC, 1978-1981), Danger Bay (CBC, 1985-1990), DaVinci’s Inquest (CBC, 1998-2005), and Battlestar Galactica (NBC Universal, 2004-2009). He made guest appearances on more than 100 television shows. He received a Gemini Award for best actor for his role in Da Vinci’s Inquest (2002) and received the Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement (2006).
He died of cancer at Maple Ridge, British Columbia on 8 January 2018, survived by his fourth wife, brother, sister, two children, and three stepchildren.
“Canadian TV actor Donnelly Rhodes dies at age 80,” CBC News, 8 January 2018.
“Actor loved family, never forgot where he came from,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 January 2018.
“Rhodes’ road to success started in Winnipeg” by Christian Cassidy, Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 2008.
Donnelly Rhodes, IMDB.
We thank Jim Ingebrigtsen for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Christian Cassidy.
Page revised: 15 August 2021