Versatile Hollywood villain Henry Silva dies at 95

Henry Silva, an actor who rose to prominence playing smooth-mouthed, rough heavies in Hollywood dramas in the 1950s and early 1960s—notably calling the dope peddler “mother” in “A Hatful of Rain” And a North Korean agent called the “Manchurian Candidate,” died in Los Angeles on September 14. He was 95 years old.

His son Scott Silva confirmed the death but did not give an immediate cause.

In a career spanning five decades, Mr. Silva became one of the busiest character actors in Hollywood, with over 130 credits in films and television. He was of Puerto Rican heritage, but as he once quipped, was endowed with a face that allowed for “great diversification.”

“I could play almost everything but a Swede – and I’m working on that,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1963.

Mr. Silva was unconventionally handsome, with his poker face, closed eyes, blade-like cheekbones and sinuous physicality capable of conveying terrifying menace or harsh masculinity. He achieved his breakthrough role as a well-tailored but spiteful narcotics pusher in “A Hatful of Rain” on Broadway in 1955. reproduced on screen in 1957.

In “Manchurian Candidate” (1962), based on Richard Condon’s novel about Cold War paranoia, Mr. Silva played a communist agent. He stars as a servant of an American veteran of the Korean War (Lawrence Harvey), who is brainwashed by the Communists for the assassination of a US presidential candidate.

“The Manchurian Candidate”, starring Frank Sinatra, flopped at the box office upon its initial release, but is now considered a taut classic. Critic Peter Travers wrote in People magazine on the 1988 re-release of the film that Mr. Silva “has a high level of villainy that has not been matched since.”

Other notable early films by Mr. Silva include “Viva Zapata!” (1952) as a Mexican farmer who encounters the revolutionary title character of Marlon Brando; Gregory Peck Western “The Bravados” (1958) as an American Indian who belongs to a gang of murderous criminals; and “Green Mansion” (1959) as the ill-fated son of a Venezuelan tribal chief.

In a change of pace, Mr. Silva plays one of the half-brothers in the Jerry Lewis comedy “Cinderfella” and was part of Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” band of casino thieves. “Ocean’s Eleven” (both 1960).

Mr Silva said he admires Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield and that he yearns to play street-smart, tough-guy leading men of their kind. he got a chance “Johnny Cool” (1963). His portrayal of the Sicilian-born gangster, who hides his killer instincts under a thinly dapper veneer, didn’t initially win over audiences or critics.

But “Johnny Cool” garnered a devoted following over the years. Among its devotees was director Jim Jarmusch, who cast Mr. Silva as a cartoon-obsessed crowd. “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (1999). “Henry’s face is almost like a mask,” Jarmusch told the Chicago Tribune, “but the things that shimmer in it can be very interesting.”

His leading-man opportunities in Hollywood were limited, and Mr. Silva took an extended hiatus to work in Europe, where he appeared as a Japanese spy hero such as “The Return of Mr. Moto” (1965) and top-notch spaghetti. Gritty parts billed in Western like “the hills Run Red” (1966) and action films including “Murder” (1967) and “master” (1973).

He told the Chicago Sun-Times that mobsters and other criminals often praise his work. “They say, ‘My god, where did you learn us to play?’ I say, ‘I lived with ‘us.’ I grew up with “us” in New York.’ I knew people who ran the whole area, prostitution rings. I used to shine their shoes. They would say, ‘Kids, come on. I want you to shine my shoes. You [mess] Up, I’ll break your head.’ ,

Mr. Silva, the son of Puerto Rican parents, was born in Brooklyn on September 23, 1926, and grew up in Spanish Harlem. He was about six months old when his father left the family. His mother was illiterate. Mr. Silva was a shy student who was often intimidated in grade school because he barely understood English until he was 8 years old.

He received a much-needed release in films, most notably the “Andy Hardy” film series starring Mickey Rooney About an all-American teenager. “It was about the families – something I never had,” Mr. Silva told the Los Angeles Times. To save money for acting school, he dropped out of school and left home in his mid-teens, working as a dishwasher and longshoreman.

“I spent six years knocking on doors and hearing ‘no’,” he recalled to the Tribune. He enrolled in the Actors Studio Workshop, where Michael V. Gazzo’s painful “A Hatful of Rain” evolved. One of the first serious dramas about drug addiction, it centered on a young married war veteran (ben gazara) is struggling to break his drug habit.

Mr. Silva’s marriages to Mary Rams, actress Cindy Conroy (a former Miss Canada) and actress Ruth Earle, with whom he had two children, ended in divorce. Survivors include his sons, Michael Silva and Scott Silva, both from Los Angeles.

Mr. Silva on TV had a memorable turn in the crime drama of the 1960s “The Untouchables” As a ruthless mob promoter. He also became a mainstay of action films of the 1980s and 1990s, including “Above the Law” with Steven Siegel and “Dick Tracy” (as casino owner Influence), and he also starred in director Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 All. -Star played the role of a boxing spectator. Reboot of “Ocean Eleven”.

When asked about his endurance as a screen bad man, he told the Tribune in 2000, “I’ve seen a lot of actors who play heavy roles, but they always play the same heavy roles.” “I have a seven-minute reel of clips from my movies, and no one is the same. I don’t always go to the same place, because that would be boring. I read the page and it tells me who the character is. I page But I don’t intrude myself – I let it affect me – but I also don’t play it safe.”

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