Henry Silva, versatile Hollywood villain, dies at 95


Henry Silva, an actor who rose to prominence within the Fifties and early Sixties taking part in smooth-faced, rough-edged heavies in Hollywood dramas — notably the dope peddler known as “Mom” in “A Hatful of Rain” and a North Korean agent in “The Manchurian Candidate,” died Sept. 14 in Los Angeles. He was 95.

His son Scott Silva confirmed the loss of life however didn’t present a direct trigger.

In a profession spanning 5 a long time, Mr. Silva turned one of many busiest character actors in Hollywood, with greater than 130 credit in movies and on tv. He was of Hispanic and Sicilian heritage however, as he as soon as quipped, was endowed with a face that allowed “nice diversification.”

“I may play nearly every thing however a Swede — and I’m engaged on that,” he informed the Los Angeles Instances in 1963.

Mr. Silva was unconventionally good-looking, able to conveying eerie menace or rugged masculinity along with his poker face, close-set eyes, blade-like cheek bones and sinuous physicality. He acquired his breakthrough position on Broadway in 1955 because the well-tailored however malevolent narcotics pusher in “A Hatful of Rain,” a component he reprised onscreen in 1957.

In “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), based mostly on Richard Condon’s novel about Chilly Battle paranoia, Mr. Silva portrayed a communist agent. He poses as a manservant to an American veteran of the Korean Battle (Laurence Harvey) who has been brainwashed by communists into assassinating a U.S. presidential candidate.

“The Manchurian Candidate,” additionally starring Frank Sinatra, flopped on the field workplace on its preliminary launch however is now considered a taut basic. Critic Peter Travers wrote in Individuals journal upon the movie’s 1988 re-release that Mr. Silva hits “a excessive in low-down villainy that hasn’t been matched since.”

Mr. Silva’s different notable early movies included “Viva Zapata!” (1952) as a Mexican peasant who confronts Marlon Brando’s revolutionary title character; the Gregory Peck western “The Bravados” (1958) as an American Indian who belongs to a gang of murderous outlaws; and “Inexperienced Mansions” (1959) as a Venezuelan tribal chief’s bad-seed son.

In a change of tempo, Mr. Silva performed one of many stepbrothers within the Jerry Lewis comedy “Cinderfella” and was a part of Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” band of on line casino thieves in “Ocean’s 11” (each 1960).

Mr. Silva mentioned he admired Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield and that he yearned to play their sort of street-smart, tough-guy main males. He obtained his probability in “Johnny Cool” (1963). His portrayal of a Sicilian-born gangster who hides his killer instincts below a skinny dapper veneer didn’t initially win over audiences or critics.

However “Johnny Cool” drew a loyal following through the years. Amongst its devotees was director Jim Jarmusch, who solid Mr. Silva as a cartoon-obsessed mob capo in “Ghost Canine: The Method of the Sumarai” (1999). “Henry’s face is nearly like a masks,” Jarmusch informed the Chicago Tribune, “however the issues that do flicker throughout it may be very attention-grabbing.”

His leading-man alternatives have been restricted in Hollywood, and Mr. Silva took an prolonged hiatus to work in Europe, the place he appeared in such fare as “The Return of Mr. Moto” (1965) because the Japanese detective hero and gained top-billed gritty elements in spaghetti westerns reminiscent of “The Hills Run Crimson” (1966) and motion movies together with “Assassination” (1967) and “The Boss” (1973).

He informed the Chicago Solar-Instances that mobsters and different criminals usually complimented his work. “They are saying, ‘My God, the place did you learn to play us?’ I say, ‘I lived with “us.” I grew up with “us” in New York.’ I used to know the fellows who used to run the entire areas, the prostitution rings. I used to shine their footwear. They’d say, ‘Child, c’mere. I need ya to shine my footwear. You [mess] up, I’ll bust your head.’ ”

Henry Silva, the son of Puerto Rican dad and mom, was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 23, 1926, and grew up in Spanish Harlem. He was about six months previous when his father left the household. His mom was illiterate. Mr. Silva was a shy scholar, usually scared in grade college as a result of he barely understood English till he was 8.

He discovered a much-needed launch in films, significantly the “Andy Hardy” movie collection starring Mickey Rooney about an all-American teenager. “It was about households — one thing I by no means had,” Mr. Silva informed the Los Angeles Instances. He give up college and left dwelling in his mid-teens, working as a dishwasher and longshoreman, amongst different jobs, to economize for appearing college.

“I spent six years knocking on doorways, and listening to, ‘No,’ earlier than I obtained a job as an additional on a tv present for $5,” he recalled to the Tribune. He enrolled on the Actors Studio workshop, the place Michael V. Gazzo’s harrowing “A Hatful of Rain” developed. One of many first critical dramas about drug habit, it centered on a younger married conflict veteran (Ben Gazzara) struggling to interrupt his narcotics behavior.

Mr. Silva’s marriages to Mary Ramus, actress Cindy Conroy (a former Miss Canada) and actress Ruth Earl, with whom he had two youngsters, resulted in divorce. Survivors embody his sons, Michael Silva and Scott Silva, each of Los Angeles.

On TV, Mr. Silva had a memorable activate the Sixties crime drama “The Untouchables” as a ruthless mob enforcer. He additionally turned a mainstay of motion movies of the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, together with “Above the Regulation” with Steven Seagal and “Dick Tracy” (because the on line casino proprietor Affect), and he performed a boxing spectator in director Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 all-star reboot of “Ocean’s Eleven.”

“I see lots of actors who play heavies, however they at all times play the identical heavies,” he informed the Tribune in 2000, when requested about his endurance as a display screen unhealthy man. “I’ve a seven-minute reel of clips from my films, and not one of the guys are the identical. I don’t at all times go to the identical place, as a result of that may be boring. I learn the web page and it tells me who the character is. I don’t intrude myself on the web page — I let it have an effect on me — however I don’t play it secure both.”



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