Henry Silva, versatile Hollywood villain, dies at 95

Henry Silva, an actor who rose to fame in the 1950s and early 1960s playing smooth-faced, rough-edged heavyweights in Hollywood dramas — notably the dope peddler in “A Hateful of Rain” Called “Mother” and a North Korean agent in “A Hateful of Rain”. 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 Hollywood’s busiest character actors, with more than 130 credits in films and television. He was of Spanish and Sicilian heritage but, as he once quipped, was blessed with a face that allowed for “great diversity”.

“I could play almost everything except Sweden – and I’m working on it,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1963.

Mr. Silva was unconventionally handsome, able to convey menacing menace or rugged masculinity with his poker face, closed eyes, blade-like cheekbones and rugged physicality. He had his breakout role in 1955 on Broadway as a well-groomed but abusive drug pusher in “A Hateful of Rain.” Reproduced on screen. In 1957

I “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), based on Richard Condon’s novel Cold War Paranoia, Mr. Silva portrayed a Communist agent. He poses as the servant of an American Korean War veteran (Lawrence Harvey) who has been brainwashed by the Communists to assassinate a US presidential candidate.

“The Manchurian Candidate,” also starring Frank Sinatra, was a box office flop on its initial release but is now considered a die-hard classic. Critic Peter Travers wrote in People magazine on the film’s 1988 re-release that Mr. Silva “struck a high in low-level villainy that has not been matched since.”

Among Mr. Silva’s other notable early films are “Viva Zapata!” Included. (1952) as a Mexican peasant who rivals Marlon Brando’s revolutionary title role. Gregory Peck Western “Bravados” (1958) as an American Indian who belongs to a gang of assassins. and “Green Mansions” (1959) as the ill-fated son of a Venezuelan tribal chief.

In a change of pace, Mr. Silva played one of the half-brothers in a Jerry Lewis comedy. “Cinderella” and was part of Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” band of casino robbers. “Sea 11” (both 1960).

Mr. Silva said he admires Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield and yearns to lead a street-smart, tough guy like them. He got a chance to come in. “Johnny Cole” (1963). His portrayal of a Sicilian-born gangster who hides his murderous instincts beneath a thin dapper veneer initially failed to win over audiences or critics.

But “Johnny Cole” has attracted a devoted following over the years. Among his devotees was the director Jim Jarmusch, who cast Mr. Silva as a cartoon-obsessed mob capo. “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 flash through it can be very interesting.”

His leading man opportunities in Hollywood were limited, and Mr. Silva took a long break to work in Europe, where he appeared as the Japanese detective hero in “The Return of Mr. Moto” (1965) and topped stay Spaghetti Westerns billed bitter segments like “The Hills Run Red” (1966) and action films including “The Killing” (1967) and “the boss” (1973).

He told the Chicago Sun-Times that mobsters and other criminals often applaud his work. “They say, ‘My God, where did you learn to play us?’ I say, ‘I used to live with “us”. I grew up with “us” in New York.’ I knew guys who ran prostitution all over the area. I’d shine their shoes. They’d say, ‘Come on, kid. I want you to shine my shoes. You [mess] Get up, I’ll break your head.’ “

Henry 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, often intimidated in grade school because he barely understood English by age 8.

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

“I spent six years knocking on doors, and got a job as an extra on a television show for $5 before hearing, ‘No,'” he recalled to the Tribune. He enrolled in the Actors Studio Workshop, where Michael V. Gazzo’s horror “A Hateful of Rain” was produced. One of the first serious dramas about drug addiction, it follows a young married war veteran (spent) is struggling to break his drug habit.

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

On TV, Mr. Silva did a memorable turn on the 1960s crime drama. “untouchable” As a ruthless mob enforcer. He also became a staple of action films of the 1980s and 1990s, including “Outlaw” with Steven Seagal and “Dick Tracy” (as casino owner Influence), and directed by Steven Soderbergh. Played a boxing spectator in 2001 All-Star. “Ocean’s Eleven” reboot.

“I see a lot of actors who play heavies, but they always play the same heavies,” he told the Tribune in 2000, when asked about his endurance as a screen bad guy. “I have a seven-minute reel of clips from my movies, and no two guys are 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 don’t put myself on the page – I let it affect me – but I don’t play it safe either.”

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