Silva as Chunjin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
September 15, 1928 |
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Actors Studio|
|Occupation||Film and television actor|
|Spouse(s)||Ruth Earl (1966-1987) two children
Mary Ramus (?-1955) (divorced)
Cindy Conroy (1959-?)
|Children||Michael & Scott|
Henry Silva (born September 15, 1928) is an American film and television actor.
Early life and career
He grew up in Harlem and quit school when he was 13 years old to attend drama classes, supporting himself as a dishwasher and waiter in a Manhattan hotel. By 1955, Silva felt ready to audition for the Actors Studio. He was accepted, one of only five successful applicants out of more than 2,500. When the Studio staged Michael V. Gazzo's play, A Hatful of Rain as a classroom project (which itself grew out of an earlier improvisation by Silva, Paul Richards, and Anthony Franciosa, based on a scene written by Gazzo, entitled "Pot"), it proved so successful that it was presented on Broadway, with students Ben Gazzara, Shelley Winters, Harry Guardino, along with Franciosa, Richards and Silva, in key roles. Silva also appeared in the play's film version.
Early film roles and typecasting
In Hollywood, he played a succession of villains in films including The Tall T (1957), The Bravados (1958), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), Green Mansions (1959), and Roger Corneal, one of the 11 casino robbers in the 1960 Rat Pack caper film Ocean's 11 (1960). He also played the communist agent Chunjin in the original The Manchurian Candidate (1962), again opposite Frank Sinatra.
Silva gradually became typecast in the role of heavies, although he did play a comic role as one of the stepbrothers in the 1960 Jerry Lewis film Cinderfella, a parody of Cinderella with Lewis in the title role, and appeared in two filmed episodes of The Outer Limits, a science-fiction anthology television series in the United States. He also played the title role in The Return of Mr. Moto (1965), and had an uncharacteristically heroic role as an Apache who helps Michele Carey seek revenge on her rapists in the western Five Savage Men (1970).
He sometimes played heavies on television, i.e. as a hitman in the episode "Better Bargain" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Other television roles included episodes of The Untouchables an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery and the episode "The Enemies" from the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Mission Impossible. He also guest-starred on Boris Karloff's TV series, Thriller in the episode "Dark Legacy".
In 1963, Henry Silva played the lead role in the gangster film Johnny Cool, which was produced by United Artists and Chrislaw. His character Salvatore "Johnny Cool" Giordano was a hitman sent on a mission by exiled mobster Johnny Colini to kill the underworld figures who had plotted against the mobster. Premiering on October 19, 1963, the film was successful at the box-office and was critically well received. So was the actor's first lead performance, which carried the film.
Variety praised Silva's performance, writing "Henry Silva, as a Sicilian-born assassin, is at home as the 'delivery boy of death'". The film's box-office receipts had become less favorable by late November (partly due to the death of President John F. Kennedy).
In 1965, an Italian film producer made Silva an offer to star as a hero for a change and he moved his family overseas. Silva's turning-point picture was a spaghetti western, The Hills Run Red (1966), which made him a hot box-office commodity in Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. Between 1966 and 1977 he starred or co-starred in at least 25 movies, the majority of which were Italian mafia movies and Poliziotteschi films, where he normally played the villain or hitman, or the dark hero, or a combination of the two. His best remembered of these are Manhunt (1972), Il Boss (1973), Cry of a Prostitute (1974), Almost Human (1974), and Napoli spara! (1977).
Returning to the United States in the mid-1970s, he co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Contract on Cherry Street (1977) and Charles Bronson in Love and Bullets (1979). He then signed on as the evil adversary Killer Kane in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), a role he reprised in the subsequent TV series.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he appeared as the arrogant hunter Colonel Brock in Alligator (1980), a drug-addicted hitman in Burt Reynolds' Sharky's Machine (1981), a terrorist in Wrong is Right (1982), the sleazy pimp Lester in Chained Heat (1983), a former prison warden-turned-enforcer in Escape from the Bronx (1983), which was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, a comedy gangster in Cannonball Run II (1984) opposite many of his former Rat Pack buddies, a vicious gang boss in the Chuck Norris movie Code of Silence (1985), the evil high priest Agon in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1987), the villainous CIA agent Kurt Zagon in Steven Seagal's debut, Above the Law (1988), the sinister mob hitman Influence in Dick Tracy (1990), mob henchman Sleepy Joe in the gangster comedy Mad Dog Time (1996), the voice of the super-villain Bane in Batman: The Animated Series (1994) and The New Batman Adventures (1998), and as the sorrowful and doomed crime boss Ray Vargo in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999).
Silva also starred as himself in a spoof of Ripley's Believe It Or Not-type shows in the comedy Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) for a segment titled Henry Silva's "Bullshit, or Not!", and played a spectator at a boxing match in the 2001 version of Ocean's Eleven.
Henry Silva has been married three times. He has two sons; Michael Silva and Scott Silva and several grandchildren.
- Matinee Classics
- DVD commentary for The Return of Mr. Moto, Mr. Moto Collection - Vol. 2, 20th Century Fox, 2007-02-13
- Note: Reliable sources state Silva is of Puerto Rican descent. But Silva states he is of Spanish-Sicilian heritage and specifically denies any Puerto Rican heritage in the DVD commentary for The Return of Mr. Moto.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Strasberg Takes Over: 1951-1955". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 109–111. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Variety, Review: Johnny Cool
- Henry Silva at the Internet Movie Database
- Henry Silva at the Internet Broadway Database
- Henry Silva at AllMovie