Henry Silva

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Henry Silva
Henry-silva-trailer.jpg
Silva as Chunjin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Born (1928-09-15) September 15, 1928 (age 86)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Actors Studio
Occupation Film and television actor
Years active 1952–2001
Spouse(s) Ruth Earl (1966-1987) two children
Mary Ramus (?-1955) (divorced)
Cindy Conroy (1959-?)
Children Michael & Scott

Henry Silva (born September 15, 1928)[1] is an American film and television actor.

Biography[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

Silva was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Sicilian and Spanish descent.[2][3]

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,[4] one of only five successful applicants out of more than 2,500.[citation needed] 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.[5]

Film roles and typecasting[edit]

In Hollywood, he played a succession of villains in films including The Tall T, The Bravados, Green Mansions, and the original The Manchurian Candidate. He played Roger Corneal, one of the 11 casino robbers in the 1960 Rat Pack caper film Ocean's 11.

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 starring roles in two filmed episodes of The Outer Limits, a science-fiction anthology television series in the United States.

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. He also guest-starred on Boris Karloff's TV series, Thriller in the episode "Dark Legacy".

Johnny Cool[edit]

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'".[6] The film's box-office receipts had become less favorable by late November (partly due to the death of President John F. Kennedy).

Move to Italy[edit]

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, 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 mafia tales, spaghetti westerns or police tales of some sort, where he normally played the villain or hitman, or the dark hero, or a combination of the two.

Returning to the United States in the mid-1970s, he co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Contract on Cherry Street, then signed on as Buck Rogers' evil adversary Killer Kane.

1980s-2000s career[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, he appeared as a drug-addicted hitman in Burt Reynolds' Sharky's Machine, the villainous CIA agent Kurt Zagon in Steven Seagal's debut, Above the Law; as a former prison warden-turned-enforcer in Escape from the Bronx, which was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000; as a sinister mob hitman in Dick Tracy; providing the voice of the super-villain Bane in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures; and as the sorrowful and doomed crime boss Ray Vargo in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. He also played the 'heavy' in Chuck Norris' movie Code of Silence.

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 for a segment titled Henry Silva's "Bullshit, or Not!" and again played himself in the 2001 version of Ocean's Eleven.

Personal life[edit]

Henry Silva has been married three times. He has two sons; Michael Silva and Scott Silva and several grandchildren.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Matinee Classics
  2. ^ DVD commentary for The Return of Mr. Moto, Mr. Moto Collection - Vol. 2, 20th Century Fox, 2007-02-13
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Variety, Review: Johnny Cool

External links[edit]