Henry Silva

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Henry Silva
Silva in Cry of a Prostitute (1974)
Born(1926-09-23)September 23, 1926
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedSeptember 14, 2022(2022-09-14) (aged 95)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materActors Studio
Years active1952–2001
  • Mary Ramus
    (m. 1949; div. 1955)
  • Cindy Conroy
    (m. 1959, divorced)
  • Ruth Earl
    (m. 1966; div. 1987)
PartnerWendy Christenfeld (1990–2022; his death)

Henry Silva (September 23, 1926 – September 14, 2022) was an American actor. A prolific character actor, Silva was a regular staple of international genre cinema, usually playing criminals or gangsters. His notable film appearances include ones in Ocean's 11 (1960), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Johnny Cool (1963), Sharky's Machine (1981), and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999).

Early life and career[edit]

Antonia Santilli and Henry Silva in Il Boss (1973)

Silva was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on September 23, 1926.[1] He was the son of Jesus Silva and Angelina Martinez, and was of Sicilian and Spanish descent.[1][2][note 1] His father abandoned the family when he was young, and he grew up in Spanish Harlem with his mother.[1] He quit school when he was 13 years old to attend drama classes, supporting himself as a dishwasher and waiter at a Manhattan hotel.[3]

By 1955, Silva felt ready to audition for the Actors Studio. He was accepted.[4] 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 Tony Franciosa, based on a scene written by Gazzo, titled "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]

Early film roles and typecasting[edit]

His Hollywood debut was an uncredited appearance in Elia Kazan’s 1952 Viva Zapata!.[6] Silva then went on to play a succession of villains in films including The Tall T (1957) with Randolph Scott,[6] The Bravados (1958) with Gregory Peck,[6] and The Law and Jake Wade (1958).[6]

In the 1959 adventure film Green Mansions, he played a forest-dwelling Venezuela native known as Kua-Ko who tries to murder a young woman played by Audrey Hepburn.[7][8][9]

Silva was one of the eleven casino robbers in the 1960 Rat Pack caper film Ocean's 11, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford. He also played the communist agent Chunjin in the original The Manchurian Candidate (1962), again opposite Sinatra, and portrayed a Native American in Sinatra's and Martin's Rat Pack Western Sergeants 3 that same year.[1][10]

Silva gradually became typecast playing mobsters, robbers, and other criminals. In 1956, he appeared as a hitman in the episode "Better Bargain" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.[11] And in 1963, he starred as a mobster in the episode "An Out for Oscar" on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.[12] However, 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.[13]

He appeared in many television series in both guest starring and recurring roles. Other appearances include featured roles on The Outer Limits[14][15] plus roles on episodes of The Untouchables,[15] Rod Serling's Night Gallery,[16][17] Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea[15] and Mission Impossible,[15] as well as Boris Karloff's suspense series Thriller.[15][18][19] He also appeared in The Streets of San Francisco,[11] Dr. Kildare,[20] and many more shows.[11]

In 1963, 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 enjoyed box-office success as well as critical acclaim. Critics also praised the actor's first lead performance, which allegedly carried the film. The supporting cast features Elizabeth Montgomery, Mort Sahl, Telly Savalas, Jim Backus, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis Jr., most of whose characters were murdered by Johnny Cool during the course of the film. Variety praised Silva's performance, writing "Henry Silva, as a Sicilian-born assassin, is at home as the 'delivery boy of death'".[21]

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 Poliziotteschi films, where he normally played the villain or hitman, or the dark hero, or a combination of the two. These include Manhunt (1972), Il Boss (1973), and Almost Human (1974).[15][22][23][6][24]

He also appeared against type as the Japanese detective Mr. Moto in the 1965 murder mystery The Return of Mr. Moto, and as an Apache who assists rape victim Michele Carey in the 1970 revenge western Five Savage Men.[25]

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).[14][24]

1980s–2000s career[edit]

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 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, the villainous CIA agent Kurt Zagon in Steven Seagal's debut Above the Law (1988), the sinister mob hitman Influence in Dick Tracy (1990), and the voice of the ruthless supervillain Bane in Batman: The Animated Series (1994) and The New Batman Adventures (1998). Silva also plays the crime boss Ray Vargo in Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) who puts out a hit on the titular character.[26]

Silva also starred as himself in a spoof of In Search of ...-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.[27]

In 2012 he contributed to Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films that ruled the 70s, a feature-length documentary directed by Mike Malloy.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Silva was married three times.[1] His first marriage was to Mary Ramus (February 1949 – 1955) and ended in divorce.[29] His second was on 16 March 1959 to Cindy Conroy.[29] He was married to Ruth Earl from September 4, 1966, until it ended in divorce in November 1987. Silva and Earl had two children, both of whom were born in Los Angeles: Michael Henry Silva, who was born on September 3, 1969, and Scott Stevens Silva, who was born July 14, 1976.[29][1]


Silva died on September 14, 2022, at the Motion Picture & Television Fund home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles.[1][30]

Selected filmography[edit]



Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Although reliable sources indicate that he was of Puerto Rican descent, Silva himself stated that he was of Spanish-Sicilian heritage and denied any Puerto Rican heritage in the DVD commentary for The Return of Mr. Moto.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Genzlinger, Neil. "Henry Silva, Actor Who Specialized in Menace, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  2. ^ DVD commentary for The Return of Mr. Moto, Mr. Moto Collection – Vol. 2, 20th Century Fox, February 13, 2007
  3. ^ "Actor Henry Silva dies at 95". NBC News. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  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. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dagan, Carmel (September 5, 2022). "Henry Silva, Distinctive Actor in 'Ocean's Eleven,' 'Manchurian Candidate,' Dies at 95". Variety. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (March 20, 1959). "Delicate Enchantment of 'Green Mansions'; Audrey Hepburn Stars in Role of Rima". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  8. ^ "Green Mansions". Variety. January 1, 1959. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  9. ^ "Green Mansions". TCM.com. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  10. ^ "Sergeants 3". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Henry Silva". TVGuide.com.
  12. ^ "New York City tough-guy actor Henry Silva dead at 95". yahoo.com.
  13. ^ "Henry Silva, known for many tough-guy roles, dies at 95". APNews.com. Associated Press. September 18, 2022. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (September 16, 2022). "Henry Silva Dies: Prolific Actor In 'Manchurian Candidate', 'Ocean's 11' & 'Johnny Cool' Was 95". Deadline. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d e f "Henry Silva". TVGuide.com. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Night Gallery Episode 5: Pamela's Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll". Midnite Reviews. December 17, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Night Gallery – Season 1 Episode 5", videodetective.com, January 13, 1971, retrieved September 18, 2022
  18. ^ Tavakkoli (September 16, 2022). "Fans Mourn Death of Actor Henry Silva's Death at 94". US day News. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  19. ^ "Thriller". TVGuide.com. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  20. ^ a b "Dr. Kildare". richard-chamberlain.co.uk.
  21. ^ Variety Staff (January 1, 1963). "Johnny Cool".
  22. ^ "Henry Silva, Batman: The Animated Series' Bane, Passes Away at 95". Gizmodo. September 17, 2022. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  23. ^ "Category:Henry Silva". grindhousedatabase.com. The Grindhouse Cinema Database. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  24. ^ a b c d Barnes, Mike (September 16, 2022). "Henry Silva, Bad Guy in 'The Manchurian Candidate' and Many Other Movies, Dies at 95". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  25. ^ "Five Savage Men". TVGuide.com. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  26. ^ "'Ghost Dog': A Warrior And a Gentleman". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  27. ^ "Henry Silva, The Manchurian Candidate and Ocean's 11 Star, Dies at 95". September 16, 2022. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  28. ^ "Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s". Rotten Tomatoes.
  29. ^ a b c "Henry Silva: Biography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  30. ^ Bernstein, Adam. "Henry Silva, versatile Hollywood villain, dies at 95". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd "Henry Silva". BFI.org.uk. British Film Institute.
  32. ^ American Film Institute (September 18, 1997). Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911–1960. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20964-0 – via Google Books.
  33. ^ "Ride a Crooked Trail". TCM.com. Turner Classic Movies.
  34. ^ "Ride a Crooked Trail (1958)". BFI.org.uk. British Film Institute.
  35. ^ "Frame Up (1968)". Radio Times.
  36. ^ "The Animals (1970)". BFI.org.uk. British Film Institute.
  37. ^ "Kidnap (1974)". Radio Times.
  38. ^ "White Fang to the Rescue". rottentomatoes.com.
  39. ^ "Virus, aka Day of Resurrection (1980)". April 10, 2021.
  40. ^ Kay, Linda (June 18, 2020). "Alligator (1980)". cinemacats.com.
  41. ^ "Trapped – Henry Silva Barbara Gordon". dvdbeaver.com.
  42. ^ "La via della droga (1989)". videodetective.com. November 29, 1989.
  43. ^ "CYBORG – IL GUERRIERO D'ACCIAIO – Film (1989)". ComingSoon.it.
  44. ^ "The Last Match (1991) | movie | videospace". videospace.fi.
  45. ^ Sava, Oliver. "Batman: The Animated Series: "Bane"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  46. ^ a b c "Ranking the TV appearances of Batman's Bane, from least to most spine-crumbling". Uproxx. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  47. ^ Sava, Oliver. "Batman: The Animated Series: "Over The Edge"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  48. ^ Kendall, G. "Superman: The Animated Series - When Superman Became a Batman Cosplayer". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved September 22, 2022.

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