|Born||Frank Alvin Silvera
July 24, 1914
|Died||June 11, 1970
Pasadena, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Accidental electrocution|
|Resting place||Long Island National Cemetery|
|Education||English High School of Boston|
|Alma mater||Boston University
Northeastern University School of Law
|Occupation||Actor, theatrical director|
|Spouse(s)||Anna Lillian Quarles (m. 1942; div. 1963)|
Frank Alvin Silvera (July 24, 1914 – June 11, 1970) was a Jamaican-born American character actor and theatrical director. Silvera was known as "the man with a thousand faces" because of his ability to play a wide array of roles.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Boston, Silvera dropped out of law school in 1934 after winning his first stage role. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was active in numerous stage productions on and off Broadway and appeared in radio shows. Silvera made his film debut in 1952. Over the course of his 36-year career, he was cast in a wide variety of ethnic roles in film and television. Silvera also remained active in theatre. Silvera was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award in 1963 for his role in The Lady of the Camellias. He founded The Theatre of Being, a Los Angeles theatre for black actors, in 1965. At the time of his death he had a recurring role in the NBC Western series The High Chaparral.
Silvera was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a Spanish Jewish father and a mixed-race Jamaican mother. His family emigrated to the United States when he was six-years old, settling in Boston. Silvera became interested in acting and began performing in amateur theatrical groups and at church.
Silvera left Northeastern Law School in 1934, when he was cast in Paul Green's production of Roll Sweet Chariot. He next joined the New England Repertory, Theatre where he appeared in productions of MacBeth, Othello, and The Emperor Jones. He also worked at Federal Theatre and with the New Hampshire Repertory Theatre. In 1940, Silvera made his Broadway debut in a small role in Big White Fog. His career was interrupted in 1942, when he enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. He was assigned to Camp Robert Smalls, where he and Owen Dodson were in charge of entertainment. Silvera directed and acted in radio programs and appeared in USO shows. Honorably discharged at the war's end in 1945, he joined the cast of Anna Lucasta and became a member of the Actors Studio.
In 1952, Silvera made his film debut in the western, The Cimarron Kid. Because of his strongly Spanish appearance, he was cast in a variety of ethnic roles in films and television. He was cast as General Huerta in Viva Zapata!, which starred Marlon Brando. Ironically, it was the first time a major motion picture studio had used a non-white actor to play a non-white character. Silvera also portrayed the role in the stage production, which opened at the Regent Theatre in New York City on February 28, 1952. He appeared in two films directed by Stanley Kubrick, Fear and Desire (1953) and Killer's Kiss (1955).
In August 1955, he appeared on Broadway in a revival of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, which earned him favorable reviews. In November 1955, he portrayed John Pope, Sr., the Italian father of Ben Gazzara and Anthony Franciosa's characters on Broadway in Michael V. Gazzo's A Hatful of Rain (a role portrayed by Lloyd Nolan on screen), and again was praised by critics.
Silvera made guest appearances in numerous television series, mainly dramas and westerns, including Studio One in Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bat Masterson, Thriller, Riverboat, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, The Untouchables, and Bonanza. In 1962 he portrayed Dr. Koslenko in The Twilight Zone episode "Person or Persons Unknown", opposite Richard Long. That year, he also played Minarii, a Polynesian man in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, again starring Marlon Brando. In 1963, Silvera was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for playing Monsieur Duval in The Lady of the Camellias.
In 1964, Silvera and Vantile Whitfield founded The Theatre of Being, a Los Angeles-based theater dedicated to providing black actors with non-stereotypical roles. One of their first projects was producing The Amen Corner by African-American writer James Baldwin. Silvera and Whitfield financed the play themselves and with donations from friends. It opened on March 4, 1964 and would gross $200,000 within the year, moving to Broadway in April 1965. Beah Richards won critical acclaim for her performance as the lead.
Silvera continued his career in films and guest star roles on television. In 1965, he appeared as Gaspar, one of the Biblical Magi in the epic film The Greatest Story Ever Told, In 1966, he teamed with Marlon Brando for a third time in the Western The Appaloosa. The next year, he portrayed Nick Sorello in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, followed by guest roles on Dundee and the Culhane and The Wild Wild West. He appeared as a Mexican bandit in the 1967 Martin Ritt-directed Western classic, Hombre, based on the Elmore Leonard novel. In 1969, Silvera had a supporting role as Goatherd in Che!, and as Lobero in the Zapata Western Guns of the Magnificent Seven.
Silvera was then hired as the first guest director at Fresno State College (FSC), with plans to stage a production of The Tea Concession by Henry J. Kemp-Blair, which reversed the racial positions of black and white in a drama about South Africa. However, he was forced to resign less than two weeks later, caught in the middle of administrative shakeups and the aborted hiring of Marvin X by the Black Studies department. "With this upheaval it seemed to blacks and browns that Silvera was part of the package, part of the hardline takeover (at FSC). There was such a sense of despair and betrayal...they took it out on me," Silvera said to David Hale, theater writer for The Fresno Bee. "It seemed to me they thought I was the agent to smooth things over while the establishment hatched up something else dirty."
At the time of his death, Silvera had a recurring role in the NBC western series The High Chaparral as the Mexican squire, Don Sebastian Montoya. His final film, Valdez Is Coming, was released posthumously, in 1971.
Silvera married actress Anna Lillian Quarles in 1942. They met while appearing in a stage production of Stevedore. Quarles was the sister of historian and educator Benjamin Arthur Quarles. They had two children, Frank, Jr. and Linda, before divorcing in 1963.
On June 11, 1970, Silvera was accidentally electrocuted at the age of 56 while attempting to repair the garbage disposal unit in his kitchen sink. He was buried with military honors at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
In 1973, the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Foundation, Inc. was created in honor of Silvera and his efforts to support African-American actors and playwrights. The organization sponsors promising African-American playwrights. In 2005, the workshop was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
|1952||The Cimarron Kid||Stacey Marshall|
|1952||Viva Zapata!||Victoriano Huerta|
|1952||The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima||Arturo dos Santos|
|1953||Fear and Desire||Sgt. Mac|
|1954||The Lonely Night||The Narrator|
|1955||Death Tide||Eric Paulsen|
|1955||Killer's Kiss||Vincent Rapallo|
|1956||Crowded Paradise||Papa Diaz|
|1959||Crime and Punishment U.S.A.||Porter|
|1960||Heller in Pink Tights||Santis|
|1960||The Mountain Road||Col. Kwan|
|1960||Key Witness||Det. Rafael Torno|
|1962||Mutiny on the Bounty||Minarii|
|1963||Toys in the Attic||Henry Simpson|
|1965||The Greatest Story Ever Told||Caspar|
|1967||The St. Valentine's Day Massacre||Nick Sorello|
|1968||The Stalking Moon||Major|
|1969||Guns of the Magnificent Seven||Lobero|
|1971||Valdez Is Coming||Diego||Released posthumously|
|1951-1957||Studio One in Hollywood||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1954||The Marriage||Mr. Ramon||Episode #1.1|
|1955||Producers' Showcase||Judge||Episode: "The Skin of Our Teeth"|
|1957||The Seven Lively Arts||John||Episode: "The World of Nick Adams"|
|1958||Wanted: Dead or Alive||Sheriff Will Echert||Episode: "Sheriff At Red Rock"|
|1958||Playhouse 90||Nick Serrello||Episode: "Seven Against the Wall"|
|1958||Perry Mason||Jonathan Hyett||Episode: "The Case of the Fancy Figures"|
|1959||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Mr. Roderiguez||Episode: "A Personal Matter"|
|1959||Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater||Ysidro||Episode: "Trouble at Tres Cruces"|
|1959||Decoy||Andrew Garcia||Episode: "Across the World"|
|1959||Bat Masterson||Grasia||Episode: "The Romany Knives"|
|1959||The Lineup||Papa Vanetti||Episode: "My Son is a Stranger"|
|1959||The Man From Blackhawk||Kiczek||Episode: "The Gypsy Story"|
|1960||Johnny Ringo||Bevinetto||Episode: "Shoot the Moon"|
|1960||The Law and Mr. Jones||Garcia||Episode: "Music to Hurt By"|
|1960||Thriller||Cesare Romano/Charlie Roman||Episode: "The Guilty Men"|
|1960||Hong Kong||Kivori||Episode: "Freebooter"|
|1960||The Rebel||Cota||Episode: "Deathwatch"|
|1960||Riverboat||Colonel Ashley||Episode: "Devil in Skirts"|
|1960||The Untouchables||Dino Patrone||Episode: "A Seat on the Fence"|
|1961-1964||Bonanza||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1962||The Twilight Zone||Dr. Koslenko||Episode: "Person or Persons Unknown"|
|1962||The New Breed||John Hernandez||Episode: "My Brother's Keeper"|
|1962||The Beachcomber||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1962||The Dick Powell Show||Episode: "Borderline"|
|1963||The Defenders||Ballin||Episode: "The Last Illusion"|
|1963||The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters||The Indian, Speaks to the Wind||Episode: "The Day of the Taboo Man"|
|1964||The Great Adventure||Gambi||Episode: "The Pirate and the Patriot"|
|1964||Channing||Episode: "Memory of a Firing Squad"|
|1964||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Alejandro||Episode: "The Life Work of Juan Diaz"|
|1964||Mr. Novak||Andy Towner||Episode: "Boy Under Glass"|
|1964-1965||Kraft Suspense Theatre||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1965||Profiles in Courage||Episode: "Hamilton Fish"|
|1965||Daniel Boone||Marcel Bouvier||Episode: "Daughter of the Devil"|
|1965||Rawhide||Pajarito||Episode: "El Hombre Bravo"|
|1965||Gunsmoke||John Drago||Episode: "Death Watch"|
|1966||I Spy||Munoz||Episode: "Crusade to Limbo"|
|1966||The Rat Patrol||Arab Leader||Episode: "The Chain of Death Raid"|
|1966||Run for Your Life||Esteban||Episode: "The Shock of Recognition"|
|1967||Dundee and the Culhane||Luis Montoya||Episode: "The Vasquez Brief"|
|1967||The Wild Wild West||El Sordo||Episode: "The Night of Jack O'Diamonds"|
|1967-1970||The High Chaparral||Don Sebastian Montoya||14 episodes|
|1968||The Young Loner||Carlos||Television film|
|1968-1971||The Wonderful World of Disney||Carlos||4 episodes|
|1969||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Nick Eugenides||Episode: "The Vrahnas Demon"|
|1970||The Flying Nun||Thomas Sebastien Martinez||Episode: "No Tears for Mrs. Thomas"|
|1970||Hawaii Five-O||Frank Kuakua||Episode: "Paniolo"|
|1971||The Boy from Dead Man's Bayou||Television film
|1976||Perilous Voyage||Gen. Salazar||Television film
- Hinton, Garfield (April 2, 1957). "The 'man with a thousand faces' comes to Baltimore". Baltimore Afro-American. p. 6. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- Rodriguez, Clara (2008). Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood. Oxford University Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-19-533513-9.
- Berry, Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2007). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema 12. Scarecrow Press. p. 310. ISBN 0-8108-5545-3.
- Films and Filming 25. Hansom Books. 1978. p. 46.
- "Silvera Gets Role of Joe in "Ann Lucasta"". The Afro American. December 22, 1945. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- "Silvera Has Top Role in 'Viva Zapata!". Baltimore Afro-American. February 26, 1952. p. 15. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- "Frank Silvera starred on 'Studio One' program". The Afro American. August 3, 1957. p. 7. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- "'Civil Rights' Theater Has New Show on Broadway". St. Joseph News-Press. May 9, 1965. p. 5D. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- "'Chapparral' Actor Dies in LA Area". The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California). 1970-06-11. p. 6-D. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
Frank Silvera, 56, the veteran character actor who spent a week at Fresno State College last fall in an aborted post as artist-in-residence, died earlier today in his home in Pasadena.
- Kirwan, Tom (July 28, 1970). "Frank Silvera ... What Might Have Been". The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California). p. 14-A.
Silvera was the veteran actor who spent a brief and unhappy interlude at Fresno State College last year as an artist-in-residence.
- "Frank Silvera, Actor-Director, Electrocuted in Coast Mishap". The New York Times. June 12, 1970.
- Ceilán, Cynthia (2007). Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed. Globe Pequot. p. 91. ISBN 1-59921-219-6.
- Roberts, Sam (July 6, 2005). "City Groups Get Bloomberg Gift of $20 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- Frank Silvera at the Internet Broadway Database
- Frank Silvera at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Frank Silvera at the Internet Movie Database
- Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Foundation, Inc.
- Frank Silvera at Find a Grave