Henry Silva, a striking-looking actor who often played villains and had credits in hundreds of films, including “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” died of natural causes Wednesday at Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland . Hills, Calif., his son Scott confirmed. It was 94.
One of Silva’s most memorable roles came in John Frankenheimer’s classic thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1962), in which he played Chunjin, the Korean housekeeper for Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw — and a Communist agent — involved in an exciting, well-choreographed martial arts battle with Frank Sinatra’s Major Bennett Marco in Shaw’s New York apartment.
Silva appeared in several other films with Sinatra, including the original “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., where he was one of 11 thieves, and the 1962 western “Sergeants 3.” »
His death was first reported by Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana Martin, who wrote on Twitter, “Our hearts are broken for the loss of our dear friend Henry Silva, one of the kindest, kindest and most talented men I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend. He was the last surviving star of the original Oceans 11. We love you Henry, you will be missed.”
In the following years, he appeared in the Bart Reynolds vehicle “Sharky’s Machine” (1981), the Chuck Norris film “Code of Silence” (1985), the Steven Seagal film “Above the Law” (1988), “Dick Tracy ” by Warren Beatty (1990) and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” by Jim Jarmusch (1999); Silva’s last screen appearance was a cameo in the 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven” remake.
A 1985 article by Knight-Ridder reporter Diane Haithman titled “Henry Silva: The Actor You Love to Hate” began: “His face is on the screen. A face with sharp, high cheekbones and a blunt, tiny nose, a face that looks like it’s cut out of steel and is always behind a gun. And eyes that only see the next victim. Cold eyes. The eyes of a psychopath. He doesn’t have to say anything before you know you hate him. … Silva made a lifelong career out of that face (which, by the way, looks fatherly off-camera).”
Silva told Heitmann that growing up in Spanish Harlem helped prepare him for the kinds of roles he would later play in films. “I saw a lot of things in Harlem,” he recalls in a thick New York accent. “It was the kind of place where if you lived on a block and wanted to go a few blocks, you had to take some guys with you or they’d kick your ass.” “
Speaking about his career, the actor told the reporter: “I think the reason I haven’t disappeared (as a popular ‘heavies’) is that the heavies I play are all leaders. I never play anything pleasant. They are interesting roles, because when you leave the theater you remember these kinds of children.’ “
Silva first made an impression as Richard Boone’s villainous henchman in Budd Boetticher’s 1957 Western “The Tall T,” starring Randolph Scott. He also appeared in westerns including “The Law and Jake Wade” (he played Rennie, one of the Confederate fanatics led by Richard Widmark) and “The Bravados.”
In Fred Zinnemann’s A Hatful of Rain (1957), starring Don Murray and Eva Marie Saint, she played the mother, the purveyor of Murray’s sadistic morphine maniac. Silva had created the role of Mother in 1955-56 in the original Broadway production of the play on which the film starring Ben Gazzara and Shelley Winters was based.
In the Audrey Hepburn-Anthony Perkins vehicle “Greens Mansions” (1959), he played the evil son of the chief of a primitive tribe in the Venezuelan jungle. He also played a Native American in “Five Savage Men” (1970) and “Sergeants 3” (1962).
Silva starred as the lead in the 1963 crime drama Johnny Cool, in which his character murders Mafia bosses to gain control of an empire of his own. He also portrayed the title character, a Japanese secret agent previously played by Peter Lorre, in ‘The Return of Mr. Moto” of 1965.
According to an article on the website Cool Ass Cinema, Silva’s “talents as a leading man were not fully appreciated until he went to Europe, where Italian directors used his fierce, intense face after a fiery, scene-stealing performance. in Carlo Lizzani’s thrilling “The Hills Run Red” (1966). “Silva really found his appeal in European action thrillers, as evidenced in Emilio Miraglia’s taut political thriller Assassination (1967), where he is reborn with a new identity, Chandler, trained as a political assassin and used to defeat a international crime syndicate . The actor starred the following year opposite Miraglia in “The Falling Man,” in which he played a cop framed for killing a police informant.
Silva became even busier in the 1970s, playing tough clients on both sides of the law in films made in Europe. He had prominent roles, said Cool Ass Cinema, “in two of Fernando Di Leo’s most accomplished works – ‘Manhunt’ (1972) and ‘The Boss’ (1973) – the second and third of the Mafia trilogy that began with the wonderful kind. classic ‘Milan Caliber 9’ (1972). In “Manhunt,” Silva and Woody Strode played American hitmen out to silence a pimp wrongly accused of missing a shipment of heroin. “The Boss” saw one of Silva’s best performances, playing an assassin working for a mobster. “His role here,” said Cool Ass Cinema, “defined Silva’s signature persona as an unmistakable, almost indestructible presence bearing a cool and calculating demeanor.”
Other European works during the 70s include Andrea Bianchi’s brutal crime drama “Cry of a Prostitute”, Umberto Lenzi’s “Almost Human”, “Manhunt in the City” and “Free Hand for a Tough Cop”, “Weapons of Death” and finally “Crimebusters” of 1979. “Manhunt in the City” showed a somewhat more vulnerable side of Silva as an ordinary man driven to revenge when the law does not punish his daughter’s killers.
In the 1980s he sometimes showed a humorous side as he appeared in roles that parodied his earlier work, such as in “Cannonball Run 2”.
Silva was born in Brooklyn and raised in Spanish Harlem. According to the book Hispanics in Hollywood, his parents were Italian and Puerto Rican. He dropped out of school at 13 and began taking drama classes while supporting himself as a dishwasher and eventually a waiter. Silva auditioned for the Actors Studio in 1955. He was one of five students accepted from a field of 2,500 applicants.
He made his television debut at the Armstrong Circle Theater in 1950 and his big screen debut, uncredited, in Elia Kazan’s 1952 film Viva Zapata! starring Marlon Brando.
Silva was married twice in the 1950s. His third marriage, to Ruth Earl, lasted from 1966 until their divorce in 1987.
He is survived by two sons, Michael and Scott. Scott Silva asked fans to remember his father by commenting on his accounts on social networks: Instagram: henrysilvaofficial; Twitter: @MrHenrySilva and Henry Silva Facebook official.
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