Actor Henry Silva Has Died At Age 95

The prominent character actor Henry Silva, who typically played menacing or criminal roles and had nearly 200 acting credits to his name including films like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” passed away from natural causes on Wednesday at the age of 95. His son Scott confirmed the news.

One of Silva’s standout roles was Chunjin in John Frankenheimer’s thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). He played a Korean houseboy and Communist agent for Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw. In one scene, he does an exciting martial arts battle with Frank Sinatra’s Major Bennett Marco in Shaw’s New York apartment.

Other notable movies Silva appeared in with Sinatra include the original “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960), which featured several members of the Rat Pack, and 1962 Western “Sergeants 3.” In “Ocean’s Eleven,” he played one of the eleven thieves.

Deana Martin, Dean Martin’s daughter, announced his death on Twitter, “Our hearts are broken at the loss of our dear friend Henry Silva, one of the nicest, kindest and most talented men I’ve had the pleasure of calling my friend. He was the last surviving star of the original Oceans 11 Movie. We love you Henry, you will be missed.”

“Sharky’s Machine” (1981), “Code of Silence” (1985), “Above the Law” (1988),”Dick Tracy”(1990) ,and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”(1999); later in his years, Silva appeared in these movies. His final screen appearance was a cameo 2001 film,”Ocean’s Eleven.”

This is how the opening of a 1985 article by Diane Haithman for Knight-Ridder titled “Henry Silva: The Actor You Love to Hate” began: “His face looms on screen. A face with sharp, high cheekbones and a blunt, tiny nose, a face that looks like it was cut out of steel and always is behind a gun. And eyes that see only the next victim. Cold eyes. The eyes of a psychopath. He doesn’t have to say a thing before you know you hate him. … Silva has made a lifelong career with that face (which, by the way, looks fatherly off-camera).”

Silva told Haithman that growing up in Spanish Harlem helped him for the roles he would later take on in films. “ ‘I saw a lot of things in Harlem,’ he recalled in an accent rich with his New York origins. ‘It was the kind of place where if you lived on one block and you wanted to go a few blocks away, you had to take a couple of guys with you, or else you would get your ass kicked.’ “

The actor, when asked about his illustrious career, responded ” ‘I think the reason that I haven’t disappeared (as a popular “heavy”) is that the heavies I play are all leaders. I never play a wishy-washy anything. They’re interesting roles, because when you leave the theater, you remember these kinds of guys.’ ”

Back in 1957, Silva made a name for himself as the henchman to Richard Boone’s villain in Budd Boetticher’s Western “The Tall T.” He also starred in other Westerns like “The Law and Jake Wade” (he played Rennie, one of the Confederate ruffians led by Richard Widmark) and “The Bravados.”

Fred Zinnemann’s 1957 film, “A Hatful of Rain,” featured Don Murray and Eva Marie Saint. He played Mother, the supplier to Murray’s piteous morphine addict; Silva had created the role of Mother in 1955-56 in the original Broadway production of the play upon which the movie was based featuring Ben Gazzara and Shelley Winters.

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