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Henry Silva Dead at 95, Cause of Death

BY Sharmeen Hussain Sep 17, 2022. 10:36 am UPDATED: Sep 17, 2022. 10:36 am

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Henry Silva, a charismatic performer with roles as villains in numerous movies like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” passed away on Wednesday at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, according to his son Scott. He was 95.

In John Frankenheimer’s timeless thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), Silva played Chunjin, the Korean houseboy for Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw who doubles as a Communist agent and engages in an exciting, choreographed martial arts duel with Frank Sinatra’s Major Bennett Marco in Shaw’s New York apartment. This was one of Silva’s most iconic roles.

Silva starred alongside Sinatra in a number of other films, such as the 1960 Rat Pack classic “Ocean’s Eleven,” which also starred Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., and the 1962 Western “Sergeants 3.”

Dean Martin’s daughter Deana Martin posted on Twitter, “Our hearts are devastated at the loss of our beloved friend Henry Silva, one of the nicest, kindest and most talented guys I’ve had the pleasure of calling my friend,” as the first to report his passing. He was the final surviving member of the cast of the first Oceans 11 film. Henry, you are loved and will be missed.

His other acting credits include roles in “Sharky’s Machine” (1981), “Code of Silence” (1985), “Above the Law” (1988), “Dick Tracy” (1990), and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (1999). In 2001, Silva made a brief cameo in the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.”

A 1985 article by Knight-Ridder journalist Diane Haithman headlined “Henry Silva: The Actor You Love to Hate” began this way: “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 prepare him for the kinds of roles he would later play in movies. “ ‘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.’ “

Speaking of his career, the actor told the journalist, ” ‘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.’ ”

Silva first gained attention as the sidekick to Randolph Scott and Richard Boone’s villain in Budd Boetticher’s 1957 Western “The Tall T.” In the Westerns “The Law and Jake Wade” and “The Bravados,” he played Rennie, one of the Confederate outlaws headed by Richard Widmark.

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He played Mother, the supplier to Don Murray’s pitiful morphine addict in Fred Zinnemann’s 1957 film “A Hatful of Rain,” which starred Eva Marie Saint and Ben Gazzara. Silva had originally created the role of Mother in the play’s 1955–56 Broadway production, which featured Ben Gazzara and Shelley Winters.

He portrayed the malevolent son of the head of a primitive tribe in the Venezuelan jungle in the Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins movie “Greens Mansions” (1959). He also portrayed a Native American in the 1970s films “Five Savage Men” and “Sergeants 3.” (1962).

In the 1963 crime drama “Johnny Cool,” in which Silva played the title role, his character kills Mafia leaders to seize power over his own empire. In 1965’s “The Return of Mr. Moto,” he also performed the title role, a Japanese secret agent previously played by Peter Lorre.

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