Actor Henry Silva dies at 95

Henry Silva, a striking actor who frequently played villains and had credits in hundreds of films including “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” died of natural causes Wednesday at the Motion Picture Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif., according to his son Scott. He was 95.


In 1962, Silva, who was frequently cast as a villain, played Chunjin in one of his most remembered parts, “The Manchurian Candidate.”


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Henry Silva on set of “The Secret Invasion” in 1964.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images file


One of Silva’s most memorable roles was Chunjin, the Korean houseboy for Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw — and an agent for the Communists — who engages in a thrilling, well-choreographed martial arts battle with Frank Sinatra’s Major Bennett Marco in Shaw’s New York apartment in John Frankenheimer’s classic thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962).

Silva co-starred with Sinatra in several additional films, including the original, Rat Pack-populated “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., in which he was one of the 11 thieves), and the 1962 Western “Sergeants 3.”


Dean Martin’s daughter Deana Martin revealed the news of his death on Twitter, writing, “Our hearts are devastated at the passing of our good friend Henry Silva, one of the nicest, kindest, and most talented guys I’ve had the pleasure of calling my friend.” He was the sole surviving cast member from the original Oceans 11 film. Henry, we adore you and will miss you.”

Later in his career, he appeared in Burt Reynolds’ “Sharky’s Machine” (1981), Chuck Norris’ “Code of Silence” (1985), Steven Seagal’s “Above the Law” (1988), Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy” (1990), and Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (1999); Silva’s final screen appearance was a cameo in the 2001 remake of “Ocean’s Eleven


A 1985 article titled “Henry Silva: The Actor You Love to Hate” by Knight-Ridder journalist Diane Haithman started, “His visage looms on screen. A face with sharp, high cheekbones and a blunt, small nose, a face that appears to be made of steel and is always behind a rifle. And eyes that only see the next victim. Cold pupils. The psychopath’s eyes. He doesn’t have to say anything for you to know you despise him. Silva has made a career out of that visage (which, by the way, appears fatherly off-screen).”


Silva informed Haithman that growing up in Spanish Harlem prepared him for the types of parts he would eventually perform in films. ” ‘I saw a lot of stuff in Harlem,’ he said, his voice thick with New York accent. ‘It was the kind of environment where you had to take a couple of guys with you if you lived on one street and wanted to walk a few blocks away, or you’d get your ass kicked.’


“I guess the reason I haven’t faded (as a popular “heavy”) is because the heavies I play are all leaders,” the actor said of his career. I never play a wishy-washy character. They’re interesting characters because you remember these types of individuals after you leave the theatre.”

Silva first made an impression in Budd Boetticher’s 1957 Western “The Tall T,” starring Randolph Scott, as the henchman to Richard Boone’s villain. He also starred in Westerns such as “The Law and Jake Wade” (as Rennie, one of Richard Widmark’s Confederate ruffians) and “The Bravados.”


He’d made his television debut on “Armstrong Circle Theatre” in 1950 and his big-screen debut, uncredited, in Elia Kazan’s 1952 film “Viva Zapata!” starring Marlon Brando.

Silva was twice married 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.

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