Henry Silva was born on September 15, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York City. He quit public school to attend drama classes at age 13, supporting himself as a dishwasher in a Manhattan hotel. By 1955, Silva had moved up from dishwasher to waiter, and felt ready to audition for the Actors Studio. He was one of five students chosen out of more than 2500 applicants. When the Actors Studio staged Michael V. Gazzo’s play “A Hatful of Rain” as a classroom project, it proved so successful it came to Broadway–with students Ben Gazzara, Shelley Winters, Harry Guardino, Anthony Franciosa and, of course, Silva in key roles. Called to Hollywood, he played a succession of heavies in films, including The Bravados (1958), Green Mansions (1959), Ocean’s 11 (1960), The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Johnny Cool (1963).
An Italian producer made Henry an offer he could not refuse–to star as a hero for a change–and he moved his family overseas. Silva’s turning-point picture was a spaghetti Western, The Hills Run Red (1966), which made him a hot box office commodity in Spain, Italy, Germany and France. His popularity was enhanced by a gift for languages. He speaks Italian and Spanish fluently and has a flair for the kind of gritty, realistic roles that also catapulted Charles Bronson to European stardom. Returning to the United States, he co-starred with Frank Sinatra in the film Contract on Cherry Street (1977), then signed on as Buck Rogers’ evil adversary Kane in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979) and the television series of the same name. Silva now calls the San Fernando Valley home, but makes continual film forays back to Europe’s production centers. A dedicated jogger, he puts in five miles a day “to keep in shape and relieve tension”.
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