Veteran movie and TV actor Henry Silva was always very good at playing very bad, earning a place in viewers’ memories for the intensity of his performances and his unusually cruel, menacingly handsome face.
The peripheral Rat Packer, popular in Hollywood, died Wednesday in Woodland Hills, California, just shy of 96, his son Scott Silva confirmed to The New York Times.
With over 125 credits, Silva was almost always a brute, a killer, a henchman, or — as was par for the course in the movies at the time — drafted to play “ethnic” roles, thanks to his Italian-Hispanic heritage. That meant he might play a Korean on one project and a Native American on the next.
He somehow made his dirty work glamorous, and once said he never went to the same “dark place” when toiling in typecast parts; a veteran of the Actors Studio and of Broadway, it was no wonder.
Among his appearances: “A Hatful of Rain” (1957), “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960), “Johnny Cool” (1963), “Sharky’s Machine” (1981), “Above the Law” (1998), and a career-finale cameo in the 2001 remake of “Ocean’s Eleven,” providing a rare graceful exit for a working actor retiring in his seventies.
Silva was married and divorced three times. He is survived by his two sons.
Dean Martin’s daughter Deana Martin memorialized him on Twitter: