LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In one published obituary of Henry Silva, a headline perfectly defined him as an actor who “specialized in menace.”
Silva, who crafted a movie career by playing villains and thugs and also was a member of Frank Sinatra’s crew in the original “Ocean’s 11,” the 1960 Las Vegas heist film, died Wednesday, according to his son, Scott Silva.
He was nine days short of his 96th birthday.
Scott Silva told Variety that his father died of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, The Associated Press said.
Silva was a prolific character actor who also had “menacing” roles in another Sinatra film, “The Manchurian Candidate,” a 1962 Cold War thriller that covered brainwashing and an assassination attempt of the president and which also starred Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh.
Silva was a New York City native who dropped out of school as a teenager in the 1940s and was accepted the following decade into the Actors Studio, where fellow students included Shelley Winters and Ben Gazzarra.
He had hundreds of credits before he retired from acting in 2001. His breakthrough role came on stage and screen in the 1950s as a drug dealer in “A Hatful of Rain.”
In the original “Ocean’s 11,” Silva played Roger Corneal, a member of Sinatra’s crew that hatched an elaborate plan to steal cash from several Las Vegas casinos at the same time. The film largely was a showcase for Sinatra and his “Rat Pack” pals, including Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr., and showed Las Vegas nightlife at the start of the decade.
Deanna Martin, Dean’s daughter, wrote on Twitter of Silva’s death: “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.”
In his last film appearance, Silva was cast as a boxing spectator in the “Ocean’s Eleven” remake from 2000 that starred George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Angie Dickinson, who also played in the original, also appeared in the remake.
Silva also was comfortable in Westerns, playing the reptilian gunslinger Chink in “The Tall T,” a 1956 Randolph Scott film, and appearing in such television series as “Wagon Train” and “The High Chaparral.”
Some of his later work was as the voice of the villain Bane in several episodes of the animated “Batman” series on television in the late 1990s.
The Associated Press and KLAS wires also contributed.