Henry Silva

BEVERLY HILLS – August 12: Henry Silva at the 24th Annual Golden Boot Awards on August 12, 2006 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA., photo by s_bukley/Bigstock.com

Date of Birth: September 23, 1926

Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.

Date of Death: September 14, 2022

Place of Death: Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: Puerto Rican/Spanish, possibly Italian Sicilian

Henry Silva was an American actor. His films include Ocean’s 11 (1960), The Manchurian Candidate, Johnny Cool, The Secret Invasion, The Plainsman, The Return of Mr. Moto, White Fang to the Rescu, Crimebusters, Alligator, Above the Law, Dick Tracy, and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. He was particularly known for having played roles of a smorgasbord of ethnicities, including Chinese and Japanese, often villains.

Henry was the son of Angelina/Angeline Martinez and Jesus Silva. His mother was born in Puerto Rico. It appears that his father was born in Puerto Rico as well. In the DVD commentary for The Return of Mr. Moto, he said that he was of Spanish and Italian descent.

He was raised mostly by his mother, in Spanish Harlem, Manhattan.

Henry had two children with his former wife Ruth Earl.

Sources: https://major-smolinski.com

Henry Silva on the 1930 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
Henry Silva on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org

8 Responses

  1. jonasbsjr says:

    Well, he looked mostly spaniard with some indigenous spice to it, you can see in his eye shape…

  2. Mr. Postman says:

    How do submissions get accepted with no sources?

    Henry was the son of Jesus Silva and Angeline Martinez. Angeline is listed on the 1930 and 1940 Census as being from Puerto Rico of parents from Puerto Rico.


    She likely had some Spanish ancestry, of course. Silva himself did deny being Puerto Rican in his later years. But numerous articles and interviews with him state that his parents were Puerto Rican or Hispanic.


    Bill Cosby, who was a close friend of his, referred to him as Puerto Rican on one of his albums. I don’t remember which, sorry.

    Henry grew up in East Harlem also known as Spanish Harlem which was predominately Puerto Rican and Italian at the time. It’s totally possible that Jesus Silva had Italian ancestry despite his Spanish/Portuguese name. Henry Silva spoke fluent Italian but that could have been from living in Italy where he made many movies.

    I added the source on Wikipedia many years ago that Silva denied being Puerto Rican after I heard it myself on a DVD commentary from a movie he did. Why he chose to do this after decades of being identified as Puerto Rican is a mystery.

    I think it’s worth noting that Silva played many different ethnicities throughout his career.

  3. andrew says:

    Silva” is not a Sicilian surname, it’s Portuguese or Galician.



    He was Puerto Rican.

    • alexgxo says:

      He probably hid his Puerto Rican roots because back in the Old Hollywood era, being of non-Anglo Saxon/perceived European descent was looked down upon and or, limiting to an actor’s career.

      That’s at least, my theory as to why he only claimed to be Southern European descent. Physically, he never looked full European to me. And I assumed from the part of New York he was from, that his family was Puerto Rican.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.