Frank Silvera

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Frank Silvera
BornFrank Alvin Silvera
(1914-07-24)July 24, 1914
Kingston, Jamaica
DiedJune 11, 1970(1970-06-11) (aged 55)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Cause of deathAccidental electrocution
Resting placeLong Island National Cemetery
EducationEnglish High School of Boston
Alma materBoston University
Northeastern University School of Law
OccupationActor, theatrical director
Years active1934–1970
Spouse(s)Anna Lillian Quarles (m.1942–1963)
Children2
 
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Frank Silvera
BornFrank Alvin Silvera
(1914-07-24)July 24, 1914
Kingston, Jamaica
DiedJune 11, 1970(1970-06-11) (aged 55)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Cause of deathAccidental electrocution
Resting placeLong Island National Cemetery
EducationEnglish High School of Boston
Alma materBoston University
Northeastern University School of Law
OccupationActor, theatrical director
Years active1934–1970
Spouse(s)Anna Lillian Quarles (m.1942–1963)
Children2

Frank Alvin Silvera (July 24, 1914 – June 11, 1970) was a Jamaican-born American character actor and theatrical director. Silvera was known as "the man with a thousand faces" because of his ability to play a wide array of roles.[1]

Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Boston, Silvera dropped out of law school in 1934 after winning his first stage role. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was active in numerous stage productions on and off Broadway and appeared in radio shows. Silvera made his film debut in 1952. Over the course of his 36-year career, he was cast in a wide variety of ethnic roles in film and television. Silvera also remained active in theatre. Silvera was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award in 1963 for his role in The Lady of the Camellias. He founded The Theatre of Being, a Los Angeles theatre for black actors, in 1965. At the time of his death he had a recurring role in the NBC Western series The High Chaparral.

Silvera had been married to Anna Lillian Quarles with whom he had two children; they divorced in 1963. Silvera died June 11, 1970, after being electrocuted while he was attempting to fix the garbage disposal in his Pasadena home.

Early life[edit]

Silvera was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Spanish Jewish father and Jamaican mother.[2][3] His family emigrated to the United States when he was six-years old, settling in Boston.[4] In his youth, Silvera became interested in acting and began performing in amateur groups and at church.[1]

He attended English High School of Boston. Upon graduation, Silvera studied at Boston University and Northeastern Law School.[3][4][5]

Career[edit]

Silvera left Northeastern Law School in 1934 when he was cast in Paul Green's production of Roll Sweet Chariot. He joined the New England Repertory Theatre where he appeared in productions of MacBeth, Othello, and The Emperor Jones. He also worked at Federal Theatre and with the New Hampshire Repertory Theatre. In 1940, Silvera made his Broadway debut in a small role in Big White Fog. His career was briefly interrupted when he joined the United States Navy in 1942 during World War II. Silvera was assigned to Camp Robert Smalls where he and Owen Dodson were put in charge of the entertainment. He also directed and acted in radio programs and appeared in USO shows. Silvera was honorably discharged in 1945. That same year, he joined the cast of Anna Lucasta. He also became a member of the Actors Studio.[1][5][6]

In 1952, Silvera made his film debut in the western, The Cimarron Kid. Because of his light complexion, he was cast in a wide variety of ethnic roles in films and television.[3] Later that same year, he was cast as Mexican General Victoriano Huerta in Viva Zapata!, starring Marlon Brando. The role marked the first time a major motion picture studio cast a non-white actor in the role of a non-white character. Silvera also portrayed the role in the stage production which opened at the Regent Theatre in New York City on February 28, 1952.[6] He appeared in two films directed by Stanley Kubrick, Fear and Desire (1953) and Killer's Kiss (1955). In August 1955, he appeared on Broadway with Helen Hayes in the revival of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, which earned him favorable reviews. In November 1955, Silvera played John Pope, Sr., the Italian father of Ben Gazzara and Anthony Franciosa's characters on Broadway in Michael V. Gazzo's A Hatful of Rain (a role portrayed by Lloyd Nolan on screen). His performance was also praised by critics.[7]

Silvera made guest appearances in numerous television series, mainly dramas and westerns, including Studio One in Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bat Masterson, Thriller, Riverboat, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, The Untouchables, and Bonanza. In 1962, he portrayed the role of Dr. Koslenko in The Twilight Zone episode "Person or Persons Unknown", opposite Richard Long. That same year, he played Minarii, a Polynesian man in the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Marlon Brando. In 1963, Silvera was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as Monsieur Duval in The Lady of the Camellias.

In 1964, Silvera and Vantile Whitfield founded The Theatre of Being, a Los Angeles-based theater dedicated to providing black actors with non-stereotypical roles. One of the theater's first projects was the production of The Amen Corner by the African-American writer James Baldwin. Silvera and Whitfield financed the play with their own money and donations from friends. It opened on March 4, 1964 and went on to gross $200,000 within a year. The play moved to Broadway in April 1965. The play's star, Bea Richards, won critical acclaim for her role.[8]

For the remainder of the 1960s, Silvera continued his career in film and guest starring roles on television. In 1965, he appeared as Gaspar, one of the Biblical Magi in the epic film The Greatest Story Ever Told, In 1966, re-teamed with Marlon Brando for a third time in the Western The Appaloosa. The following year, he portrayed Nick Sorello in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, followed by guest roles on Dundee and the Culhane and The Wild Wild West. He also appeared as a Mexican bandit in the 1967 Martin Ritt Western classic, Hombre, based on the Elmore Leonard novel. In 1969, Silvera had a supporting role as Goatherd in Che!, and as Lobero in the Zapata Western Guns of the Magnificent Seven.

Also in 1969, Silvera was hired as the first guest director at Fresno State College (FSC) with plans which included staging a production of "The Tea Concession" by Henry J. Kemp-Blair, which reversed the racial positions of black and white in a drama about South Africa.[9] He was forced to resign in less than two weeks, when we found himself caught in the middle of administrative shakeups and the aborted hiring of Marvin X in the Black Studies department. "With this upheaval it seemed to blacks and browns that Silvera was part of the package, part of the hardline takeover (at FSC). There was such a sense of despair and betrayal...they took it out on me," Silvera said to David Hale, theater writer for The Fresno Bee, soon after his departure. "It seemed to me they thought I was the agent to smooth things over while the establishment hatched up something else dirty."[10]

At the time of his death, he had a recurring role on the NBC western series The High Chaparral as the Mexican squire, Don Sebastian Montoya. Silvera's final film, Valdez Is Coming, was released posthumously in 1971.

Personal life[edit]

Silvera married actress Anna Lillian Quarles in 1942. They met while appearing in a stage production of Stevedore. Quarles was the sister of historian and educator Benjamin Arthur Quarles. They had two children, Frank, Jr. and Linda, before divorcing in 1963.[1][5][11]

Death[edit]

On June 11, 1970, Silvera was electrocuted while attempting to repair the garbage disposal unit in his kitchen sink.[4][12] Silvera was buried with military honors at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.

Legacy[edit]

In 1973, Morgan Freeman, director/actress Billie Allen, and journalist Clayton Riley honored Silvera and his efforts to support African-American actors and playwrights by co-founding the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Foundation, Inc.

The organization still sponsors promising African-American playwrights. In 2005, the workshop was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.[13]

Selected filmography[edit]

Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
1952The Cimarron KidStacey Marshall
1952The FighterPaulino
1952Viva Zapata!Victoriano Huerta
1952The Miracle of Our Lady of FatimaCouncil Administrator Arturo dos Santos
1953White ManeNarrator
1953Fear and DesireSgt. Mac
1954The Lonely NightThe Narrator
1955Death TideEric Paulsen
1955Killer's KissVincent Rapallo
1956Crowded ParadisePapa Diaz
1959Crime and Punishment U.S.A.Porter
1960Heller in Pink TightsSantis
1960The Mountain RoadCol. Kwan
1960Key WitnessDet. Rafael Torno
1962Mutiny on the BountyMinarii
1963Toys in the AtticHenry Simpson
1963LonniePaco
1965The Greatest Story Ever ToldCaspar
1966The AppaloosaRamos
1967HombreMexican bandit
1967The St. Valentine's Day MassacreNick Sorello
1968The Stalking MoonMajor
1968Up Tight!Kyle
1969Che!Goatherd
1969Guns of the Magnificent SevenLobero
1971Valdez Is ComingDiegoReleased posthumously
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1951-1957Studio One in HollywoodVarious roles2 episodes
1954The MarriageMr. RamonEpisode #1.1
1955Producers' ShowcaseJudgeEpisode: "The Skin of Our Teeth"
1957The Seven Lively ArtsJohnEpisode: "The World of Nick Adams"
1958Wanted: Dead or AliveSheriff Will EchertEpisode: "Sheriff At Red Rock"
1958Playhouse 90Nick SerrelloEpisode: "Seven Against the Wall"
1958Perry MasonJonathan HyettEpisode: "The Case of the Fancy Figures"
1959Alfred Hitchcock PresentsMr. RoderiguezEpisode: "A Personal Matter"
1959Dick Powell's Zane Grey TheaterYsidroEpisode: "Trouble at Tres Cruces"
1959DecoyAndrew GarciaEpisode: "Across the World"
1959Bat MastersonGrasiaEpisode: "The Romany Knives"
1959The LineupPapa VanettiEpisode: "My Son is a Stranger"
1959The Man From BlackhawkKiczekEpisode: "The Gypsy Story"
1960Johnny RingoBevinettoEpisode: "Shoot the Moon"
1960The Law and Mr. JonesGarciaEpisode: "Music to Hurt By"
1960ThrillerCesare Romano/Charlie RomanEpisode: "The Guilty Men"
1960Hong KongKivoriEpisode: "Freebooter"
1960The RebelCotaEpisode: "Deathwatch"
1960RiverboatColonel AshleyEpisode: "Devil in Skirts"
1960The UntouchablesDino PatroneEpisode: "A Seat on the Fence"
1961-1964BonanzaVarious roles2 episodes
1962The Twilight ZoneDr. KoslenkoEpisode: "Person or Persons Unknown"
1962The New BreedJohn HernandezEpisode: "My Brother's Keeper"
1962The BeachcomberVarious roles2 episodes
1962The Dick Powell ShowEpisode: "Borderline"
1963The DefendersBallinEpisode: "The Last Illusion"
1963The Travels of Jaimie McPheetersThe Indian, Speaks to the WindEpisode: "The Day of the Taboo Man"
1964The Great AdventureGambiEpisode: "The Pirate and the Patriot"
1964ChanningEpisode: "Memory of a Firing Squad"
1964The Alfred Hitchcock HourAlejandroEpisode: "The Life Work of Juan Diaz"
1964Mr. NovakAndy TownerEpisode: "Boy Under Glass"
1964-1965Kraft Suspense TheatreVarious roles2 episodes
1965Profiles in CourageEpisode: "Hamilton Fish"
1965Daniel BooneMarcel BouvierEpisode: "Daughter of the Devil"
1965RawhidePajaritoEpisode: "El Hombre Bravo"
1965GunsmokeJohn DragoEpisode: "Death Watch"
1966I SpyMunozEpisode: "Crusade to Limbo"
1966The Rat PatrolArab LeaderEpisode: "The Chain of Death Raid"
1966Run for Your LifeEstebanEpisode: "The Shock of Recognition"
1967Dundee and the CulhaneLuis MontoyaEpisode: "The Vasquez Brief"
1967The Wild Wild WestEl SordoEpisode: "The Night of Jack O'Diamonds"
1967-1970The High ChaparralDon Sebastian Montoya14 episodes
1968The Young LonerCarlosTelevision film
1968-1971The Wonderful World of DisneyCarlos4 episodes
1969Marcus Welby, M.D.Nick EugenidesEpisode: "The Vrahnas Demon"
1970The Flying NunThomas Sebastien MartinezEpisode: "No Tears for Mrs. Thomas"
1970Hawaii Five-OFrank KuakuaEpisode: "Paniolo"
1971The Boy from Dead Man's BayouTelevision film
Aired posthumously
1976Perilous VoyageGen. SalazarTelevision film
Aired posthumously

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Hinton, Garfield (April 2, 1957). "The 'man with a thousand faces' comes to Baltimore". Baltimore Afro-American. p. 6. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ Rodriguez, Clara (2008). Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood. Oxford University Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-19-533513-9. 
  3. ^ a b c Berry, Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2007). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema 12. Scarecrow Press. p. 310. ISBN 0-8108-5545-3. 
  4. ^ a b c Films and Filming 25. Hansom Books. 1978. p. 46. 
  5. ^ a b c "Silvera Gets Role of Joe in "Ann Lucasta"". The Afro American. December 22, 1945. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Silvera Has Top Role in 'Viva Zapata!". Baltimore Afro-American. February 26, 1952. p. 15. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Frank Silvera starred on 'Studio One' program". The Afro American. August 3, 1957. p. 7. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ "'Civil Rights' Theater Has New Show on Broadway". St. Joseph News-Press. May 9, 1965. p. 5D. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ "'Chapparral' Actor Dies in LA Area". The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California). 1970-06-11. p. 6-D. Retrieved 2013-08-16. "Frank Silvera, 56, the veteran character actor who spent a week at Fresno State College last fall in an aborted post as artist-in-residence, died earlier today in his home in Pasadena." 
  10. ^ Kirwan, Tom (1970-07-28). "Frank Silvera...What Might Have Been". The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California). p. 14-A. Retrieved 2013-08-16. "Silvera was the veteran actor who spent a brief and unhappy interlude at Fresno State College last year as an artist-in-residence." 
  11. ^ "Frank Silvera, Actor-Director, Electrocuted in Coast Mishap". The New York Times. June 12, 1970. 
  12. ^ Ceilán, Cynthia (2007). Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed. Globe Pequot. p. 91. ISBN 1-59921-219-6. 
  13. ^ Roberts, Sam (July 6, 2005). "City Groups Get Bloomberg Gift of $20 Million - New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 

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