Henry Silva did a spectacular karate fight with Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate, helped Sinatra rob casinos in Oceans 11, and fought Sinatra as a renegade Indian in Sergeants 3. Then last year he joined Frank Sinatra Jr and a cast of 9 others stars to be in my audio production of McKnight's Memory.
I wanted to have Henry perform the role of a top gangster who plays a dangerous card game with Robert Culp. As Henry made a lot of movies in Europe, my producer Larry Metzger figured it was a long shot to find him. But find him he did, living in Hollywood.
Henry liked the script and joined the cast. We recorded the long card playing scene between Robert Culp. Henry is fluent in Italian so he sprinkled his performance with it, making his role more authentic.
Listening to the playback with Henry, I heard Henry deliver one of the lines strongly and uniquely. The words came flying out of my mouth, "That's classic Silva." Henry looked at me with a big smile.
A few months after doing McKnight's Memory we called him back to the studio to work on Edd Byrnes' audio-book, My Casino Caper. They were close friends and had co-starred in the Roger Corman film The Secret Invasion.
Twenty years earlier Henry had helped Edd get out of a tight spot when Edd was stalked for his three million dollar jackpot win in Las Vegas. So Henry played himself to re-create scenes that happened in the past.
It was so much fun to have Edd, Henry, Alan Young, David Hedison, and Michael Callen in the same recording studio together. There were a lot of laughs during rehearsals. In the middle of the session Henry said, "This is the most fun I've had in weeks." And I can tell you that my partner Larry and I had equal fun on the other side of the glass by the mixing board.
Driving Henry back to his home Larry handed me a CD from the back seat and said, "Play cut number 4." I put the CD in the player, punched number four, and soon Sammy Davis Jr starts singing the title song to 'Oceans 11', that Henry had co-starred in. We all drove in silence and then in the middle of the song Henry said, "This is so great." Of course, Larry and I were in heaven.
After the song finished, Henry told us this story:
"In the '60s, before I had ever met Frank, I was driving down Sunset Blvd with a date and a car pulls up to me and the guy motions to me to turn down my window, so I do. The guy sticks his head out of the window and my date says, 'Oh my God. It's Frank Sinatra.' And Frank yells, 'Hey kid, I like your acting. We're going to work together.' Soon after that I got a call to work on 'Oceans 11'. And then did three more movies together."
A few months later, Larry, my dad, and I met with Henry and Edd for lunch. And that was a 'gasser'. The experience was a 'gasser', not the lunch.
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