Frank Alvin Silvera, the 20th Century Actor with a Thousand Faces


By: Jae Jones

The man with a thousand faces, Frank Alvin Silvera was one the 20th Century’s greatest character actors. Silvera was known for his ability to play a wide array of roles because of his light-skinned complexion. Silvera was often casted as Indian, Black, Latino, Mexican and White. He was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award in 1963 for his role in The Lady of the Camellias. Silvera founded The Theatre of Being, a Los Angeles theatre for Black actors, in 1965. Not only did Silvera look different roles, he was also able to sound the part of any race or nationality, this is what made him so unique, and often offered leading roles. He was the son of a Spanish Jewish father and a mixed-race Jamaican mother.

Silvera was a graduate of English High School of Boston and he later studied at Boston University, and then went on to Northeastern Law School. He dropped out of law school in 1934 after winning his first stage role in Roll Sweet Chariot a production of Paul Green. He later joined the New England Repertory Theatre where he appeared in MacBeth, Othello and Emperor Jones. His career was soon put on hold because of enlisting in the United States Navy during World War II. He was however, assigned to Camp Robert Smalls where he and Owen Dodson were in charge of entertainment. He received an honorable discharge in 1945, and then joined the cast of Anna Lucasta and became a member of the Actors studio.

According to Silvera’s obituary in the New Pittsburgh Courier on June 27, 1970, “a white bad man in Killer with a Gun, a South American revolutionist in The Naked Hunt, a Chinese Colonel in The Mountain Road, a Mexican detective in Key Witness and a Tahitian chieftain in Mutiny on the Bounty.” Silvera is credited for being in at least 77 movie roles.


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