port of harlem magazine
Theo Hodge, Jr. M.D.
Name the Known Black Actor Who Played White Roles in the 1950s

Feb 22 – Mar 06, 2024
Frank Silvera

I got my first memorable glimpse of Frank Silvera recently (July 24, 1914 – June 11, 1970) on an original Perry Mason’s rerun, “The Case of the Fanny Figures.” The original aired in 1958.

After noticing that he did not “look” White by American standards, I looked him up and learned that as on the original Perry Mason, Silvera also played the leading White man on Broadway. He wasn’t able to play a Black man until he financed his own production of “The Amen Corner” by James Baldwin.

Jamaican by birth, his mother was a mixed-race Jamaican, Gertrude Bell, and father a Portuguese Jew, Alfred Silvera. The actor Silvera also had major roles as a Hispanic, Chinese, Tahitian, and Italian.

It was in November 1955 that he portrayed John Pope, Sr., the Italian father of Ben Gazzara and Anthony Franciosa's characters on Broadway in “A Hatful of Rain.”
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