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Ron Silver, R.I.P.

By admin Published: March 15, 2009
Ron Silver "Find Me Guilty" New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals Loews Lincoln Square New York City, New York 1 March 14, 2006 Photo by James Devaney/ To license this image (7881247), contact WireImage: U.S. +1-212-686-8900 / U.K. +44-207 659 2815 / Australia +61-2-8262-9222 / Japan: +81-3-5464-7020 +1 212-686-8901 (fax) (e-mail) (web site)

The actor has died, the New York Post reports. The obit in the link focuses mostly on Silver's politics, which turned Republican after 9/11, but I'd rather remember him as a fine and charismatic actor. He was one of those guys who, regardless of who else was in the scene, could draw your attention. Something about the intensity in the eyes.

I've been looking over his credits at IMDB and was somewhat surprised by how often he played real people -- including Henry Kissinger, Bobby Riggs, Robert Shapiro, Angelo Dundee. The best of those real-guy parts may have been as Alan Dershowitz in "Reversal of Fortune," opposite Jeremy Irons's Claus von Bulow; I remember Silver's Dershowitz as both compelling and more likable than the real Dershowitz came to be.

He was also intriguing on "The West Wing," though I don't think the part was ever as fully realized on the page as it might have been; Silver's performance indicated there was more to the guy than I remember from his plots and dialogue. Pulp movie guy that I am, I also remember him fondly from "Timecop" and "Blue Steel." Indeed, now that I think about it, Silver was just the right guy for pulp fiction -- hard-nosed, sometimes over the top, but the sort you could imagine being described in one-syllable words by a pithy narrator -- or being the narrator himself.

I think that fits with his apparent knack for David Mamet; he won a Tony award for "Speed-the-Plow." This is from Playbill's obit for Silver:

In 1988's Speed-the-Plow, the pinnacle of Mr. Silver's stage career, he was Charlie Fox, a volatile would-be Tinseltown player who pillories and physically knocks down studio head Joe Mantegna when he sees his big chance at becoming an above-the-title producer slipping through his fingers. Critics praised Mr. Silver's vibrant, volcanic performance, and he took home the Tony and Drama Desks Awards for Best Actor that season.

"Mr. Silver gives the performance of his career," wrote Frank Rich in The New York Times. "While one expects this actor to capture Charlie's cigar-chomping vulgarity, Mr. Silver's frightening eruptions of snarling anger and crumpled demeanor in the face of defeat make what could be another Beverly Hills caricature into a figure of pathos."

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