Of Sicilian and Spanish descent.
Provides an audio commentary for the DVD version of The Return of Mr. Moto (1965) (part of the special features in Peter Lorre's Mr. Moto DVD collection). While making minimal comments about that movie itself, he does address the issue of his heritage. Wryly noting he had been assumed to be everything, including Russian, he specifically denied being of Puerto Rican heritage, which is the most commonly reported. He states that his mother was from Northern Spain and that his father was Italian. He was born in Brooklyn but left there when he was only five months old. His father left his mother when Silva was only three months old. Silva says that he was only eight years old when he decided to become an actor, although he didn't do anything about it until his teens. His inspiration was primarily his mother. Apparently she was a story-teller and, upon returning from shopping, would fill their apartment with vivid characterizations of the grocer, baker etc. Silva concludes by noting that he thinks of his mother every day.
The 1930 census lists him (as "Harry") living with his divorced mother in Manhattan. This census entry gives both his parents' birth places as "Porto Rico".