Monday, March 16, 2009

Ron Silver — 1946-2009

Ron Silver, an actor and political activist who won several Tonys and worked for both liberal and conservative causes, died Sunday in New York.

Mr. Silver, who won a Tony Award in 1988 in David Mamet’s high-speed Hollywood sendup “Speed-the-Plow,” was known for playing verbally deft, charmingly manipulative characters, and his persona off stage was, if not Machiavellian, then certainly engaging and persuasive. Intellectually curious and informed — he spoke Spanish, studied Chinese and served on committees for the Council on Foreign Relations — he was nearly as connected in Washington as he was in Hollywood and on Broadway, and he had a life away from performing that few other actors could match. Actually he had a performing life that not many actors could match, either.

In an example of art imitating life, in the role of Bruno Gianelli on The West Wing he went from advising the re-election campaign of liberal Jed Bartlet to doing the same for Republican Arnold Vinick four years later. His brother noted his interesting outlook: “Ron’s politics, as far as I know, were not shared by anyone he knew, except for the people he knew because of his politics,” Mitchell Silver said. He paused and added: “He told me that he did vote for Barack Obama in the end.”