Howard Da Silva was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on 4th May, 1909. Both is parents were Jewish who had emigrated from Russia. Da Silvia moved to New York City with the desire to become an actor and in 1931 joined the Group Theatre. Formed by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg, the Group was a pioneering attempt to create a theatre collective, a company of players trained in a unified style and dedicated to presenting contemporary plays. Others involved in the group included Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, John Garfield, Luther Adler, Will Geer, Franchot Tone, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Paul Green, Clifford Odets, Paul Strand, Kurt Weill and Lee J. Cobb. Members of the group tended to hold left-wing political views and wanted to produce plays that dealt with important social issues. Aaron Copland major contribution was writing the music for Quiet City, a play written by Irwin Shaw. Da Silvia was eventually employed by the Federal Theatre Project.
In 1937 Marc Blitzstein worked with Orson Welles and John Houseman in order to put on this musical about the tyranny of capitalism. Houseman argued that Blitzstein, described as "a play with music (while others, at various times, called it an opera, a labour opera, a social cartoon, a marching song and a propagandistic tour de force)". Welles later recalled: "Marc Blitzstein was almost a saint. He was so totally and serenely convinced of the Eden which was waiting for us all the other side of the Revolution that there was no way of talking politics to him.... When he came into the room the lights got brighter. He was a an engine, a rocket, directed in one direction which was his opera - which he almost believed had only to be performed to start the Revolution." The original production of The Cradle Will Rock, with Howard da Silva and Will Geer, was banned for political reasons. It eventually was performed at the Mercury Theatre (108 performances).
Howard Da Silva moved to Hollywood where he acted in several films including Spirit of the People
(1940), I'm Still Alive (1940), Strange Alibi (1941), The Sea Wolf (1941), Sergeant York (1941), Blues in the Night (1941), Bad Men of Missouri (1941), Native Land (1942), Five Were Chosen (1942), Keeper of the Flame (1942), The Lost Weekend (1945), Two Years Before the Mast (1946), The Blue Dahlia (1946), Unconquered (1947) and Blaze of Noon (1947).
In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". When Robert Taylor was interviewed he claimed: "I can name a few who seem to sort of disrupt things once in a while. Whether or not they are Communists I don't know. One chap we have currently, I think is Howard Da Silva. He always seems to have something to say at the wrong time."
Howard Da Silvia was called before the HUAC on 21st March, 1951 but he refused to answer questions: "I refuse to answer the question on the following basis: The first and fifth amendments and all of the Bill of Rights protect me from any inquisitorial procedure, and I may not be compelled to cooperate with this committee in producing evidence designed to incriminate me and to drive me from my profession as an actor. The historical origin of the fifth amendment is founded in the resistance of the people to attempts to prosecute and persecute individuals because of their political views." As a result of his unwillingness to answer questions he was blacklisted.
After the blacklist was lifted Howard Da Silva appeared a great deal on television. He also had parts in David and Lisa (1962), Hamlet (1964), The Outrage (1964), Nevada Smith (1966), The Great Gatsby (1974), Hollywood on Trial (1976), Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977) and Mommie Dearest (1981).
I refuse to answer the question on the following basis: The first and fifth amendments and all of the Bill of Rights protect me from any inquisitorial procedure, and I may not be compelled to cooperate with this committee in producing evidence designed to incriminate me and to drive me from my profession as an actor. The historical origin of the fifth amendment is founded in the resistance of the people to attempts to prosecute and persecute individuals because of their political views.