Even if Nestor Paiva only played in Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature, as the lovable, and sometimes tough, Captain Lucas (pictured above), he would have secured a warm spot in my heart as a beloved genre actor. That he also had significant roles in other 1950s science fiction/horror classics such as Tarantula and The Mole People, as well as later camp classics like They Saved Hitler’s Brain and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, makes him all the more legendary. That’s not even mentioning all of his television work in such series as The Addams Family, Bonanza, and The Andy Griffith Show.
Veteran character actor Nestor Paiva had one of those nondescript ethnic mugs and a natural gift for dialects that allowed him to play practically any type of foreigner. Born in Fresno, California, he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and developed an interest in performing while hooking up with college theatrics. Making his debut in a production of “Antigone,” he played in a Los Angeles production of “The Drunkard” for 11 years, finally leaving the show as his workload grew in number and importance in the mid-40s. Film buffs remember him as the main villain, “The Scorpion” in the wartime classic serial “Don Winslow And The Caost Guard” (1943). In hundreds of film and TV roles from 1938-67 and in an overall career that spanned 40 years, the bald, dark and bulky Paiva played everything from Spaniards, Greeks, Russians and Portuguese to Italians, Indians, Arabs and even African-Americans (the latter on radio). Some were shifty, others excitable, many quite hilarious…and many of them undeserving and small. He died in 1966.
His wife Maxine was once Howard Hughes’ secretary. They married in 1941 and had two children: Joseph Caetano (born 1944) and Caetana Yvette (born 1947).
In 1965 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and, despite extensive surgery that led to the removal most of his stomach, his condition deteriorated and he died the following year.
Parents Francisco Caetano Paiva and Marianna Luiza Freitas were Portuguese immigrants. Nestor was the tenth of twelve children — half of them dying in infancy. His parents owned a grocery store in Fresno.
Initially planned on becoming a teacher and enrolled at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution.
Look through images of Nestor Paiva’s films and television appearances here.