“Actor Dennis Farina has died, at 69, after being hospitalized in Scotsdale, Arizona with a blood clot on his lung,” reports Phil Dyess-Nugent at the AV Club. “Farina was a Chicago police detective in his mid-thirties when he was hired by Michael Mann to serve as a consultant and play a small part as a thug in Mann’s first feature film, Thief (1981). Farina caught the acting bug, and happily, thanks to the rising prominence of the Chicago theater scene and the city’s popularity as a film location, he was able to hone his chops and build up his resume without quitting his day job.”
“Mann gave him a guest-starring role on his landmark NBC series Miami Vice and then cast him as FBI agent Jack Crawford in his 1986 thriller, Manhunter,” notes Susan King in the Los Angeles Times. “It wasn’t until he landed the starring role in Mann’s atmospheric NBC detective series Crime Story in 1986, as Chicago Det. Mike Torrello, that Farina finally turned in his badge and retired from the police force. Though his acting career saw him mostly in tough-guy roles—notably as mobster Jimmy Serrano in the Robert De Niro-Charles Grodin film Midnight Run—Farina proved to be a versatile character actor, playing Jennifer Lopez’s concerned dad in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, Bette Midler’s ex-husband in the 1997 comedy That Old Feeling and an Army officer in Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan.”
Listening (15’30”). Movie Geeks United has posted a special memorial edition of their podcast.
Viewing. The Chicago Tribune gathers video reports and clips highlighting Farina’s performances. Even better: Watch Matt Zoller Seitz‘s 2009 video essay on Crime Story for Moving Image Source.
Updates, 7/24: “If Dennis Farina had come up in the forties,” suggests Matt Zoller Seitz in Vulture, “he might have made three movies with Humphrey Bogart—one where he killed Bogart, another where he helped Bogart get the girl, and another one in which Bogart killed Dennis Farina, most likely in a hail of bullets.” Farina “had a pre-World War II Warner Bros. gangster movie face: pockmarked, with dark eyes and a walrus mustache. He also had an authentic and very thick Shu-CAHH-go accent because he was a Chicago guy through-and-through, with a mug that Chicago Tribune writer Rick Kogan said ‘should be found at dawn, unloading crates of lettuce from the back of a truck on Randolph Street.'”
“He was the thespian equivalent of a weathered silver dollar or a V-8 getaway car; a durable classic they don’t make anymore,” writes Time‘s James Poniewozik. “Yet Farina was a real actor, not jut a lucky beneficiary of casting. He could swear like a poet but also do comedy and play the nice guy. Late in his career, he held his own with Dustin Hoffman as a mobster’s empathetic confidante in HBO’s Luck, and one of his last roles was a comic turn in Fox’s sitcom New Girl. The law made him, and his most memorable roles brought the law, and law-breakers, alive. That he was taken at age 69 was a crime.”
“He had enormous ease in front of the camera, and could be wildly funny and charming, but there was always something behind his eyes suggesting that the disarming smile could go away in an instant and be replaced by something very cold and hard and dangerous,” writes Alan Sepinwall at HitFix.
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