Monday, July 22, 2013

The Late Great Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina, who played Lt. Mike Torello on Crime Story and Detective Joe Fontana on Law & Order, died today at the age of 69. The cause was a pulmonary embolism.

Dennis Farina was born in Chicago on 29 February 1944. He attended St. Michael Grammar School and St. Michael Central High there. After graduating high school he served for a time in the United States Army. He worked for a time in the South Water produce market in Chicago. Afterwards he joined the Chicago Police Department, starting out as a patrolman on the city's North Side. Four years later he became a detective. He served on the Chicago Police Department for 18 years.

He began his career as an actor after he met director Michael Mann in 1981, who was scouting locations in Chicago for his film Thief. As a result Dennis Farina received a small role in the film. In the Eighties Mr. Farina appeared in such films as Code of Silence (1985), Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986), Manhunter (1986), Midnight Run (1988), and Men of Respect (1990). It was in 1986 that Dennis Farina was cast in the lead role of Lt. Mike Torello on the TV series Crime Story. While the show only lasted two years, it developed a cult following that it has maintained throughout the years. He also guest starred on such shows as Hardcastle and McCormick, Hunter, Remington Steele, Miami Vice, and China Beach.

In the Nineties Dennis Farina appeared in such films as We're Talkin' Serious Money (1992), Mac (1992), Street Crimes (1992), Another Stakeout (1993), Striking Distance (1993), Little Big League (1994), Get Shorty (1995), Eddie (1996), That Old Feeling (1997), Out of Sight (1998), Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Mod Squad (1999),  Reindeer Games (2000), and Snatch. (2000).  He guest starred on the show Tales From the Crypt.

In the Naughts and Teens he played lead roles in the shows The In-Laws, Law & Order, and Luck. From the Naughts into the Teens he guest starred on the show Law & Order: Trial By Jury and provided the voice of Wildcat on the animated series Justice League. He appeared in such films as Sidewalks of New York (2001) , Big Trouble (2002), Stealing Harvard (2002), Paparazzi (2004), The Grand (2007), Bag Boy (2007), and The Last Rites of Joe May (2011). He is due to appear later this year in Authors Anonymous (2013).

As Crime Story is one of my favourite shows of all time, I always thought of Dennis Farina as Lt. Mike Torello. He was excellent in the role. I suppose this should not have been surprising given the fact that he had experience in real life as a police detective, something most actors never have. Regardless, he could play roles vastly different from Mike Torello and do them quite well. Indeed, on Miami Vice he played what was arguably Torello's polar opposite, mobster  Albert Lombard. While he played both police officers and gangsters quite often, he also played a number of other sorts of roles. In Saving Private Ryan he played a lieutenant colonel in the Army. In Manhunter he played FBI profiler Jack Crawford, tracking down Hannibal Lector. And while Dennis Farina was best known for serious material, he had a flair for comedy. Mr. Farina even won an American Comedy Award for his role in Get Shorty. And he gave a solid performance in the comedy That Old Feeling. Although best known for his roles on Crime Story and Law & Order, Dennis Farina was a versatile actor who could play a wide variety of roles.


Toby O'B said...

I liked him in "Buddy Faro".......

Happy Miser said...

I loved how he would say: "Oh, we're authorized." on Law & Order to people who were reluctant to part with info they thought was privileged info.