Monday, July 22, 2013
RIP: DENNIS FARINA
Dennis Farina, a Chicago native and police officer who turned to acting, has died at 69 in Arizona, his publicist said today. Farina, best known as detective Joe Fontana on the long-running TV series "Law & Order," suffered a blood clot in his lung, publicist Lori De Waal said.
Farina was an 18-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, a detective who moonlighted on Chicago theater stages and in small movie roles. In the 1980s he was on the NBC television series "Crime Story."
He became a full-time actor much in demand for feature films ("Midnight Run," "Saving Private Ryan," "Get Shorty," "Snatch"), TV movies ("The Case of the Hillside Strangler," "Empire Falls") and TV series ("The In-Laws," "Buddy Faro").
He then became one of the stars of "Law & Order," playing tough, nattily dressed Detective Joe Fontana.
Farina was born on Feb. 29, 1944, the fourth son and youngest of the seven children of Joseph and Yolanda Farina. The father was a doctor, the mother a homemaker, and they raised their kids in a home at 549 W. North Ave. in an area that was then a working-class neighborhood with a broad ethnic mix predominated by Italians and Germans.
He went to school right around the corner from his home, at St. Michael's Elementary and St. Michael's Central High School.
After graduating from high school, Farina decided to "get the Army out of the way" and served three years before returning to Chicago. He worked for a while at the South Water produce market until, on the advice of his older brother, a lawyer, he joined the police force and studied criminal justice at Truman Junior College.
In October 2008, Farina became the new host of Unsolved Mysteries when it returned to television with a new five-season, 175-episode run on Spike TV. Farina replaced Robert Stack, who had hosted the series for its entire original 15-year run before his death in 2003. The series would include re-edited segments from previous incarnations on NBC, CBS, and Lifetime (all originally hosted by Stack) as well as several new original stories.
Farina played the title role in a 2011 independent film, The Last Rites of Joe May, written and directed by Joe Maggio, shot on location in Chicago. He co-starred in the 2012 HBO horse-race gambling series Luck, with Dustin Hoffman, directed by Michael Mann. He also had a recurring guest role in 2013 in the television comedy series New Girl.
Farina was married to Patricia Farina from 1970 until their divorce in 1980. They have three sons: Dennis Jr, Michael, and Joseph. His youngest son, Joseph, is also an actor. He has two granddaughters, Brianna and Olivia, and four grandsons: Michael, Tyler, Matthew, and Eric...