Longtime television actor James Farentino dies, 73

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James Farentino

James Far­entino

Tele­vi­sion actor James Far­entino, one of Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios’ last con­tract play­ers in the 1960s, died Tues­day at Cedars-Sinai Med­ical Cen­ter in Los Ange­les after a long ill­ness, his family’s spokesman said. He was 73.

Far­entino took on almost 100 TV roles, includ­ing recur­ring gigs in such shows as Police Story, Dynasty and the orig­i­nal Mel­rose Place. He was well-known for play­ing George Clooney’s character’s estranged father on ER.

The Brooklyn-born actor pro­vided addi­tional nar­ra­tion in the 2001 ani­mated TV-movie The Apos­tle Paul: The Man Who Turned the World Upside Down. He voiced Grungy in the 1994 Aaahh!!! Real Mon­sters episode “Mon­sters, Get Real”/“Snorched If You Do, Snorched If You Don’t.”

Mar­ried four times, Far­entino had a pri­vate life that proved scan­dalous. Fol­low­ing a five-year, on-and-off rela­tion­ship with Frank Sinatra’s youngest daugh­ter, Tina, he pleaded no con­test in 1994 to stalk­ing her after being charged with 24 mis­de­meanor counts of stalk­ing, mak­ing harass­ing phone calls and vio­lat­ing a restrain­ing order.

He was sen­tenced to 36 months’ pro­ba­tion, and was made to take psy­cho­log­i­cal and alco­hol coun­sel­ing. Some in the indus­try treated him dif­fer­ently after­ward, Far­entino said.

My behav­ior was appalling — feel­ing so hurt and rejected that I was the vic­tim when I really wasn’t,” he told the Los Ange­les Times in a 2003 inter­view. “So you inflict your pain on some­one else to make them iden­tify with you.”

Born on Feb­ru­ary 24, 1938, he went through Brooklyn’s parochial school sys­tem befoer study­ing act­ing at the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Dra­matic Arts. He won the The­atre World Award for recre­at­ing the role of Stan­ley Kowal­ski in A Street­car Named Desire in 1973.

In 1991, while film­ing a TV-movie, Far­entino was arrested in Van­cou­ver after Royal Cana­dian Mounted Police inter­cepted a pack­age con­tain­ing 3.2 grams of cocaine being sent to his hotel room. Charged with cocaine pos­ses­sion, he was released on bail.

James Farentino’s first three mar­riages ended in divorce: to actress Eliz­a­beth Ash­ley from 1962 to 1965, actress Michele Lee from 1966 to 1982, and Debrah Far­entino from 1985 to 1988.

He is sur­vived by his fourth wife, Stella Far­entino, whom he mar­ried in 1994 — and from whom he filed for divorce — and sons David and Save­rio. Michelle Lee is David’s mother.

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