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.