Dennis Farina, a former Chicago police officer turned actor, has died. His representative told the Associated Press that he "died Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after suffering a blood clot in his lung."
Farina served in the Chicago Police Department, reportedly for 18 years. His first acting appearance came in Michael Mann's Thief in 1981. Mann cast him as Jack Crawford in 1986's Manhunter, but his big breakthrough came as Lt. Mike Torello in TV's Crime Story. Mann served as executive producer, which was co-created by Chuck Adamson, who had been one of Farina's police partners.
That show was the first time I saw Farina, who exhibited crisp command and absolute authenticity as the head of Chicago's Major Crimes Unit in the early 1960s. And it was a little bit shocking to learn that he had so little experience as an actor. He always seemed like a natural, no matter what type of character he was playing.
My favorites include his turns in Martin Brest's superb Midnight Run and Barry Sonnenfield's witty Get Shorty, but even when all he was required to do was show up (basically) in small roles -- as in a recent two-episode run on TV's New Girl -- his absolute, grizzled, charming authority, grounded in hard-bitten reality, remained his defining, very appealing characteristic.
Dennis Farina was 69.