Ed Driscoll

RIP Dennis Farina, Age 69

CBS Chicago is reporting that the veteran actor “died Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after suffering a blood clot in his lung. He was 69.” They’re playing up his two years as Jerry Orbach’s initial replacement on Law & Order, particularly since, as CBS notes, Farinia “was the only actor on ‘Law & Order’ who actually served in law enforcement, serving as a Chicago police officer for 18 years,” before becoming an actor at age 37. But the show to look for is Crime Story, which Michael Mann produced as his follow-up to Miami Vice (where Farina appeared in three episodes as a Godfather-esque Mafioso), and is available for rental on Netflix.

Crime Story began to fizzle near the end of its first season, but the first 18 or so episodes, set in Chicago, before the series relocated in Las Vegas, were great fun to watch. Set in the Mies van der Rohe-era Chicago of the early, pre-Maranda JFK ’60s, it was sort of Mad Men meets Goodfellas, (years before each of those titles) with plenty of smoking, skinny ties, and fedoras, and features a highly watchable blend of Vice-like cinematography, which was still unique for television in the mid-’80s, and the great duel of wits (and occasionally guns, fists, etc.) between Farina’s tough Chicago PD lieutenant and Tony Denison as Ray Luca, the show’s lead gangster. (Denison is now a co-star on TNT’s Major Crimes series.)

Farina was also very good in Mann’s atmospheric 1986 movie Manhunter, co-starring as FBI agent Jack Crawford, in the first big screen adaptation of Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, which featured Brian Cox Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a sinister supporting role. RIP.