Actor James Farentino, whose private life was sometimes as dramatic as the roles he played in theater and on television, died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 73 and had suffered from a lengthy illness, said family spokesman Bob Palmer.
Best known for his TV work, Farentino was one of the last contract performers with Universal Studios in the 1960s. His nearly 100 roles included recurring appearances in such series as “The Bold Ones: The Lawyers,” “Dynasty,” “Blue Thunder” and “Police Story.”
Born Feb. 24, 1938, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a clothing designer trained for the stage at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before launching his career with a 1961 Broadway appearance in “Night of the Iguana.” His film roles included “The Pad and How to Use It” (1966), “Me, Natalie” (1969) and “The Final Countdown” (1980). His most recent credit was in the 2006 TV movie “Drive/II.”
Farentino was married and divorced three times. He is survived by his fourth wife, Stella, whom he married in 1994, and by two sons, David and Saverio.
In 1992, he teamed up with one of his ex-wives, Michele Lee, for the TV movie “When No One Would Listen,” a drama involving an abusive husband played by Farentino.
But it was his relationship with ex-girlfriend Tina Sinatra that earned him headlines and briefly derailed his acting career.
In 1994 Farentino pleaded no contest to stalking singer Frank Sinatra’s youngest daughter after being charged with 24 misdemeanor counts of stalking, making harassing phone calls and violating a restraining order to stay away from her. The pair had previously had a stormy, five-year off-and-on relationship.
Farentino was placed on 36 months’ probation and ordered to undergo psychiatric and alcohol counseling.
He later acknowledged that the fallout from those charges resulted in his being cast in clunkers such as 2001’s “Women of the Night.”
“The roles started to get smaller and smaller with less value, and it was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ ” he told The Times in a 2003 interview.
“My behavior was appalling — feeling so hurt and rejected that I was the victim when I really wasn’t. So you inflict your pain on someone else to make them identify with you.”
Farentino complained that studio executives marginalized him after the stalking case. “There are people in this business that for years said, ‘He’s an alcoholic. He’s a drunk. He stalked Tina.’ Clamps were put on me in many ways,” he said to The Times.
His comeback came in a role in a 2003 Geffen Playhouse production of “Boy Gets Girl.”
Ironically, the play’s story line centered on a character who is stalked by a spurned admirer.