Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Stalked Tina Sinatra

James Farentino


In "Violent Midnight," he was prettier than his costar,
Sylvia Miles.

He made his Broadway debut in the original production of Night of the Iguana, as one of the scantily clad houseboys, opposite star Bette Davis.  He went on to a substantial stage career, during which he played both sons of Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. 

He played Happy opposite Lee J. Cobb's Willie,
then played Biff opposite George C. Scott's.

"The Bold Ones"
 His television career was even more boisterous, and included a starring role in The Bold Ones, and many guest gigs.  He first popped onto my radar when he starred with Patty Duke in a little one-act play which was filmed for PBS's Hollywood Television Theater back in 1971.  Birdbath, which is largely forgotten today, was a breakout script for Leonard Melfi, and the TV version was part of the ongoing commitment PBS used to fulfill, to bring various theatrical treats to the viewing public.  Duke and Farentino were dynamite in the play, a two-hander about two lonely souls who connect at a diner and spend the night together.
"Birdbath" provided rich roles for James and Patty.
Plus Farentino stripped to his underwear.
Patty and James also costarred in the feature film Me, Natalie,for which Duke won the Golden Globe. 

With Faye Dunaway, as the
non-musical Perons

Farentino won a Golden Globe himself, back when they used to give awards to Most Promising Newcomer.  He earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Peter in the acclaimed mini-series directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Jesus of Nazareth.  James played Juan Peron opposite Faye Dunaway's Evita, and was a regular player on Dynasty and ER, where he played George Clooney's father. 
With George Clooney, "ER"

With Timothy Dalton and Joan Collins,
"Dynasty," 1982
 Farentino led a tumultuous private life, with failed marriages to Elizabeth Ashley and Michelle Lee, among others.  He was arrested in Canada on a cocaine charge, and when he tossed an intruder off his property, he was sued for battery.  He felt his career was derailed by his unfortunate obsession with one-time girlfriend Tina Sinatra.  The relationship ended so badly that a restraining order was issued to keep him away from her;  Tina's father Frank spread the word that hiring Farentino would be a slap in the face to himself, initiating a blacklist of sorts. 

James Farentino died in January, from complications caused by a broken hip.  He was 73.

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