Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lights Out for Two Stars of My Youth

This was not the best news to hear on an overcast Seattle day:
Actor James Farentino, named Golden Globes’ most promising newcomer in 1967, died Tuesday in a Los Angeles hospital, according to a family spokesman. He was 73.

Brooklyn-born Farentino, who appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows and even earned an Emmy nod for his performance as Saint Peter, died of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital after a long illness, said the spokesman, Bob Palmer.
The CBS News obituary goes on to mention that the once-handsome Farentino starred opposite Patty Duke in Me, Natalie (1969); was part of the cast of notables in Jesus of Nazareth, a 1977 TV miniseries; featured with Kirk Douglas in the 1980 science-fiction film The Final Countdown; was married and divorced four times; and fell into trouble in his later life, including being prosecuted for “stalking his ex-girlfriend Tina Sinatra.

However, it glosses over the two series that really brought Farentino to my attention: The Bold Ones, on which he played lawyer Neil Darrell for three years (1968-1972); and Cool Million (1972), a short-lived component of the original NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie, which cast him as Jefferson Keyes, “an enterprising former CIA agent who set himself up in business as a private eye willing to take any case or solve any problem for a flat fee of one million dollars (refunded if he fails),” recalls The Thrilling Detective Web Site.

Later, Farentino also starred in ABC-TV’s much-hyped high-tech helicopter series, Blue Thunder, a spinoff from Roy Scheider’s 1983 film of the same name. However, it’s as Darrell and Keyes that I shall always remember him best.

Good night, Mr. Farentino. We didn’t know you well enough.

* * *

More unfortunate news, this time from The Boston Globe:
Nicol Williamson, the British actor best known for his role as the wizard Merlin in the 1981 film “Excalibur,” has died of esophageal cancer, his son said Wednesday. He was 75.

His son Luke said the actor died Dec. 16 in Amsterdam, where he had lived for more than two decades.
I don’t believe I ever saw Excalibur. But I remember Williamson well from his starring role as Sherlock Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a 1976 film adapted from Nicholas Meyer’s wonderful 1974 novel of the same name.

When that movie came out, I was living in Portland, Oregon. And I somehow managed to win two free tickets (it might have been through a contest on the radio) to see the film, but didn’t know anybody to invite along with me. So I sat through the entire picture, engrossed by Williamson’s performance as a cocaine-addled Holmes, as well as Robert Duvall’s turn as the indulgent Doctor John Watson and Adam Arkin playing neurologist Sigmund Freud, with my bin of popcorn keeping the seat warm beside me.

In the end, it turned out to be a good memory.


Matt said...

Sad news. Although I only saw him in a few things, my friends and I made much of a scene in Excalibur in which Nicol Willamson's Merlin explained to Arthur that trying to see into the future was a little like biting into a muffin (or some baked good). We mimicked that scene for years. I'd have like to see more of him.

RJR said...

Jeff, ya gotta see EXCALIBUR.