In Memory of Dennis Farina: Ten Vulgar, Unforgettable Lines

The Chicago-born actor passed away today. This is a tribute to the presence he brought to all his characters on screen.

Photo: Yvette Marie Dostatni/Chicago Tribune 

Dennis Farina, the 69-year-old former Chicago cop turned Hollywood tough guy, got a blood clot in his lung and died today in Scottsdale, Arizona. I generally don’t get sad when celebrities die if I did not know them personally. I can simply watch their movies or listen to their music if I want to remember them. That’s as deep as it goes.

But I will miss Dennis Farina. More specifically, I will miss Dennis Farina’s face. Pockmarked, mustachioed, and tan; a nose bulbous and red; the thick white hair somehow projecting both ridiculousness and confidence; a complex array of wrinkles and lines with their own grid system. If I had to draw a picture of old Chicago—the way I always imagine things once were—I would draw Dennis Farina’s head.

In classics like Midnight Run and Get Shorty, his swagger, equal parts ominous and ridiculous, implied a vague sense of danger that kept you on edge. Like he’d just as soon sucker-punch you in the gut as put his arm around you and buy you a drink. Maybe he’d do both.

He specialized in cops and mobsters, short-fused and sharp-tongued vulgarians in tailored suits. In recent TV appearances, he was a detective on Law & Order, a con-man father on New Girl, and a murderous racehorse owner on Luck—and his presence made each show exponentially better.

Sometimes that familiar face worked against him, especially as he appeared up in period movies. When Farina popped up on the battlefield in Saving Private Ryan, I remember laughing, as though he was going to stab Tom Hanks with a pencil for stepping on his combat boots or something. He belonged in casinos or police cars, or on North Avenue, where he grew up—not the beach at Normandy.

Dennis Farina was a good actor, seemingly effortless on screen. But often he didn’t even have to say much, because that tough and funny Chicago face did all the work for him. It told you everything you needed to know.

When he did speak, though, it stuck with you. With a warning up front for vulgar language—of course—here are ten great, unforgettable Dennis Farina lines from his career on screen:

  • “Is this moron number one? Put moron number two on the phone.”
    Midnight Run
  • “They say the fucking smog is the fucking reason you have such beautiful fucking sunsets.”
    Get Shorty
  • “Shut up and sit down, you big, bald fuck. I don’t like leaving my own country, Doug, and I especially don’t like leaving it for anything less then warm sandy beaches, and cocktails with little straw hats.”
    Snatch
  • “It’s oaky . . . Oh, yeah, and smoky. I detect . . . bacon fat . . . laced with honey melon.”
    Bottle Shock
  • “There’s no rule that says that I can’t come over here and fart on your entree. But I don’t do it. Why? Because it’s not good manners.”
    Big Trouble
  • “Buried underneath all of this is a history; history of Las Vegas. It’s the place where Moe Dalitz opened up his first burlesque club. Place where you can find a 13-year-old in a whorehouse if that was your pleasure. It was a place where the Jews and the blacks had to enter the casinos through rear entrances. By the way, on this corner right here, I stabbed a bum.”
    The Grand
  • To Ray, who is wearing an “FBI” t-shirt: “Hey Ray, do you ever wear one that says ‘undercover?’”
    Out of Sight
  • “Good! Godammit, that’s good! Because if you had [slept with my daughter], John, I was gonna kick your balls up into your head and let them rattle around in your skull like dice in a Yahtzee cup. Have a good one.”
    Stealing Harvard
  • “Yeah well, I hope you drive better than you fucking spell, jack-off. My name is Barboni, not Barbone, OK?”
    Get Shorty
  • “Make yourself a sandwich, drink a glass of milk. Do some fuckin’ thing.”
    Midnight Run

We’ll miss you.

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