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Just One More Thing… Peter Falk R.I.P

June 25, 2011

This is starting to turn into a Pie obituary blog.

Peter Falk, best known as lieutenant Columbo died in his Beverly Hills home at the age of 83. Columbo was one of my favourites among a clutch of fantastic American shows, which featured on our British TV screens in the 70s. This included Ironside, Cannon, Kojak, McCloud and Starsky and Hutch.

The Actor Peter Falk as Leiutenant Columbo

Columbo as a show was excellent because the concept was so simple. Every week, this scruffily dressed and apparently shambolic cop, driving a car that should never had been passed fit for the road, quietly and methodically catches the killer by letting them believe that they had committed the perfect crime and that they were better than him, thus creating the massive hole they were soon to fall into. Wikipedia, that marvellous organ of truth, informed me of his other roles on TV, stage and film, because I’ve only really known him for that role and The Princess Bride. For instance, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the Academy Awards for his role in Murder Inc. He was nominated again for his role in A Pocket Full Of Miracles. Some other films I’d forgotten he’d featured in: It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Robin And The Seven Hoods and The Great Race. And then there’s the small matter of him winning five Emmys (four for his role as Columbo) and a Golden Globe.

When it was announced a few years ago that he had dementia and Alzheimer’s, I felt deep sadness. It is ironic and possibly cruel that the actor who played a cop with a remarkable brain should end his life with his own brain shutting down.

He left a body of work that will be enjoyed again and again by those of us who watched his films and TV shows when they originally aired, and by those who will discover him for the first time. Here’s a clip featuring a montage of murderers from episodes of Columbo and the great man himself, in the style of the Inception movie trailer. It’s not as bad as it sounds!

Rest in peace, Peter Falk. You will be sorely missed.

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24 comments

  1. Columbo is my favourite detective bar none. I am convinced I have seen every episode, even the very early pilots, where he was young, they looked 60’s but they were early 70’s. I absolutely love the man. Watch him every week.


    • I’m with you 100%.

      ITV used to show it on Sunday afternoons until very recently, when it was taken off to accommodate the repeat of Britain’s Got Talent. I used to really look forward to settling down to watch two hours of pure genius. That Sunday afternoon slot has now been filled by Inspector Morse, which is fine as quality shows go, but you just can’t compare it to Columbo.

      I’m going to have to get the box set now so I can wallow in it to my heart’s content.


      • i’m with you on this one pie….love my colombo too! box set – yes please – i’ll be on the look out as well!jx


  2. Falk did have a remarkable body of work, and Columbo is good work to be remembered for. TV allowed him to become famous and financially independent, but his film career prior to that showed he was an actor of great range and skill. Wim Wenders utilized both his Columbo and real persona as a character, implying that Falk (the actor) was a fallen angel in his film “Wings of Desire” (Der Himmel über Berlin). Now he can go back home.


    • “Now he can go back home.” A short sweet eulogy well said.

      I’ve heard so much about Wings of Desire, but have never seen it. Maybe I should give it a go. I should also have a look at Murder Inc. I like a good gangster film. Is it similar to Goodfellas?


      • Murder, Inc is B+W 60s-style noir, like the TV show “The Untouchables”. Entertaining, but pretty cartooney and brainless. Not at all nuanced, with fluid camera and “retro” music as “Goodfellas” was.


        • B/W 60s-style noir like The Untouchables? Even better!


  3. What a great post. Peter Falk will absolutely be missed. I wish I’d seen that video when I did my post!


    • I’ll have a look at your post in the next few hours. It’s stupid O’clock and I need my sleep!

      I found that video by accident while I was looking for another one (which I think was deleted, sadly). The video I originally wanted to post featured Columbo talking to the murderer in one episode (I think it was the one with the wine connoisseur) about how he got the job he is doing now and why he liked it. From what I remember, the point he was making was that although he wasn’t super intelligent, he was a hard worker and because he worked hard and really applied himself, he got to a level where he was very good at his job. So good in fact, that he got his man every single time (well, it is TV after all!). The inception one I found instead, proved to be a very good substitute.


  4. I loved Columbo when it was originally on and now on Sundays. There’s something so comforting and yet so clever about it. Not only are the actors top notch but the way he hunts his glamorous villains is done with such charm, respect and wit that you almost want them to become best friends or even romantic potentials as was the case with Faye Dunaway. I’d never seen Columbo so smitten that he actually let her go. What was always amusing was his relationship with his wife who we never saw. I did a job for Peugot a few months ago as they were hiring actors for training purposes. At their head office showroom, there was one car that stood out to me. The only one I was drawn to. It was a black 403 Cabriolet. I knew and still know very little about cars. But I discovered that this was the make that Columbo made famous. I took a picture next to it and have decided that I am Mrs Columbo in the picture. That picture was taken in March. Perhaps it was an ominous thing to title it, but if I had been old enough….I would loved to have been Mrs Columbo….
    Thank you Peter Falk for being one of those legendary influences of my childhood. x


    • That car…

      It’s such a brilliant tool in the show. I love classic cars, so it particularly tickles me when the characters on the show look on it like something nasty they stepped on, which is how Columbo is treated, until the final reveal. What a lucky thing you were to be so close to that exact model, if not the original car itself. I would like to be able to trump that and get close to his car, but I don’t suppose it exists anymore.

      You’re absolutely right. I couldn’t quite find the right words to describe what makes that show different from many other TV cop shows, but you hit the nail on the head: he treats the villains with respect. The programme makers also treat the audience with respect. It is assumed that we would be willing to follow this languid trail with Columbo, from the time he instinctively knows the identity of the murderer, to the finale when he produces the evidence to prove it. That show is exquisite.


  5. I loved watching Columbo when I was a kid, but came to be surpriseedd as I got older by the amount of Falk’s work that is out there. The older I got, the more of the younger him I discovered on film.


    • Well, Wikipedia certainly threw up things I never knew about in terms of his work. I hope to find time to look at maybe a couple of his film before the end of the year. I’ve just had a look at Amazon UK. It looks like Murder Inc is only on region 1 DVD as an American import – booo!


  6. an immensley watchable actor – timeless
    had an eye removed at 3 yers old due to cancer and was told he would never work as an actor…..what a victorious life RIP


    • Yes, I could’ve mentioned the eye, but I decided people could read the Wikipedia entry I put the link to, or some other source for that information. I’m glad you brought it up, though. It always gladdens the heart to know that whatever your situation, particularly if you’re at a disadvantage, you can use the negativity of the naysayers as the fuel to spur you on to your goal. Peter Falk’s body of work is victory in action. Thanks for your comment, Pluto. Welcome to my blog.


  7. I just came around to check out your blog and I have to say it makes me quite sad. All the actors we have come to love in the past are slowly passing on. I am still trying to figure out your blog and see some posts- it seems quite like an obituary. The new actors can barely touch the toes of these actors of the past. Nice blog…


    • Thanks very much. It’s not an obituary blog, I promise you! It just so happens a fair number of the people I’ve admired have died in the last month or so. I wanted to write about the musician Andrew Gold who died a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t have the time. Have a root around the blog by all means. You are more than welcome to comment if you decide to return. Thanks for having a look at my blog. It’s much appreciated.


  8. can we commission you to write about subjects of our choosing? wimbledon springs to mind – being an avid tennis fan, i’d like to hear your take on the whole thing (not least the D&D turning up today)


    • A more random comment I couldn’t hope to find on an obituary post like this… I like it!

      Well, If I were to be commissioned, I would expect payment, of course. Cash, a bottle of champagne… I’ll take it all!

      As I have no interest in tennis in general and Wimbledon in particular (it’s making my entry and exit at Wimbledon station a nightmare at the moment), it would be a very short post. I will think about it though. Perhaps I could say something. Time to scan the papers I think. Thanks for the suggestion and welcome to my blog.


      • apparently sharapova is marketing her own brand of sweets (they look like tiny tennis balls in one of those cardboard cartons that normal tennis balls come in) called SUGARPOVA !! i want some …

        apologies for trying to hijack your colombo memoirs in this disgraceful way! champagne is brewing …


        • Champagne brewing? Like tea? I think I’ll pass…


  9. columbo WAS the best detective… although i think a moustache might have cemented this fact 🙂


    • A moustache, and a Hawaiian shirt, by any chance?

      Does a moustache make a man? Does everything go better with a moustache? Would Columbo had been taken more seriously with a moustache and therefore not be able to gently roast the villain? These are questions that demand answers. On a postcard only, please. This is a retro post.


      • Oh, how rude of me. I almost forgot to welcome you to my blog.



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