Vale: Peter Falk
Peter Falk, best known as the cigar-smoking, rumpled raincoat-wearing Lt. Columbo, died on Thursday, aged 83.
Peter Falk, best known as the rumpled raincoat-wearing Lt. Columbo, died on Thursday, aged 83.
Falk, who reportedly suffered from dementia, died at his home in Beverly Hills.
In a more than 50-year acting career that spanned Broadway, movies and television, Falk appeared in more than 50 feature films, including A Woman Under the Influence, Husbands, Luv, Mikey and Nicky, The In-Laws, Wings of Desire, The Great Race, The Cheap Detective, Cookie, and The Princess Bride.
Early TV roles included The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Dr. Kildare, Naked City, Wagon Train, The Untouchables, Camera Three, New York Confidential.
But nothing Falk did came close to matching the acclaim and popularity he found playing the title role in Columbo, the crime-drama for which he won four of his five Emmys. His career defied the limitations many expected of an actor who had a glass eye.
Launched with two TV-movies starring Falk — Prescription: Murder in 1968 and Ransom for a Dead Man in 1971 — Columbo began in 1971 as one of three 90-minute shows on the “NBC Sunday Mystery Movie,” alternating with McMillan and Wife, starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, and McCloud starring Dennis Weaver.
The format of the series, created by Richard Levinson and William Link, inverted the classic detective formula: The TV audience already knew whodunit when Columbo arrived on the scene of the crime. The enjoyment for viewers was in seeing how Columbo doggedly pieced the clues together. As he said in one episode, “I have this bug about tying up loose ends.”
With his tousled dark-brown hair, a cheap cigar wedged between his fingers and his lived-in tan raincoat, the endearingly likable lieutenant was as unprepossessing as the faded old Peugeot he drove. Head cocked, slightly hunched and his hand occasionally rubbing his furrowed forehead, he may have appeared to be absorbing nothing, but he missed nothing.
For the prime suspect, that was never more clear than when Columbo headed to the door, stopped and, in his gravelly voice, said, “Oh, there’s just one more thing …”