I was just checking out National Review and saw Shannen Coffin’s post about the death of actor Peter Falk at the age of 83.
Falk had been ill for some time. But actor Michael McKean summed it up succinctly when he wrote on Twitter, “Peter Falk was a dear man and a great actor. This one hurts. RIP, sir.”
In December 2008, Falk’s daughter, Catherine, announced her father was suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Unfortunately, a battle ensued between her and Falk’s wife, Shera, over his care. In June 2009, a doctor testified that Falk no longer remembered his time playing Lt. Colombo.
Of course, Columbo was Falk’s signature role. He was first cast in the role in a 1968 NBC TV movie, Prescription: Murder. The part was originally intended for Bing Crosby. However, he (thankfully) turned it down. It wasn’t until 1971 that Columbo aired as a semi-regular series as part of the NBC Mystery Movie along with McCloud and MacMillan & Wife. I actually had the first season of Columbo on DVD. Unfortunately, it was stolen when I moved several years ago.
Columbo aired on NBC between 1971 and 1978. Falk returned to the role for a series of TV movies he made for ABC between 1989 and 2003. I must admit I am partial to the original series. Still, regardless of the decade in which the show aired, Columbo’s adversaries always made the mistake of judging him by his rumpled trenchcoat which masked a sharp mind.
Of course, Falk was more than just Columbo. He garned two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor early in his career for roles in Murder, Inc. and Pocketful of Troubles. Falk also enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with John Cassavettes in Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence with Gena Rowlands. Younger viewers might remember Falk as the kindly grandfather in The Princess Bride. Falk also played himself in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. As McKean subsequently noted on Twitter, “As many film fans know, Falk was already an angel. The rest is just paperwork.”
Oh, there’s just one more thing. I have long had an affinity for Falk because we share the same birthday — September 16th.
Oh, there’s just one more thing. This time for sure. Here’s Falk (in character as Columbo) at The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast for Frank Sinatra. In addition to the Rat Pack alums, Don Rickles, Rich Little, Dom DeLuise, Jonathan Winter, Redd Foxx and Ronald Reagan were also part of the proceedings.