I just learned that Peter Falk has passed on. Falk played Lt. Columbo in the mystery series, Columbo. Columbo was a cool series because of its celebrities (Johnny Cash, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, etc.), and also because of its usual plot-line. What usually happened on a typical Columbo episode was this: A person (usually someone who was rich, famous, or influential) would commit a murder. Columbo would then investigate the murder, and it was interesting to see the murderer feign sadness when Columbo informed him that the victim had been killed. Because of Columbo’s raggedy raincoat, his disheveled hair, his dumpy car, and perhaps his glass eye, the murderer would underestimate Columbo. As a couple of fraternity brothers who committed a murder said on one episode, “I think Columbo’s parents were related.” Throughout the episode, Columbo would annoy the murderer with his questions. When the murderer thought that Columbo was finished, Columbo would annoyingly say, “There’s one more thing.” On one episode, a murderer was playing golf and about to perform a winning swing, when Columbo rode into the golf course, eager to ask some questions!
It was always funny to see Columbo corner the murderer with evidence, and the murderer would try to refute Columbo’s reasoning, continually in vain. (Columbo usually did not explicitly say “You’re the murderer”, at least not at first, but he presented evidence that did not look good for the murderer.) One of my family’s favorite episodes is where the police commissioner killed his wife for money, and he was trying to pin the blame on a jewel-thief. The commissioner continually urged Columbo to investigate the jewel-thief, but Columbo kept coming back with reasons that the chief’s proposed scenario did not work.
Columbo often solved his mysteries on the basis of little things—socks, nickles, thread, etc. My Dad asked my Grandpa Pate, as we watched Columbo solve a mystery on the basis of socks, “Can you see Columbo rambling on the witness stand about socks?” My Grandpa replied that this was why Columbo tried to wrap things up as fast as he could—so there wouldn’t be a trial!
For an excellent blog post on Columbo, see Michael Westmoreland-White’s Columbo: The Detective as Class Warrior.
Peter Falk also had memorable roles in movies, such as The Great Muppet Caper, in which he played a homeless man. He was also the Grandpa in The Princess Bride, the one who told Fred Savage the story.
It is ironic that Peter Falk passed on this week, since, last week, I was excited to find the episodes of Columbo on Netflix Instant-Play.
R.I.P., Peter Falk.