Friday, 24 June 2011

Columbo Actor Peter Falk Has Died

Peter Falk, the actor most famous as TV detective Columbo, in the long-running mystery series of the same name, has died at the age of 83.

We knew and loved him as Lieutenant Columbo for his crumpled beige trenchcoat, his shuffling demeanour and the way he'd hesitate on his way out of the door, only to turn back, hold up his cigarette and say, "Just one more thing," before asking the question that would unravel everything and expose the murderer.

Falk first played the part in a 1968 one-off special, and its success led to almost 70 feature-length episodes between 1971 and 2003. Over the years, the show saw him paired with dozens of high-profile guest villains, ranging from Faye Dunaway and Janet Leigh to William Shatner and Dick Van Dyke.

When he wasn't solving mysteries, Peter Falk had a successful screen career, with movie credits including It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), The Great Race (1965), The Cheap Detective (1978) and The Princess Bride (1987).

The German director Wim Wenders, in a nod to Falk's iconic Hollywood status, cast him as a film actor-cum-angel, the actor himself in all but name, in the widely praised poetic fantasy Wings of Desire (Der Himmel ├╝ber Berlin, 1987).

But despite an impressive and varied career, audiences will remember Peter Falk chiefly as Columbo. Lee J Cobb had been offered the part first but was unavailable, although there are unmistakable traces of Falk's Columbo in Cobb's turn as Lieutenant William F Kinderman in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. Bing Crosby was also sought but turned it down before Falk seized the role.

And even though two other actors, Bert Freed and Thomas Mitchell, had played the detective in unrelated stage and TV plays before him, and The A-Team's Dirk Benedict has since played the part in theatres, Peter Falk made the role utterly his own.

The actor had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease in recent years. He was born September 16, 1927, in New York City, and died on Thursday, June 23, 2011, at his Beverly Hills home.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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