“Just one more thing…”

Peter Falk (83) September 16, 1927 – June 23, 2011. American actor Peter Falk died on June 23 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

To generations of people around the world he will always be best known as the disheveled police detective Columbo.

I grew up with Columbo. I remember the show’s first episode way back in 1971 when I was 11 years old. Peter Falk invented a character who was different from any other detective that had come before. He wasn’t the archetypal good-looking hero, for a start, he had a wonky eye and wore a scruffy old raincoat and drove a boring 1959 Peugeot. He didn’t carry a gun or raise a fist in anger and I don’t think the audience ever heard him swear. His only vice was his cheap cigar.

Each episode started with an elaborate murder which was never the work of an evil-looking lowlife but usually a person you would least suspect – a famous actor, film producer, vineyard owner, novelist, all people who thought they were superior to the lieutenant and Columbo was more than happy to let them believe that.

He was like the anti-Sherlock Holmes yet with the same genius for solving homicides and he would quietly patronise his suspects, with lines such as “My wife loves your movies”.

And what of Mrs Columbo? She was like Captain Mainwaring’s wife Elizabeth or Arthur Daley’s ‘Er in doors, only ever spoken of but never seen.

I think it’s fair to say Falk was quite an under-rated performer. He was a well-respected stage actor and made an easy transition into TV and a long line of films.

He won four Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for Columbo and had been nominated twice for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for Murder Inc. (1960) and A Pocket Full of Miracles (1961).

He didn’t really think that he would ever have a lasting film career due to his glass eye, which he lost as a result of a tumour when he was only three years old.

For me, his best work was in films such as the comedy The Great Race (1965), playing Jack Lemmon’s evil sidekick opposite Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood and as the storyteller in the cult classic The Princess Bride (1987).

I can hear Peter now, up in Heaven: “Just one more thing, God… my wife loves your work.”

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.