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50 years of “Columbo”: There was still one question

As Inspector Columbo, Peter Falk played his way into the hearts of television viewers around the world. With a trench coat, a cigar and a desolate Peugeot.

“I have one more question.” Almost at the door, often with a cigar in hand, Inspector Columbo threw many criminals off balance with casually asked questions. Whereby he convicted everyone in the decades in which he investigated. The dingy trench coat, the desolate Peugeot, his simply “dog” christened Bassett – all of this is inextricably linked with the figure of the popular detective.

Actor Peter Falk merged with the role. “Perhaps without Columbo I would have become a better actor,” pondered Peter Falk, who died ten years ago, once. His parents, Jewish immigrants from the Czech Republic and Hungary, ran a small clothing and dried fruit shop near New York. At the age of three he lost his right eye during a tumor operation. When he left school to go to sea, the Merchant Navy only hired him in the galley because of the disability. On his return he graduated from high school and went to the tax authorities after studying administration. But the desk wasn’t for Falk.

The first two Columbo films were made as single films for US television. After it was broadcast in 1968 and 1971, “Columbo” was launched as a series on September 15, 1971 in the USA.

Steven Spielberg briefly directed

Incidentally, episode three – the first regular series episode after the pilot films – was directed by a young filmmaker who would later become world famous: Steven Spielberg, then 24 years old. The recipe for success of the series:

The concept of the modest, disorganized investigator who always forgets something and still has a question, already existed in the 1967 pilot “Mord nach seine” (original title: “Prescription: Murder”), in which Gene Barry mimed the clever, ice-cold opponent and the spectacular Stahl House in the Hollywood hills served as the backdrop.

Faye Dunaway was also a guest star.
Faye Dunaway was also a guest star.(c) imago / United Archives (imago stock & people)

A total of about 70 episodes were produced; from 1971 to 1978 and between 1989 and 2003. RTL and ORF showed the films successfully for years.

Almost every “Columbo” crime novel takes place in high society and has the same structure. The viewer always knew more than the inspector (actually Lieutenant Columbo). The killer was always the guest star. Columbo often mentions his wife, but the viewers never see her.

(APA / dp)



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