He works for the homicide squad in Los Angeles and is one of the most popular and successful TV investigators in the world: “Columbo”. The first two films with Peter Falk, who died ten years ago at the age of 83, 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.
Episode three – the first regular series episode after the pilot films – was directed by a young filmmaker: Steven Spielberg, then 24 years old. The recipe for success of the series: Columbo seems a bit dull and is easily underestimated. In the end, however, the man with the wrinkled face, the shabby trench coat and the mouse-gray Peugeot convertible convicts even the most cunning perpetrators. Already almost out of the door, he often turned around again: “I have another question”, “I would have one more question”, “There would be another little thing”.
A total of about 70 episodes were produced from 1971 to 1978 and between 1989 and 2003. For years RTL and ORF showed the films successfully.
In high society
Almost every “Columbo” crime story takes place in high society and has the same structure. The spectator 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.
Actor Falk merged with the role like few stars. “Perhaps without Columbo I would have become a better actor,” Falk once mused. 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. After his return, he drifted off into the rocker scene, but then graduated from school and went to the tax authorities after studying administration. The desk wasn’t for him.
Falk took acting lessons, quit the job at 29 and made his way through numerous supporting roles in film and theater. In 1960, Falk was nominated for an Oscar for the first time as Killer Reles in the crime thriller “Unterwelt”. Just one year later, the next nomination for his role in Frank Capra’s comedy “The Lower Ten Thousand” followed. He celebrated other successes in the crime comedy “A corpse for dessert” and in Wim Wenders’ “The sky over Berlin”. Despite the unprecedented film success as Columbo, Falk kept returning to the theater. “You can’t really call yourself an actor if you’re not on stage,” he said.
Falk was married to the actress and ex-beauty queen Shera Danese (now 71) for 33 years, and he had two daughters from his first marriage. Peter Falk died on June 23, 2011 in Beverly Hills.