L.os Angeles / Berlin (dpa) – He works for the homicide squad of the Los Angeles Police Department and is undoubtedly 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 (in the ARD program in 1969 and 1973), “Columbo” was launched as a series in the USA on September 15, 1971. In Germany, these episodes were shown in the first from February 1975 onwards.
Episode three – the first regular series 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: Columbo seems a bit dubious and is easily underestimated – but in the end 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 is one more little thing”.
This was also the case in the 1967 pilot film called “Mord nach seine” (original title: “Prescription: Murder”), in which Gene Barry mimed the clever, ice-cold opponent and the spectacular steel house in the hills of Hollywood served as a backdrop.
A total of about 70 episodes were produced; from 1971 to 1978 and between 1989 and 2003. RTL showed the films successfully for years. This week, for example, one episode will run on Friday on SuperRTL (“Columbo: rest gently, Mrs. Columbo”, September 17, 10:35 pm), on Saturday another one on Sat.1Gold (“Columbo: Blutroter Staub”, September 18, 18.55 Clock).
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 as much as few stars – comparable in Germany with Götz George and “Schimanski”, Horst Tappert and “Derrick” or Claus Theo Gärtner and “Matula”.
“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. But the desk wasn’t for Falk.
He took acting classes, 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 novel “Unterwelt”. Just a year later, the next nomination for his role in Frank Capra’s society comedy “The Lower Ten Thousand” followed. He celebrated other successes in the crime comedy “A corpse for dessert” and in Wim Wenders’ “Der Himmel über 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.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210914-99-209948 / 3