A beloved American actor has died — Peter Falk, best known for his portrayal of Detective Columbo in the television movies series as well as the grandfather in “Princess Bride” has passed away. Closely following the announcement that Glen Campbell has Alzheimer’s, Peter Falk died of Alzheimer’s disease on June 23, 2011, at age 83.
Peter Falk — Man of Adventure
The adventure-loving Peter Falk pursued acting after serving as a Merchant Marine and working on a railroad in Yugoslavia for six months. With a resume that would have made lesser men despair: only average looks, a missing eye, and what some considered a speech impediment, Falk took bit roles in Hollywood until his break out role in as a vicious gangster in 1960’s Murder, Inc. led to several movie roles. However, the character that came to define Falk as much as Falk defined the character was Detective Columbo – a role he played off and on from 1968 through 2003.
In the 1970s, Columbo was the kind of movie parents and kids enjoyed together. There was enough action and suspense to hold the attention of young and old, but there was little overt violence or sexual innuendo. The movie relied on clever writing and Falk’s superb understated acting skills for its success. The story line always followed certain basic themes: a crafty and arrogant criminal would commit the almost-perfect crime. There would be few clues, and the few clues at hand would puzzle and misdirect. Enter Detective Columbo — disheveled, absent minded, congenial, and a bit puzzled. He would almost apologetically interview the suspect and, as the suspect grew more confident and irritated with the plodding interview, Columbo would appear to see things his or her way. They would wrap up the conversation, and as he shuffled away, a bemused-looking Columbo would turn around and add, “There’s just one more thing.” From that point on, the criminal never knew what hit him (or her).
How much of Columbo was Peter Falk? The squinty-eyed look was all Falk, thanks to his glass eye. The raincoat was an old raincoat of Falk’s, and Falk is quoted in Twenty-five Years of Celebrity Interviews, (Fantle, David, and Johnson, Tom, Badger Books 2004) as saying, “I have an obsessive thoroughness. It’s not enough to get most of the details, it’s necessary to get them all.” Obsessiveness was certainly one of Columbo’s qualities. Columbo was unconcerned with how others saw him, somewhat forgetful, and an overall nice guy who was happy with his life. According to an AP article on Yahoo, his friends describe Falk the same way.
One-of-a-kind Actor & Character
Peter Falk created something unique in Columbo, which is why the character remained a popular television fixture for 35 years. He was a one-of-a-kind actor, and his amused squint and the unassuming detective he played will be missed.
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