Show-business history records that the American actor Peter Falk, who has died aged 83, made his stage debut the year before he left high school, presciently cast as a detective. Despite the 17-year-old’s fleeting success, he had no thoughts of pursuing acting as a career – if only because tough kids from the Bronx considered it an unsuitable job for a man. Just 24 years later, Falk made his first television appearance as the scruffy detective, Columbo, not only becoming the highest paid actor on television – commanding $500,000 an episode during the 1970s – but also the most famous.

-Absolutely, Sir. Thank you very much, Sir.
(Walks to the door, then turns around)
-Er … Just one more question, Sir.

This became a cliché, and as much as I loved his anti-hero persona when Columbo was originally broadcast, it is equally annoying when I watch the repeats now.

And why did they call for Columbo in the first place – before they even knew it was a murder?

He also knew who the killer was after talking to him once …

This is no criticism of Peter Falk as an actor, just an observation of blemishes that I didn’t think about when I first saw Columbo back in the 1970s.

Peter Falk had been suffering from dementia for the last few years. It appeared to have come on suddenly after a series of dental surgeries in 2007. When someone asked if he’d ever reprise his role as Columbo again, his reps said, “He can’t even remember who Columbo is.”

Not long before he fell ill, he denied that his raincoat had been donated to a museum, saying that it was still part of his wardrobe.

R.I.P. Peter Michael Falk, actor, born 16 September 1927; died 23 June 2011

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