Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (2023)

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Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (1)

Sad loss: Peter Falk's family announced today that the Columbo star had passed away, age 83

Peter Falk, the actor known to millions around the world as the TV detective Columbo, has died.

The 83-year-old passed away at his Beverly Hills home on Thursday night, his family said.

He had been ill for some time, battling against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite a long and varied career, Falk gained fame for his portrayal of the glass-eyed, dishevelled but crafty Los Angeles Lieutenant.

Columbo always wore a grubby rain mac and smoked cigars, and usually made a false exit before uttering his catchphrase: ‘Just one more thing.’

His portrayal of the cop spawned numerous impressions.

The original series ran for seven years from 1971, but was constantly re-commissioned throughout the 1980s and 1990s due to its popularity.

A staple of Sunday afternoon TV, its repeats still regularly run throughout the world. The debut episode was directed by a young Steven Spielberg.

Falk won four Emmys for his portrayal of the policeman. His last appearance as Columbo was as recently as 2003.

Actor-director John Cassavetes referred to Falk as the man ‘everybody falls in love with’.

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (2)

(Video) The Tragic Final Years of Peter Falk (Columbo)

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (3)

Peter Falk starred as Columbo from 1973 up until 2003 - with the show heralded as one of the greatest detective dramas of all time

At the height of his fame he was being paid some £300,000 per episode. Despite this he constantly asked network chiefs to release him from the role only for him to return again and again.


After his stint in the Marines, Falk applied to join the CIA but was rejected and turned to acting - he made his debut as Richard III in Hartford, Connecticut where he was working as a management analyst before leaving for his native New York to pursue an acting career.

He arrived in 1956 and within six months was cast in his first professional role as Sagnarele in Don Juan.

Throughout the late 1950s Falk appeared in numerous off-Broadway productions.He made his Broadway debut as the young Joseph Stalin in The Passion of Joseph D in 1964.

His film debut came in 1958 in Wind Across The Everglades and followed it with a small role in The Bloody Brood.

In his first two years in Hollywood, Falk won considerable acclaim for both his film and television work

Between 1965 and 1966 Falk won considerable popularity in the role of the barrister Daniel O'Brian in The Trials of O'Brian. Falk's performance as the dishevelled but brilliant lawyer brought him to the attention of Link and Lewison, who were looking for an actor to play Lieutenant Columbo.

Falk agreed to do a pilot for the show and Prescription; Murder was made in 1968.
The film was a success and Falk began rehearsing the first series of Columbo in 1970.

Falk eventually left the series in 1977 after complaining that the quality of the scripts had deteriorated. He returned to his film career with a series of comedy roles in The Brink's Job, The Cheap Detective both in 1978 and The In-Laws in 1979, playing both criminals and detectives.

He also worked with indie auteur John Cassavetes on several improvisational films in the 1970s, including Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence.

But in the early 1980s Falk's film career faltered when he made the unwise choice of accepting the lead in The California Dolls as the manager of two female wrestlers.

(Video) Detective Columbo Peter Falk dead at 83

However, in 1987 he endeared himself to a generation of younger fans when he took on the role of grandfather in The Princess Bride.

In 1989 Falk returned to the role of Lieutenant Columbo for one last series of films, he last donned the famous mac in 2003.

Falk was much more than just the role he achieved global fame for, the actor was also nominated twice for an Oscar - in 1960 for a film called Murder inc. and the following year for a movie called Pocketful of Miracles.

Other notable movies in which Falk appeared included It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Great Race where he appeared as Jack Lemmon’s evil sidekick. He also appeared on Broadway, once as Soviet leader Stalin.

Columbo was a success as soon as the first episode was screened. The programme defied all the conventions of television detective drama.

The viewer saw the murderer commit the crime, there were no car chases, no sex or violence, and Falk often did not appear during the first half an hour of the programme.

The success of the series rested with Falk's performance, and input, in the lead role.

He invested the shabby, preoccupied detective with such depth that the show became one of the most successful detective series in the world

Falk excelled in embodying the class element of the show, as working for the Los Angeles Police Department, Columbo was almost always sneered at as a working class interloper by the super-rich of Beverly Hills, Malibu and Brentwood that he investigated.

The actor put much of his personality into ensuring that Columbo, who drove his battered old car into the vast estates of Bel Air, never cared about how much money anyone did or didn't have.

But the really likeable aspect of Falk's performance was the fact that he made his hero humble, he never gloated about bagging a condescending killer.

It was the dignified victory of the many over the cloistered few in every episode, and at the heart of Columbo's mass appeal.

Villains no matter how evil were always addressed as 'ma'am,' or 'sir' as the deceptively bumbling detective distracted their smooth patter midway by plucking a boiled egg from his pocket, or delivering that famous line after exiting a room.

Levinson and Link said that Falk wore the same suit, tie, and shoes for the entire run of the series.

Falk himself picked out the Peugeot car that Columbo rattled around L.A. in; its tan color matched his character’s coat.

It was even said that film director Frederico Fellini would leave dinner parties to go watch the latest episode of Columbo, such was the impact of Falk's performance.

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (5)

(Video) Peter Falk | Columbo's Estate Dispute

Famous face: Peter Falk, in his role as Columbo, which was aired in over 40 countries

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (6)

Big screen: Falk starred in the 2001 film Corky Romano portraying a Mafia boss

He was also an accomplished artist.

A New Yorker, Falk did not turn to acting until the age of 30. He was initally told not to turn to acting because of his glass eye.

Falk lost an eye at the age of three because of a malignant tumour.

The disability also saw him rejected from the armed services but undeterred Falk joined the United States Merchant Marine, and served as a cook and mess boy.

He recalled in his autobiography, Just One More Thing: 'There they don't care if you're blind or not, the only one on a ship who has to see is the captain. And in the case of the Titanic, he couldn't see very well, either.'

He served as a Marine in the years after World war Two before unsuccessfully applied to work for the CIA.

It was only after being rejected by the agency that he turned to acting.

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (7)

Man of many talents: Falk, wearing a German police officer uniform on the TV show 'Wetten, dass...?' (Bet, That...) in Germany is survived by his wife Shera and daughter Catherine

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (8)

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (9)

(Video) 07/20/21 Metro Council Meeting and Announcements

In happier times: Peter, pictured left with his wife Shera who starred in Columbo herself, and right, presenting a Golden Camera Award in Berlin, Germany in 2004

Falk was married twice.

In 1960 he wed his fellow Syracuse University student Alyce Mayo.

They adopted two daughters but divorced in 1976.

A year later Falk married actress Shera Danese, who regularly appeared on Columbo, the actress, who survives him was 21 years his junior and in typical fashion he joked about the age difference.

When asked in the 70s what they had in common, he replied: 'I think it's safe to say that we both like the colour blue.'

In his last years he suffered from ill health. By 2007, doctors attested that he had the symptoms of dementia.

In 2009, a judge established a conservatorship for the ailing actor after a court battle between daughter Catherine and his wife.

It is being reported that the actor set up a trust years before he succumbed to illness to ensure that the bulk of his 5 million dollar estate go to his beloved wife Shera, he has also left six-figure inheritances to his two adopted daughters from his first marriage, Catherine and Jackie.

Radar Online goes on to report that the actor had been estranged from Catherine for some time, and suspected that she would challenge the will - so a clause is present to ensure she loses all of her inheritance, if she in any way contests his instructions.

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (10)

Flashback: Peter Falk, pictured with actress Gena Rowlands in the film 'The Brinks Job'

Columbo star Peter Falk dies at 83 after battle with dementia (11)

Star: Falk alongside legendary British actor Peter Sellers, left, in the film 'Murder by Death'

Memories: Peter pictured with wife Shera, left at an LA gala dinner in 2002, and right, with his daughter Catherine


What was Columbo's famous line? ›

When fans hear Lieutenant Columbo's trademark phrase “just one more thing…” we know he's about to crack the case wide open. The unconventional detective, played brilliantly by Peter Falk, first appeared on our screens in 1968.

What was cause of death of Peter Falk? ›

On the evening of June 23, 2011, Falk died at his longtime home on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills at the age of 83. His death was primarily caused by pneumonia, with complications of Alzheimer's being a secondary and underlying cause. His daughters said they would remember his "wisdom and humor".

What happened to Columbo in real life? ›

Peter Falk, the American actor most famous for his role as scruffy TV detective Columbo, has died aged 83. The actor died peacefully at home in Beverly Hills on Thursday night, his family said in a statement. He had been suffering from dementia for a number of years.

Is Detective Columbo still alive? ›

Peter Falk, in full Peter Michael Falk, (born September 16, 1927, New York, New York, U.S.—died June 23, 2011, Beverly Hills, California), American actor who was best known for his portrayal of the eccentric detective Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo (1971–78) and made-for-TV movies.

Is Columbo a true story? ›

The Columbo character was based squarely on Porfiry Petrovich, the astute but meandering lead investigator in Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment.” They based the character squarely on Porfiry Petrovich, the astute but meandering lead investigator in Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment – a book both had studied at college.

Is Columbo's first name? ›

What is Lieutenant Columbo's first name? Columbo's first name is never explicitly revealed in the series. However, when Columbo flashes his badge in the episode "Dead Weight" (Season 1 Episode 3), the name 'Frank' can clearly be seen on his ID.

Who poisoned Columbo? ›

After the big "funeral", Columbo invites Vivian into what she thinks is his house. He makes himself toast with marmalade. While Columbo pretends to be dying of poison, Vivian confesses to all three murders.

Was Columbo's wife murdered? ›

Mrs Columbo, of course, is alive and well. Columbo never even gave her the marmalade in the first place because he suspected Vivian's ill intent and had it checked by the forensics team. He's been onto her from the start and her bid for revenge never had a chance of success.

What happened in the last episode of Columbo? ›

What was wrong with Columbo? ›

Columbo, a character he played on television for more than 30 years, died June 23 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., according to a family statement. He was 83 and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Was Columbo an alcoholic? ›

He drank and smoked incessantly, loved boozing with his friends and was an inveterate womaniser,” says Lertzman. “He was a negligent husband and an absentee father. Yet he became one of the most iconic stars of his generation.”

Did Columbo smoke in real life? ›

Columbo handles and works his prop cigar to perfection, like a man born to the art – so it's a bit surprising that in real life, Peter Falk is not a cigar man. Falk is a lifelong cigarette smoker, who enjoys a cigar just occasionally.

Does Columbo have a son? ›

Columbo”) he does claim in conversation with the killer that he and his wife never had any children, but it was part of a deception in which he staged a “home” at a house other than his own which included false pictures of his wife, because the killer had targeted his wife.

Was the dog in Columbo his own? ›

Columbo's Basset hound ''Dog'' was a rescue dog in real life, just like on the show.

How old was Columbo when he lost his eye? ›

Did You Know: Peter Falk's classic squint in Columbo was actually due to a prosthetic eye. He lost one eye to cancer when he was just three years old. Blanca Teresa Gonzalez Mereles and 645 others like this. Awesome show cant ever make another Colombo.

How many murders did Columbo solve? ›

Over the course of its 69 outings, Columbo dished up an impressive 92 fatalities – that's an average of 1.33 corpses per episode.

What was Columbo's wife called? ›

Kate Columbo (later renamed Kate Callahan after an off-screen divorce) is the wife of Lieutenant Columbo, the title character from the television series Columbo. Kate is a news reporter who solves crimes while raising her daughter.

Did Columbo ever use a gun? ›

Columbo didn't carry a gun so that he could be portrayed as a departure from the typical cop persona. Most TV cops are forever associated with their police trappings, e.g. guns, ammunition, handcuffs, etc. Columbo rejected almost every cop stereotype. You never saw him use force.

Was Columbo really married? ›

Every once in a while I'm surprised to encounter a Columbo fan who doubts the existence of Mrs Columbo. I'm here to scotch those rumours for good. And before you smart alecs chime in, I'm perfectly aware this is a TV show, and that she doesn't really exist.

Why did Columbo wear a raincoat? ›

In one of his "Columbo" novels, author William Harrington has Columbo explaining that he always wears the raincoat because it acts as a sort of portable desk or filing system, allowing Columbo to carry around his daily accumulation of clues and paraphernalia, without having to switch everything from the pockets of one ...

Who owns Columbo? ›

Episodes of Columbo are between 70 and 98 minutes long, and have been broadcast in 44 countries. The show has been described by the BBC as "timeless" and remains popular today.
Production companiesUniversal Television (1968–78, 1989–98) Studios USA (1998–2002) Universal Network Television (2002–03)
20 more rows

Does Columbo get killed? ›

On June 28, 1971, Colombo, speaking at an Italian-American rally in Columbus Circle, was shot by a young black man, who was himself immediately slain. Colombo was probably the target of the followers of Joseph Gallo, with whom Colombo had fought gang wars for a decade.

Which episode did Columbo let that killer go free? ›

In the first, "Forgotten Lady", Columbo lets the killer off the hook because she has a brain disease which will kill her in weeks and also has caused her to forget the crime. This episode is a straighter example. Columbo has discovered Lisa and is pretty sure that she and Lauren worked together to kill Nick.

Does Columbo always catch the killer? ›

Columbo always figured out who committed the murder -- usually within his first few minutes at the crime scene, but occasionally after more prolonged puzzlement, as in Columbo Cries Wolf. However, there were times when a perpetrator was never charged.

What kind of car did Columbo drive? ›

Back to Lieutenant Columbo and his Peugeot 403 convertible. It was common knowledge that Peugeot wasn't that happy about how Columbo took care of his 403, or lack thereof, as his car was always dirty, had a patched paint job and seemed to smoke regularly.

Why was Columbo Cancelled? ›

Despite being off screens since May 1978, when The Conspirators drew the curtain on Columbo's first decade, the show was never officially cancelled. Negotiations between Falk and the studio simply petered out. Columbo was quietly discontinued, but the will was still there to keep him alive in some capacity.

What actor turned down the role of Columbo? ›

4. Bing Crosby was considered for the role of Columbo. The famous crooner was thought to be a perfect fit for the role of Columbo in the early conception of the series by its creators. Crosby ended up turning down the role, not wanting to be tied down to a network television schedule.

Has Columbo got a glass eye? ›

He wore a glass eye for the rest of his life, and the tell-tale squint it caused became as much a part of the Columbo character, from the viewers' perspective, as the cigar, the car and Dog – the key difference being that this impairment was never referenced by any of the Lieutenant's colleagues or adversaries.

What makes Columbo special? ›

On paper, it was a niche concept that even network executives doubted could work. But Columbo made a virtue of formula, and with intelligent, detailed scripts and a stellar performance from Falk, it became an unlikely worldwide phenomenon across eight series from 1971-1978, and then again sporadically from 1989-2003.

What was the last Columbo ever made? ›

The final instalment of Columbo, titled 'Columbo Likes the Nightlife' aired January 30th 2003. In total, the show spanned an impressive 34 years.

What is Columbo's favorite food? ›

Perhaps eating chile peppers is the culinary expression of an adventurous spirit and a fun-seeking nature." It is established very early, in one of the "Columbo" pilot movies, that Columbo is a dedicated chili-head.

Who was first choice for Columbo? ›

According to the show's co-writer-creator William Link, Bing Crosby was first offered the role of Columbo. However, citing the fact that he didn't want to commit to a TV series, he refused the role. He also said, jokingly, that doing the series would interfere with his golf game.

What kind of shoes did Columbo wear? ›

The shoes, meanwhile, are unglamorously written up as being 'a pair of brown leather high-top shoes with brown laces, size unknown, each with a cork shoe liner. ' It does note, however, that they were made by 'Shoemaker to the Stars' Di Fabrizio.

What color was Columbo's suit? ›

The original Columbo wore a top coat, not a trench coat.

Fans know that's because Columbo's clothes, from his beat-up shoes to that unfortunate raincoat and the full green suit he often wore between them, came from the closet of actor Peter Falk, who famously played the quirky TV detective.

What did Columbo name his dog? ›

Columbo's dog was never given a name, much like the fact that Columbo never said his first name (it did appear on his ID - it's “Frank”) and he never used his wife's name either (She was always “Mrs. Columbo”). He always referred to his beagle as “Dog”.

Is Columbo a boy or girl? ›

Name Columbo is of Italian origin and is a Boy name.

How many kids does Columbo have? ›

In The Helter Skelter Murders, he states he has a daughter. Since he has at least 3 children, this means that he has a daughter and at least 2 sons. He also states that his children are younger than a character who has a nephew whose image is shown in the episode: Columbo Goes to College.

What kind of Dog is Columbo? ›

In the television series Columbo, Lieutenant Columbo owns a Basset Hound named Dog.

Which eye is false on Columbo? ›

Columbo's unsettling, uneven-eyed stare was due to Falk's glass eye in the right eye socket.

Where is the Statue of Columbo and his Dog? ›

The Columbo statue is a life-sized bronze work on Falk Miksa Street in Budapest depicting Peter Falk in the role of the fictional police detective Columbo. At the Columbo statue's feet is a statue of Columbo's dog, Dog.

Where is Columbo's grave? ›

Of all the tombs in Dhaka Christian Cemetery, that of Columbo Sahib is by far the largest and most striking.

What was Columbo's salary? ›

Columbo's salary of $11,000.00 is equal to ~$76,000 in 2022. Columbo says his salary is $11,000 a year.

What was Columbo's favorite meal? ›

But there is no sign that Columbo will ever give up eating chili. Like the raincoat and cigars, like the car and the dog, eating chili is part of what makes him Columbo.

Did Columbo ever say just one more thing? ›

According to Levinson, the catchphrase "one more thing" was conceived when he and Link were writing the play: "we had a scene that was too short, and we had already had Columbo make his exit. We were too lazy to retype the scene, so we had him come back and say, 'Oh, just one more thing.

Is Columbo's wife ever seen? ›

The miracle of Mrs Columbo is that although she is never seen or heard, she makes her presence felt throughout "Columbo". Without ever showing her face, she remains a major character in the show, capturing our imagination and affection.

Which is Columbo's glass eye? ›

Peter Michael Falk was born Sept. 16, 1927, in New York City, and grew up in Ossining, N.Y., where his father owned a clothing store. At 3, his right eye was removed because of a cancerous growth, and he was given a glass eye.

Did Columbo ever fire his gun? ›

In the episode Columbo: Forgotten Lady (1975), he persuades a colleague to take a firearms test on his behalf. In the episode Columbo: Playback (1975), he discharges a gun once when he conducts an experiment to help crack a case. In the episode Columbo: No Time to Die (1992), he carries a gun but doesn't fire it.

Who committed the most murders on Columbo? ›

Patrick McGoohan played a Columbo murderer more times than any other actor – four times. Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp each had three appearances as killers.

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