Columbo star Peter Falk dies aged 83

Peter Falk as Columbo, file pic from MCA TV Peter Falk won four Emmys for his cigar-chomping role as scruffy-haired, mac-wearing Columbo

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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.

Peter Falk won four Emmys for his cigar-chomping role as the deceptively bumbling Columbo, and was nominated for Oscars in 1960 and 1961 for Murder Inc and Pocketful of Miracles.

In the 1987 cult classic The Princess Bride, he played a kindly old man regaling his sick grandson with a fairytale combination of swordplay, giants, a beautiful princess and fearsome rodents of unusual size.

But for most fans, even his best-supporting actor nominations were eclipsed by his incarnation as the sleuth in the shabby mac with no known first name and the killer catch-phrase: "One more thing..."

'Like a flood victim'

Columbo first appeared on American TV screens in 1968, and NBC commissioned a series in which the detective appeared every third week from 1971 until it was cancelled in 1977.

The part of its policeman hero had originally been written for Bing Crosby, but Falk made the part his own and continued to make special episodes well into his 70s.

He reportedly turned down an offer to convert it into a weekly series, citing the heavy workload.

The actor bought Columbo's trademark raincoat himself, only for it to be replaced after it became too tattered through its near constant use in the series.

He told one interviewer his shabby detective looked "like a flood victim".

"You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he's seeing everything. Underneath his dishevelment, a good mind is at work."

Peter Michael Falk was born in 1927 in New York City, where his parents ran a clothes shop.

He had an eye removed at the age of three due to cancer. He said he learned to live with the ailment after it became "the joke of the neighbourhood".

"If the umpire ruled me out on a bad call, I'd take the fake eye out and hand it to him," Falk told the Associated Press in a 1963 interview.

As an aspiring actor, he was reportedly warned by one agent the false eye would preclude him from working in television. In fact, it became another endearing trait of his most famous character.

Peter Falk had been under 24-hour care for several years.

The actor is survived by his wife of three decades, Shera, and daughters from a previous marriage Catherine and Jackie.

In 2009, Catherine Falk applied to be put in charge of his estate, saying he was suffering from Alzheimer's and that she had been blocked from seeing him for six months.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    I wish this article better represented Peter Falks extensive and mind-blowing acting career. Wings of Desire and his work with the Father of Independent film John Cassavettes would have covered at least two of the paragraphs used to talk about Columbo.

    A true American film/TV Icon. RIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Yesterday my son called me on the phone to give me the sad news he just heard from TV. We were and still are fan of Columbo, we bought all the DVDs we could find and we never get tired to watch them. The Columbo Tv series is an example of quality family entertainment with excellent actors, scripts, and settings, unlike today's TV trash. Goodbye and thank you Peter Falk, may God accept your soul.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    RIP Peter Falk, I`ll never get bored of watching Columbo. what great bloke, God Bless

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Unlike today's immoral trash which is thrown up as entertainment, Columbo was something the whole family could enjoy and was truly entertaining and also communicated a moral lesson in the process. May God be good to him.
    P.S. Also, the shoes he wore in the series were a pair that he bought while on holiday in italy and that he used throughout. Beauty, humility and simplicity, that was Peter Falk

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    It was a sweltering day in August 1976 and I was late.

    Fortunately, the client was utterly charming and quickly dismissed my apologies.

    Then just as I was about to leave, he told me I reminded him of someone on television.

    "I know," he said, "Columbo."

    I looked down: despite the heat I was wearing a mac.

    Now, whenever I put one on - or just glance in the mirror - I think of Peter Falk.


Comments 5 of 13


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