Monday, June 27, 2011

Peter Falk

Sad news on Friday hearing of the passing of Peter Falk, easily my favourite t.v. actor. The image above was from a pitch I tried to push in here a few years ago called Kid Columbo. In short the apple didn't fall far from the tree and the detective's grandchild had inherited Columbo's detection skills.

Below is part one of a video from the Dick Cavett show a fair few years ago. Falk, Cassavettes and Gazzara wind the host up into a frenzy, refusing to play along and just simply answer the host's questions. Although if you stick around until the very end of the three clips all three characters reveal some really insightful and inspiring words about their craft and their lives.

This clip below is from Dean Martin's old celebrity roast show with Falk's Columbo roasting Frank Sinatra.

I'm not that crazy about tributes to people I don't know personally, I'm finding the facebook thing pretty annoying. Every couple of months everyone has some form of an RIP status on thir walls. I am however gonna use this blog for once and indulge in a little hero worship.

From my armchair, Falk's Columbo character has never been bettered. You can take the Murder She Wrote shows, Magnum, The Rockford Files, Ironside or any of them, they never matched the class and the acting chops displayed by Falk and the immense talents he attracted to play the villains. Jack Cassidy, Vera Miles(in the itchy hand episode), Ray Milland, Roddy McDowell, John Cassavettes, Patrick McGoohan, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Faye Dunaway... and the list goes on.

I don't mean to belittle shows like Murder She Wrote (also penned by the creators of Columbo; Link and Levinson). Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher is recognised as one of the best television detectives there has been. I always thought though that she was fighting valiantly to get through scripts with incredibly ludicrous plot twists, unrevealed family histories or relationships, that would unravel in the last two minutes of each show. She always seemed to be supported in her efforts by a hodge podge cast of z list soap actors and actresses, who seemed more interested in looking their parts than acting them out. To me the shows felt more like watching the lottery (if you were trying to solve the murder yourself) than the whodunnits they claimed to be.

Columbo was all about acting. You knew who the murderer was straight off the bat, you knew why the victim has been killed, yet you were glued to your seat as Falk broke the suspects down bit by bit over and hour and a half. I think with a lot of detective shows, when the villain was caught you're almost spitting at the screen and pumping your fist into the air with the joy that there's one less murderer out there in t.v. land to worry about. What stood Columbo apart from these other shows was that the murderers were portrayed sympathetically. There are only one or two shows that I can think of off the top of my head in which the murderer was dragged away kicking, screaming or shouting. I'd nearly go as far as saying that the Columbo character nearly regretted the final showdown with his suspects, as over the course of his cases he would get to know and respect many of them, where on another show the protagonist would be revelling in revealing a string of nonsense that the viewer wasn't privvy to before the finger was finally pointed, and you nearly felt the other suspects all wanted an opportunity to kick the villain in the arse, because during the course of any investigation all their dirty laundry ended up hanging out for all to see.

That's my two cents worth, for what it's worth. I've spent plenty of Sunday afternoons sitting in front of the box loving every minute of any given Columbo episode. This might sound like an odd thing to say, about a show that thrived on murder, but it was relaxing, funny, easy going, and intelligent television and it was all down to Falk.

1 comment:

Stephen Mooney said...

Hear hear, man. Couldn't agree more. RIP.