Peter Falk's death: Goodbye Columbo

Jun 24, 2011 at 5:15 p.m. ET

Peter Falk, one of the greatest character actors of all time, died peacefully on June 23rd, according to Reuters. His family released a statement that the actor died in the Beverly Hills home he shared with his wife of 34 years, Shera Danese. His legacy is one of rich characters viewers cared about, and his ability to bring them to life in a way that was never seen before and probably will never be seen again.

For many television viewers of the '70s, there was only one actor that we could truly believe made the character he portrayed, Peter Falk. He took a role that would otherwise be considered a harsh character and turned him into a loveable schlub of a man, someone you would trust with your life. That was Columbo, the scruffy and confused detective that millions of viewers watched to see how he would crack his next case for over 69 episodes.

Peter Falk

Native New Yorker Falk found his wings on the Broadway stage, but it was in television that he really made his mark. As the sassy Columbo, Falk relied heavily on his character's vulnerability to get his point across on-screen. One of the character's catch phrases was, "Just one more thing..." as he cracked his case each week. Several of his most memorable lines included, "My wife says I'm the second smartest. She claims there are 80 guys tied for first," and, "I respect your talent, I just don't like anything else about you."

Trivia fact: The debut episode of Columbo was directed by a 25-year-old Steven Spielberg in one of his earliest directing roles.

Falk also made his mark on the big screen in films like 1963's It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and 1964's Rat Pack adventure, Robin and the 7 Hoods.

Perhaps Peter's best known characters came from the heart, such as the husband who has to decide whether or not to institutionalize his depressed and mentally ill wife in A Woman Under the Influence. He also appeared in the hilarious comedy The In-Laws with Alan Arkin, as the bumbling Vince Ricardo, who, when asked by Arkin's character, "Did we hit the little boy on sixth avenue?" replied with, "No, we missed him by a good foot and a half." He also played a character dealing with a late-in-life divorce, co-starring with Paul Reiser in The Thing About My Folks.

In his later years, Peter Falk appeared on television only a handful of times, in the films The Lost World, A Town Without Christmas, Finding John Christmas and When Angels Come to Town. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's in 2008 hastened any further television appearances. An acting treasure, he will be sorely missed.

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