The legendary raspy voiced Peter Falk has passed away at his home in Beverly Hills according to a family statement. He was 83 and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Despite a rumpled appearance, a glass right eye and a quiet voice – Falk was also a fiercely compelling actor who handled dark drama and comedic farce with equal skill. Starting out on stage, he first got noticed for his work as a gangster in “Murder, Inc” and followed that with Frank Capra’s last film “Pocketful of Miracles” – scoring Oscar nominations for both performances.
He also worked with John Cassavetes on both “Husbands” and “A Woman Under the Influence”, played a closeted Raymond Chandler-inspired detective in the mystery spoof “Murder by Death”, and had roles in “The Great Race,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Vibes,” “The In-Laws,” “The Princess Bride,” and Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire”.
Falk’s most famous character was TV homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo which he played for over three decades. “Columbo” was unique among mystery shows of the time in that it was an ‘inverted detective story’ – every episode began by showing the crime being committed and its perpetrator. As such, the story became not about who did it but how the criminal is caught.
Also, like “I, Claudius”, the titular character’s shambolic appearance, absentmindedness and strange speech lead many to automatically underestimate him – yet that behaviour hides a shrewd intellect with a meticulous attention to detail which becomes apparent only late in the storyline.
Besides his wife, survivors include two daughters from his first marriage, Catherine and Jackie Falk. Our sincerest condolences go out to them all.