Dead, Peter Michael Falk on June 23, 2011, he was an American actor, best known for his role as Lt. Columbo in the television series Columbo.
Born in New York City on September 16, 1927, Falk was the son of Michael Peter Falk (1897-1981), owner of a clothing and dry goods store, and his wife, Madeline (née Hochhauser) (1904-2003), an accountant and buyer.
Falk’s first stage appearance was at the age of 12 in The Pirates of Penzance at Camp High Point in upstate New York, where one of his camp counselors was Ross Martin (they would later act together in The Great Race and the Columbo episode “Suitable For Framing”).
Falk attended Ossining High School in Westchester County, New York, where he was a star athlete and president of his senior class.
After graduating from high school in 1945, Falk briefly attended Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and then tried to join the armed services as World War II was drawing to a close.
Rejected because of his missing eye, he joined the United States Merchant Marine, and served as a cook and mess boy.
Falk said of the experience in 1997: “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.” Falk recalls this period in his autobiography: “A year on the water was enough for me, so I returned to college.
In his 1997 interview with Arthur Marx in Cigar Aficionado Magazine, Falk said of Le Gallienne: “One evening when I arrived late, she looked at me and asked,
‘Young man, why are you always late?’ and I said, ‘I have to drive down from Hartford.'” She looked down her nose and said, “What do you do in Hartford? There’s no theater there.
How do you make a living acting?” Falk confessed he wasn’t a professional actor.
According to him Le Gallienne looked at him sternly and said: “Well, you should be.” He drove back to Hartford and quit his job.
Falk stayed with the Le Gallienne group for a few months more, and obtained a letter of recommendation from Le Galliene to an agent at the William
Morris Agency in New York. In 1956, he left his job with the Budget Bureau and moved to Greenwich Village to pursue an acting career.
Columbo’s wife, of whom he often speaks, is never seen in the series. Interestingly, most of the facts that are supposedly known about Lt. Columbo’s private life are up in the air and sometimes contradictory.
This may be due to his character being somewhat forgetful or may be due to him leading a suspect with a “likely story” hoping they will trip up and reveal a clue.
His car, a 1959 Peugeot 403 Cabriolet, is in most every episode and is treated almost as a character.
In 1967, Falk won his most famous part after Bing Crosby turned down the role.
He first appeared as Lieutenant Columbo in the 1968 television movie Prescription: Murder.
In 1971, Columbo became a regular feature on the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie.
Falk received four Emmy Awards for his work on the television movies.
With his disheveled appearance and tattered trenchcoat, Columbo came across as the perennial underdog.
“He looks like a flood victim,” Falk once said.
“You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he’s seeing everything.”