Peter Falk

Performer

Male

Born: September 16, 1927
New York, New York, USA

Died: June 23, 2011
Beverly Hills, California

Obituary:Peter Falk, a stage, film and television actor whose quirky characterizations—notably that of Columbo, the iconic detective he created in the television series of the same name—could be both distracted and intense, died at his Beverly Hills home on June 23 2011.

The actor suffered from advanced dementia that set on after a series of dental operations in 2007.

Mr. Falk was 83 at his death—a number that may come as a surprise to his fans, given the actor was playing middle-aged and older characters while still a young man. But Mr. Falk's ever-rumpled appearance, drawling delivery and glass eye (a facial element that lent intensity to Columbo's unwavering gaze) added years—and seeming life experience—to his portrayals.

To the novice criminal, Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, didn't appear to have much on the ball. He was stooped, disheveled, and wore a dirty trenchcoat badly in need of ironing. (Mr. Falk used his own clothes in the series.) He was forever touching his hand to his forehand in forgetfulness. This led suspects to underestimate him. But Columbo missed few clues and invariably brought his man in, with apparent ease and a rambling closing speech. To hear the Lieutenant say "Just one more thing..." was to feel the noose tighten around your neck.

Mr. Falk won four Emmy awards for his work on the show. The show began as a recurring segment of the "NBC Mystery Movie" rotation, from 1971 to 1978. Thereafter, the actor revived the character in occasional TV movies.

Mr. Falk was already an established character actor before "Columbo" made him a star. He studied with famed actress Eva Le Gallienne, who encouraged him to quit his job in Hartford and pursue acting. In 1956, he appeared at Circle in the Square in the famous revival of The Iceman Cometh with Jason Robards, playing the bartender. He made his Broadway debut that same year, appearing in Alexander Ostrovsky's Diary of a Scoundrel. Shortly after, he acted again on Broadway as an English soldier in Shaw's Saint Joan, with Siobhán McKenna.

In 1972 he was acclaimed for his performance as a frustrated, unemployed New Yorker in Neil Simon's comedy The Prisoner of Second Avenue. It would be his Broadway swan song, though he did play the lead role of Levine in a 1985 Chicago production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glenn Ross.

He made his film debut in "Wind Across the Everglades" in 1958, and thereafter played a series of gangsters in films such as "Murder, Inc.," "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Pocketful of Miracles." He was nominated for Academy Awards for the first and the third.

Unusual for an actor, Mr. Falk's name had cachet in both commercial and avant garde circles. He was friends with auteur actor-director John Cassavetes, and appeared in six of his films: "Husbands" (1970), "Machine Gun McCain" (1969), "Mikey and Nicky" (1976), "Opening Night" (1977), "Big Trouble" (1986), and "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974).

Notable later roles included the comedy "The In-Laws," which paired him with Alan Arkin, and "Wings of Desire," the Wim Wenders film in which he played a version of himself, wandering about a Berlin peopled by unseen angels.

Mr. Falk returned to the New York stage to star in an Off-Broadway production of Arthur Miller's Mr. Peters' Connections in 1998.

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - The 48th Annual Tony Awards - 1994 The 48th Annual Tony Awards - 1994
Jun. 12, 1994 - Jun. 12, 1994
Participating Artist Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The 28th Annual Tony Awards - 1974 The 28th Annual Tony Awards - 1974
Apr. 21, 1974 - Apr. 21, 1974
Host Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The 26th Annual Tony Awards - 1972 The 26th Annual Tony Awards - 1972
Apr. 23, 1972 - Apr. 23, 1972
Presenter Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Prisoner of Second Avenue The Prisoner of Second Avenue
Nov. 11, 1971 - Sep. 29, 1973
Mel Edison Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Passion of Josef D. The Passion of Josef D.
Feb. 11, 1964 - Feb. 22, 1964
Stalin Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
Diary of a Scoundrel
Nov. 4, 1956 - Nov. 25, 1956
Mamaev's Servant Performer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Saint Joan Saint Joan
Sep. 11, 1956 - Jan. 5, 1957
English Soldier Performer
(Original)
 
 

Inside the Playbill (1)

See more Who's Who
 
Name:
Email:
You are submitting a comment about: The page you are currently on: Peter Falk - Broadway Theatre Credits, Photos, Who's Who - Playbill Vault
The website in general
What are you writing about?
Who are you?
Explain your reason for writing to us