Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Vital Viewing (You Have a Right to Remain Silent Edition)


 
Actor Peter Falk was born on this day in 1927 (he died in 2011.) He's best known for playing Lieutenant Columbo, the highly-effective homicide detective who successfully cons murder suspects into believing he's anything but. The made-for-TV movie series ran, off and on, for about 20 years. Early in that run, Falk won an Emmy for the role, which he accepts in the following clip as William Conrad and Mitzi Gaynor look on:  

 


In his acceptance speech Falk thanks a writer named Steve Bochco. This is the same Steve, or Steven, Bochco, who would later go on to create and produce Hill Street Blues, LA Law, and NYPD Blue. It took a bit of detective work of my own, but after combing through various pieces of evidence found at both IMDb and YouTube, I found a Bochco-scripted clip. Patrick O'Neal plays the person of interest:




I'm not going to tell you who the murderer is. You'll just have to figure that out for yourself.

 


21 comments:

  1. Columbo was probably the one of the last US tv shows that had my full attention. It was such a skilfully crafted show and what a character. I did watch the US version of Queer as Folk and whatever that one was based on a book by Armistead Maupin? Star was Dukakis or something like that. I should Google, sorry.

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  2. Andrew, Tales of the City is the Maupin book. The TV mini-series was actually a British production that originally aired in the UK. However, since it's based on an American novel, takes place in America (San Francisco to be exact), and is packed full of American actors, it's very easy to come to the conclusion that it's an American production. It first aired here in the US on PBS way back in 1993. Evangelical Christians cried foul, right-wingers in Congress threatened to withhold funding to public television, and so PBS passed on the sequel, More Tales of the City. Premium cable network Showtime stepped in at that point. I myself saw both miniseries on neither PBS nor Showtime but on extended basic cable channel Bravo around 1999 or so, which made me want to run out and read the books (which the TV versions follow very closely.) Olympia Dukakis played the transgender landlady of the apartment building where most of the characters live. It's an ensemble piece, but Laura Linney is kind of the first among equals as a naïve young woman from Cleveland who is initially turned off by San Francisco but eventually learns to love the place. For good reason, it's considered Linney's breakout role. She's excellent.

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  3. Peter Falk was such a skilled actor. Colombo was a fantastic show. I remember being a little kid and my parents watching them when they were new. I just watched one a few months ago for the first time in years.

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    1. Brian, Falk was a versatile actor could go back and forth between comedy (The In-Laws) and drama (A Woman Under the Influence), but on Columbo, he often did both in the same scene!

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  4. Hi, Kirk!

    Happy birthday in heaven to a Peter Falk, a brilliant comic actor, one of my favorite people. I smiled all the way through his acceptance speech. The audience and presenters seemed to love him and were congruent about his win. I enjoyed watching the clip from Columbo, one of my favorite series. I always appreciated the cat and mouse game Columbo played with "the guy" before solving the case and making the arrest.

    Patrick O'Neal was born in my current neck of the woods, Ocala, Florida, and appeared in one of the first movies I saw as a child - The Mad Magician starring Vinny Price - released in the spring of 1954. In 1966 Pat starred in Chamber of Horrors opposite one of my favorite actresses - Laura Devon - whom I recently introduced in my post about her film Red Line 7000.

    I also got a kick out of Peter Falk in Mad Mad World. Thanks for remembering this very funny man and great actor, good buddy Kirk!

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    1. Shady, Patrick O'Neal was also in The Stepford Wives. He made a good villain.

      Ah, yes, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Cab drivers Falk and Rochester were the final two characters to join in the search for the big W. Despite his late entry into the film, Falk ends up being a pivotal character, as, if I remember correctly, he's the one that figures out Spencer Tracy's true intentions.

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  5. I didn't watch the show every week, but I did enjoy it whenever I saw it. What a character. Didn't know the Bochko connection. Also, really fun to see Mitzi Gaynor.

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    1. Mitchell, you wouldn't have been able to watch Columbo every week even if you'd wanted to. Remember, each episode was presented as a "movie" that aired, at the most, only once a month.

      A few years back, some digital channel replayed all those TV specials Mitzi Gaynor made in the 1960s and '70. She's just so entertaining. At 88, she's still with us.

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  6. Hello Kirk, You finally got me. Other than having heard the names Columbo and Falk, they are complete blanks, as are the shows you compared them to.

    I empathized with Mary Ann from Tales of the City as someone who left Cleveland to start a new life, and I did not even resent Maupin's use of Cleveland as a metaphor for boring. While untrue, it keeps the riff-raff from invading our city and inflating the prices.
    --Jim

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    1. Jim, Mary Ann's last name is Singleton. While I'm sure there are people with that last name in our fair city, I don't find it particularly Clevelandish. Couldn't Maupin have named the character Mary Ann Schodowski? THAT would have been a metaphor!

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  7. First of all, wow TV Guide. I use to love looking through it. And I loved "helping" my Mom do the crossword puzzle in the back. My parents loved Colombo. To this day, if they channel surf and it's on, they stop and watch it. And you mentioned Hill Street Blues..and because you did, the theme song is stuck in my head.

    --JM

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    1. Kirk (me) didn't actually leave the above comment. Somebody named JM did. As I usually do when a person leaves a comment for the first time, I went to that individual's web page. I read maybe halfway through the first sentence on a WordPress blog when all of a sudden there's this loud beeping sound, and boxes pop up on my screen telling me my security has been breached, or was in danger of being breached, and I need a McAfee antiviral scan. I immediately clicked off the web site and sent JM's comment to the trash bin. Before I did that, however, I copied the comment, which itself seems innocuous enough, and put it under my own name. JM, if you're reading this, sorry I can't give a link to your own blog, but I really don't know what that was all about and don't want to take any chances.

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    2. JM, now that I've had a chance to calm down, let me respond to your comment.

      My family didn't subscribe to the magazine TV guide, but we did have the one that came with the newspaper on, if I remember correctly, Friday, and, like you, I loved looking through it. To think, kids today have to go to the Internet to find out what's on TV. They don't know what they're missing (on a related note, I hear The Game of Life is no longer "heartily endorsed" by Art Linkletter. Yes, the man is no longer with us, but can't he still endorse posthumously?)

      The Hill Street Blues theme song was composed by Mike Post, who's done many TV themes. I'll have to do a post on Post one of these days.

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  8. I loved Peter Falk as Columbo! One of the great detective personas.

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    1. Brilliant bit of acting by Falk, Debra. I could never quite figure out what was going on in that guy's head.

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  9. JM's comment got me thinking about TV guide and my mother. She saved all of them. When she died there must have been a thousand of them in the basement if not more. Now TV guide is on the internet. I have an icon on my desktop.

    I always watched Columbo. It's on several of the alternate channels now but I can't make it through older shows like that on 480p. 1080p has spoiled me. 4K? Don't like it. It gives me a headache.

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    1. Mike, I admit that I had to look up 480p, 1080p, and 4K. Now that I have, I imagine you won't be watching I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners any time soon.

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  10. Columbo is such a classic TV show for sure! I preferred the older episodes to the more modern ones. I remember watching it with my great grandmother - I miss those days!

    I remember seeing him in a film called California Dolls, I always remembered that film for some reason!

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    1. Ananka, you're thinking of the film All the Marbles, in which Falk manages a female wrestler tag team who call themselves the California Dolls. I haven't seen this movie (I looked up the details online) but since it's directed by Robert Aldrich, who helmed Kiss Me Deadly, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Dirty Dozen, and The Longest Yard, all which I have seen and liked, I'm going to have to make a point of watching this one, too.

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In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.