Sunday, 26 June 2011

Just One More Thing - Peter Falk

Dear Peter,

This is a note to say thank you. Thank you for the pleasure, entertainment and smiles you have induced in us over the years. You had a rare skill to create and absorb characters that connected with an audience through the big and small screens, as well as an effortless charm with which you delivered your numerous roles.

It is with great sadness that we hear of your passing, but we wanted to share your history with others and the impact it has had on us.

Your most iconic role has been our regular weekend fixture, the yardstick that any detective series should measure itself against, created by Levinson and Link, the inimitable Colombo. You made him your own by using your own raincoat and picking out the battered old Peugeot.

The inverted detective story, showing the murder and the perpetrator at the top of the show was a brilliant device to highlight how you then unpicked the story, exposed the usually affluent murderers and proved that the "ordinary" cop can outsmart anyone who comes onto his radar, thus providing immense satisfaction for us, your audience. It is this satisfaction and familiarity with the set pieces, foibles and quirks that you delivered which continues to provide the Colombo audience with delight week after week and retains their affection for your character.

We know you're going to be pesky and keep dogging the murderer, coming back to them again and again at the tennis club or mansion, wearing them down and exposing their flimsy alibi's.
We know you'll keep chewing on your stogie's as the cogs chug round your head - you appear to see nothing, but actually see everything.
We know that the unfailing wisdom of Mrs Columbo (we like this beautiful picture of you and the real Mrs Falk) or the variety of relatives and acquaintances that we never see provide insight into the particular crime on hand, be it bagpipe playing Uncle or nephew at UCLA specialising in dermatology.
We also know that catchphrase and we perform it along with you, as you head towards the door - pause - turn around, scratch your head, point and say "Just One More Thing..."

You had many, many other successful roles throughout your half century career; a fistful of Emmy awards, a double Academy Award nomination and a particularly iconic role in the Wim Wenders 1987 art house film Wings of Desire where you played yourself and in the end titles was credited as "Der Filmstar". No further tribute needed.

There was a luminous relationship with the director John Cassavettes in which you delivered two more outstanding performances on film, A Woman Under The Influence (1974) and Husbands (1970) as well as The Great Race and The Princess Bride.

But you came to acting surprisingly late, at the ripe old age of 29, after an interesting journey that included a Masters in Public Administration and degree in political science as well as working on the railroad for six months in the former Yugoslavia and a United States Merchant Marine. Last year we saw Dirk Benedict of "The A-Team" fame, in a stage version of Columbo: Prescription Murder at a local theatre in Poole. Although he had the raincoat and a healthy cigar habit there was something missing, something which only you could ever bring to the role.

As you spent many hours on the Colombo set, your honed your skills in charcoal and watercolour whiling away the time and as a result had many gallery shows. This one, with your finger pointing to the sky is the image that will stay with us, when Columbo has stopped being shown on TV (may this never happen), as the ultimate aide memoir of your work as a fine, fine actor who delivered a diversity of roles and emotions which endeared you to your public at large. Peter Falk, we salute you.

Yours Sincerely
Ian & Tracey

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