The actor Peter Falk has died aged 83.
He was born in New York to a Polish father and Russian mother, and by the time he found the role that would define him, the TV detective Colombo, he had established his stage and screen credentials with a number of strong dramatic and comic performances which earned two Oscar nominations and an Emmy award. Colombo would earn him four more Emmys.
Acting had not been his first choice. Before graduating with a Masters in Public Administration he tried to enlist to fight in WWII, but was refused because of his glass eye. He ended up as a cook in the Merchant Marine, and because of compulsory union membership in that job was refused admission to the CIA when he applied.
A taste for adventure ran deep, even leading to him preparing to go off to fight for the fledgling state of Israel against Egypt, but never making it in time as he and the rest of the world were stunned by Israel’s lightning victory.
“Colombo” came along when he was already established as an actor, but when his physical handicap had sometimes been cruelly cited as the reason for the really plum roles passing him by, even though close friend John Cassavetes rated him highly and used him in three of his films.
“Colombo” was blessed from the start; the first 1971 episode was directed by the then-unknown Steven Spielberg, it was an immediate smash hit, and episodes are still being shown on television today. The shambling yet razor-sharp detective was reputedly inspired by the character of Porfiry Petrovich in Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and punishment.”
One of Falk’s two daughters, Catherine, is a real-life private investigator. Unusually for a Hollywood star Falk enjoyed a 34-year marriage with second wife Shera, who survives him.