Peter Falk (1927-2011)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Peter Falk (1927-2011)

Like the late Walter Matthau, Peter Falk was simply a joy to watch in anything, even in the "home movies" he and Ben Gazzara made with their friend John Cassavetes!

The encomia will come for the actor, who left us Thursday evening at age 83, for his Emmy-winning role as the sly "Colombo."

Falk as "Daniel O'Brien"

But it was the single season (1965-66) of "Trials of O'Brien" for which I will best re­member Peter Falk.

The series was beau­tifully cast (Elaine Stritch, David Burns, Joanna Barnes and Ilka Chase in support­ing roles) and well-written in an era when "Petticoat Junction," "McHale's Navy" and canned laughter dom­inated Prime Time television.

In penurious, Shakespeare-quoting attorney "Daniel O'Brien," we saw the actor develop a character which would subsequently evolve into the rumpled, raincoat-wearing Los Angeles Police homicide Lieutenant.

(Falk himself often said that he actually liked this failed series much better than his later long-running "Columbo" in a 1968 teleflick and two series between 1971 and 2003.)

Falk first came to people's attention in a pair of Oscar-nominated film roles, the more memor­able one being that of Abe Reles, the "Murder, Inc." executioner who in 1941 took a stroll out of a sixth story Coney Island hotel window while in protective police custody.

Another memorable film role of Falk's was eccentric radio serial writer "Pedro Carmichael" with a hilarious pathology about Albanians in 1990's "Tune in Tomorrow…."

In reality, all of his roles were notable... Peter Falk was incapable of a bad performance.


1. Tommy John Schiavoni said...

Well said, Mr. Speir, Falk was a great actor and will always be "Columbo!" " more thing, sir. My wife...."

I never much cared for either of the "Colombo" series... it was a formulaic (how-is-he-or-she-who-we-know-dunnit-gonna-get-caught?) one-man show, while "Trials of O'Brien" was character-driven, strongly-written and with a terrific supporting cast.

I'd love to see it released on DVD just to again see his retainer, private investigator, "The Great McGonigle" (David Burns), picking the locks of train station lockers as a philosophical exercise to see what people stash in one.
– Dean

2. Mrs. Genetics said...

Speaking of prime time, of those times, how would you compare him to Marlin Perkins of "Wild Kingdom?"

I'm sorry, by Madame has the advantage of me on this one. (i.e. huh?)

3. Rob F. said...

Don't forget "The In-Laws."


The man's body of work is remarkable... refused to see the remake, but after seeing the original, "Serpentine, serpentine!" was one of my son's favorite lines for years!
– Dean

4. Johnno said...

"Trials of O'Brien" WAS a great show, I also liked it better than "Columbo." I remember his office was collection of wooden indians and odd antiques. There's a seller "admiralnelson" on Ebay who has mebbe 8 to 10 episodes for sale on dvd. I got the two my friend Judi was in.

Yes, Judi West was in two episodes, but not as a recurring character.

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