Peter Michael Falk died Thursday evening, June 23 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was born September 16, 1927 in New York City to Jewish parents (Polish and Russian descent).
At the age of three he lost his right eye to cancer. A glass eye replacement was given to the youngster. Having one eye did not stop this boy from playing baseball and basketball.
Peter wanted to serve his country during World War II, but he was rejected because of having one eye. He joined the United States Merchant Marine where a physical disability was not a hindrance to service.
In 1951 he graduated with a double major in literature and political science. He traveled to Europe and worked on a Yugoslavian railroad.
In 1953 he graduated with a masters degree in public administration. He applied to work for the CIA, but they rejected him because of their suspicions about a labor union he had to join because of his Merchant Marine service. The paranoia of the early 50s was rampant. Many innocent people were blacklisted because of their association or family or friends.
Peter got his acting experience from plays. The theatre has always been an excellent foundation for an actor or actress in the business.
Eventually, he made it to Broadway in 1956. As he pondered a jump to the silver screen, he ran into individuals in the business who said that a one-eyed film actor was not in the cards for him. Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures was especially unkind to the young man. People can be so cruel on this planet traversing the cosmos.
He did not let this deter him. He took some bit parts in films during the 1958-1960 years. His big break came in 1960 with his role of Abe Reles in Murder, Inc. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1961 he was cast in Frank Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles as Joy Boy. Peter received another Oscar nomination for his role. Sadly, this was Frank Capra’s final film.
Peter was not afraid to try his craft on the small screen. In 1961 he was nominated for an Emmy. In 1962 he was nominated again for a different role and won the Emmy.
He was given his own series in 1965 playing Daniel O’Brien, a New York defense lawyer, in The Trials of O’Brien. 22 episodes were made. It was filmed on location in New York City.
It was in 1968 when he appeared in Prescription Murder as the befuddled, cigar chewing, raincoat-clad police lieutenant Columbo. This would become his signature performance for the next thirty years for which he won four Emmys and a Golden Globe. The Columbo series officially ended in 2003.
“Just one more thing” was a signature as well. No matter the sophistication and intelligence of his opponent, Columbo was always better.
Peter continued his film and Broadway career as well. He appeared in his last film made in 2008.
Peter Falk was well-educated and a certified public accountant; he loved to paint and was an avid chess player. In the last few years Alzheimer’s disease took away his remarkable mind and personality.
Just one more thing: His daughter Catherine is a private detective.
G. D. Williams © 2011
Bemused by the success of his enduring character, Peter Falk was even grateful to his worn-out wardrobe. He once said: “I have a great affection for the original raincoat and put out a saucer of milk for it every night.”
On Dean Martin
CTVA The Trials of O’Brien
Peter Falk Salutes Frank Capra at AFI Life Achievement Award