Few Americans (alas!) are aware of (what is, in my mind) Peter Falk’s greatest screen role where he plays a “fallen” angel in the Germany film Wings of Desire (remade, but without him, in the U.S. as City of Angels). Whether it was in his serious turn in that flick or his comic turn in any number of movies, starting (at least) with the 1963 classic, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, not to mention his twenty-year stint at TV detective Columbo, Falk had a quirky screen presence that was hard to describe, part street smart New Yorker, part favorite uncle, part cynic, occasional romantic. He kept our eyes riveted to the screen and interested in him.
Falk, 83, was a five-time Emmy Award winner, four for his portrayal of the police lieutenant on episodic TV and television films from 1971 to 1993. In a ubiquitous trench coat, the absent-minded Columbo — whose first name was never revealed — was a slightly built, unassuming character who subtlety hounded murderers with dogged persistence. Inevitably, he confronted suspects with the comment “just one more thing,” which became part of the title for his 2006 autobiography, Just One More Thing: Stories From My Life.
Truly a legendary figure and proof that even a one-eyed man with a craggy face and raspy voice can command our attention on screens both big and small.