Peter Falk

This piece by Ally Clow was originally Published as a Facebook post on Saturday 25 June 2011 

Just One More Thing

Ok, so my favorite actor Peter Falk died yesterday. He actually meant a lot to me and here’s why. My dad did this impression of him when I was young; he’d walk out of the room and come back in with bowed head in his hand, and utter those immortal words ‘just one more thing’. Completely unfunny unless you were the ten year old rolling around on the floor with his brothers knowing that the mimicry was rubbish yet so completely fantastic at the same time.

Cut to ten years later and the one-eyed-Falk was recognized by German New Wave director Wim Wenders in Wings Of Desire. The term postmodern was the buzzword at uni around this time and Falk’s role in Wenders’ gem of a film couldn’t be described as anything other, given the actor’s casting as himself playing his alter-ego in the film. Why had Wenders chosen to cast Columbo in his film? The answer was surely to be found with his work with the American independent director John Cassavetes. In 2005 (a year after I made my friend drive me to his home in Beverley Hills for a photograph), the BFI screened a season of Hollywood films from the 1970’s and during that run, two Cassavetes films were shown: A Woman Under The Influence and Mikey & Nicky. Cassavetes had directed Falk in the former and appeared with him in the latter. Falk starred in both and turned out not just to be a brilliant on-screen detective but an incredibly deep-ranging actor who could terrify with his performances as well as please on the big and small screen. This was without taking into account the two Oscar nominations he received for Murder Inc and Pocketful Of Miracles in 1961 and 1962 respectively.

For me, A Woman Under The Influence will remain as the greatest performance Falk gave onscreen and when watching the film, one can imagine Cassavetes egging him on to give himself absolutely to his role of emotionally spent husband to the mentally unstable Gena Rowlands. Falk plays another married man in Cassavetes’ 1970 film Husbands where he plays alongside Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara as a man unsure of the role he should be playing in his midlife and gets no further than the unforgettable mess of the drunken singing contest and casino scenes. He was afraid of performing poorly in these films and clearly his most comfortable role was in the dirty mac but the humanity he brought to his roles reflected on Falk first and foremost before the character he played. In his later years, he made notable appearances in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride and Jon Favreau’s Made but his one last thing will always be Lieutenant Columbo, the Chilli eating, cigar smoking humanist; a razor-witted detective who seemed to know the murderer before the viewer did in the first scene of the show.

Ally Clow
24 June 2011