September 16, 1927 - June 23, 2011
I don't even know what to say right now. Peter Falk is not only one of my favorite actors ever, but also one of my favorite PEOPLE ever.
Peter Falk was always brilliant. In movies, he could play Jack Lemmon's evil, dim-witted assistant Max (The Great Race); he could play a brutal thug (Murder Inc.); he could play a singing Guy Gisborne (Robin and the 7 Hoods); he could play a convincing psychiatrist (Pressure Point); he was widely regarded for his art-house films with John Cassavetes. These are just a few of his many awesome film performances.
|with Natalie Wood|
Of course, Peter Falk also owned television. He could do anything in any medium. He could go from playing a Fidel Castro-type on The Twilight Zone to spoofing himself on a Dean Martin Roasts. He was literally mesmerizing in any role.
And, if we're speaking of Peter Falk being mesmerizing, I simply must mention his most famous and most brilliant performance of all: Lt. Columbo.
Columbo is one of the greatest characters of all-time from ANY medium. He is impossible to NOT love. He's always borrowing pencils from people (always claiming that he just "misplaced" his). He never throws away a cigar until there is LITERALLY nothing left to it. He loves his trench coat with an undying devotion. He's always walking away from a suspect, only to turn around and say the phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of murderers, "Oh, there's just one more thing." Of course, even though everyone thinks he's an idiot, Columbo is always smarter than everyone else.
No one else could have played him but Peter Falk. The man and the character were made for each other.
In my family, Columbo adoration is taught from a very young age. There are certain things you simply must like (Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Paul and Mary, Emergency!) -- and Columbo is one of them. I grew up on Peter Falk's brilliance and I find him even MORE brilliant now. I once watched Pocketful of Miracles (O_O) JUST for him. I will watch anything he is in, because I know he'll be awesome. I have NEVER seen Peter Falk NOT being awesome.
Early in his career, Peter Falk mostly played support in movies (he had back-to-back Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor in '60 and '61). Of course, that didn't last for too long -- because he kept stealing everything from everyone (EVEN FROM JACK LEMMON BEING DELICIOUSLY CRAZY AS PROFESSOR FATE!).
The poor actors he worked with. They never thought that this crazy, short guy with a fake right eye was going to easily take-over their movies.
Here is an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour that Peter Falk starred in. It's nothing particularly famous or special, but it is brilliant. Peter plays a charismatic traveling revivalist preacher guy...who ruthlessly kills people. It's all cool. I'm posting this random little episode because it is Peter Falk being awesome and crazy and fascinating. Classic Falk.
Also: only Peter Falk could get away with saying lines like, "We're gonna cry when we peel onions and laugh when we drink wine." What?!
I was actually planning on writing a post this week about the Falk-Gazzara-Cassavetes friendship, because it is one of my favorite things ever. Now, separately, each of these three men were a little odd. But together -- they were absolutely crazy. I always feel very sorry for Dick Cavett when the three of them showed up on his show in 1970 (basically completely drunk or something). Before he welcomes them he says, "They're all in the wings now -- taking the theater apart." I'm pretty sure they actually were. Poor, Mr. Cavett. Peter made random jokes, John just stared, and Ben -- was off somewhere...
They were basically a Rat Pack for art-house intelligentsia.
|with Gena Rowlands|