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‘Just One More Thing’: Remembering Peter Falk, TV’s ‘Columbo’

June 24, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, remembering Peter Falk, the actor who died yesterday at Beverly Hills, Calif. He was best known for playing the rumpled detective Columbo for 30 years on television.

The police lieutenant wore a wrinkled raincoat that was his trademark. Suspects usually underestimated him, but he always got his man in the end, often by asking, “Just one more thing, sir.”

Here’s an excerpt from an episode that ran in 1976. Falk is closing a murder case against William Shatner, who plays an actor best known as a TV detective.

WILLIAM SHATNER, actor: Endlessly fascinating, Lieutenant.

But, as Lt. Lucerne would say, where there is no proof, there is no criminal — fascinating not the standard.

PETER FALK, actor: But I think, sir, I have the proof here.

WILLIAM SHATNER: What proof? Lieutenant, there are no fingerprints on that gun. You said so yourself this morning. This has been a rather silly demonstration, Lieutenant.

PETER FALK: Well, you’re absolutely right again, sir. The killer cleaned the gun of all incriminating prints. But the thing is he forgot something.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Forgot what?

PETER FALK: Well, sir, you know that this gun was only used as a prop. So, of course, it was never filled with anything but blanks — that is, until you stole it, sir.

And in order to kill Mrs. Daley, you had to remove the blanks and insert real bullets. There were no prints on the gun because you wiped the gun clean, sir. But there is a reason that the lab report took so long. You remembered to clean the gun, but you didn’t remember to do the same thing with the bullets.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Damn.

JEFFREY BROWN: Peter Falk won five Emmys, four of them for “Columbo.” He also appeared in dozens of films and received two Oscar nominations in the 1960s for “Murder, Inc.” and “Pocketful of Miracles.”

Peter Falk suffered from Alzheimer’s disease at the time of his death. He was 83 years old.