Peter Falk 1927-2011

Every age gets the gumshoe it deserves, and for some reason we were fortunate to have one-eyed Peter Falk's Lt. Frank Columbo, disheveled, negligible, passive aggressive, and inescapable in the eponymous TV series that broadcast, after a pilot episode directed by Steven Spielberg, in one form or another for 32 years (1971-2003). His portrayal of the unassuming, self-deprecating lawman in the trademark soiled trenchcoat especially impresses because it is so unlike some of his other great performances, such as the Oscar-nominated role of the hitman in "Murder, Inc "(1960), in which he could teach Joe Pesci in "GoodFella's" a thing or two about handling an ice pick; or the bingeing spouse in John Cassavetes "Husbands" (1970); or the inept, loutish spouse in Cassavetes "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974). Maybe my favorite of his roles is that in Wim Wenders's "Wings of Desire" (1986), where he plays "Der Filmstar," a crusty, ironical curmudgeon not unlike Falk himself who can sense the invisible presence of the melancholy guardian angels who watch over Berlin. Falk died yesterday at the age of 83; maybe now he can see them face to face.

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