The Life and Legacy of Peter Falk: Beyond Columbo

Crumpled raincoat-wearing ‘Columbo’ is one of the most famous TV detectives of our time; he never failed to leave us on the edge of our seats. Just when you thought the bad guy might get away with it, the cigar-smoking super sleuth would show up with just “one nagging detail” that he couldn’t let go.

Throughout the 70s, the show dominated prime-time television and continued to captivate audiences from the late 80s until 2003. Unlike other TV detectives, Columbo turned the tables by presenting a shrewd but scruffy blue-collar homicide detective who outwitted the most influential and wealthy criminals.

Peter Falk, the actor who brought Columbo to life, became a household name and earned four Emmy awards for his remarkable portrayal. But behind the success and fame, there was another side to Peter Falk, as detailed in the biography “Beyond Columbo” by Richard Lertzman and William Birnes.

According to the authors, the book delves deep into Falk’s life, his place in history, and his artistic journey. It reveals that Falk was a man who enjoyed drinking, smoking incessantly, and indulging in the company of his friends. He was known as a devoted womanizer and, unfortunately, a negligent husband and absentee father.

Falk’s Personal Life

Before storming the TV screens as Columbo, Falk had already made his mark in the movie industry. In 1960, he secured his big break in the American gangster film Murder, Inc, where his portrayal of the vicious killer Abe Reles earned him an Academy Award nomination. The following year, Falk starred alongside Bette Davis in the movie Pocketful of Miracles, earning another Academy Award nomination.

Falk was undoubtedly one of the most iconic stars of his generation and the highest-paid TV actor of his time, earning roughly $250,000 per episode of Columbo. However, his family life did not share the same success.

In 1960, Falk married his college sweetheart, Alyce Mayo, after dating for 12 years. The couple met at Syracuse University, where they were both students. Alyce, who worked as a designer, reportedly turned a blind eye to her husband’s infidelities. But after 16 years of marriage, she had finally had enough.

Together, Falk and Alyce adopted two daughters, Catherine and Jackie. While Jackie Falk later moved away from the spotlight, Catherine became a private investigator. Sadly, Catherine’s relationship with her father was rocky, and she even filed a lawsuit against him when he reportedly stopped paying her college expenses.

“I think that most people feel that I am this money-grabbing daughter, that I’m just going after my dad to get money,” Catherine told Inside Edition in 2011. She also mentioned that her relationship with her father became more complicated after he married his new wife, actress Shera Danese.

Conflict and Farewell

Catherine described her father’s marriage to Shera Danese as a source of difficulty. She claimed that they were not allowed to visit him at his house, further straining their relationship. The conflict between Catherine and Shera Danese soon escalated.

Tragically, Peter Falk, with his unmistakable squint and crumpled raincoat, passed away in June 2011, losing his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His cause of death was primarily pneumonia, with complications from Alzheimer’s. According to his doctor, Stephen Read, Falk’s dementia worsened after hip surgery in 2008, and he no longer remembered his iconic role as ‘Columbo’.

Peter Falk battled adversity from a young age, having been diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer, at just three years old. Despite losing his eye and wearing a prosthetic, he persevered and achieved great success as an actor. In fact, Steven Spielberg once said, “I learned more about acting from him at that early stage of my career than I had from anyone else.”

Peter Falk peacefully passed away at his Beverly Hills home at the age of 83, leaving behind a rich legacy. Tributes poured in from around the world, celebrating his wisdom, humor, and brilliant portrayal of the haphazard detective, Columbo. His fans will always remember him fondly for entertaining millions of people worldwide.

Please share this tribute with all the ‘Columbo’ fans you know and help keep Peter Falk’s memory alive.