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Wartime Columbo (1 of 2)
This view of wartime Columbo looks to have have been taken from the photograph's hotel room and shows a section of modern looking contruction.
Many thanks to Ken Creed for sending us these pictures, which were taken by his wife's uncle Terry Ruff during his time with No.357 Squadron, a special operations unit that operated over Burma, Malaya and Sumatra.
Feature Media In Wartime
How free is the press to cover the military during a war?
Historically, the answer is, it depends.
Despite the first amendment, during the Civil War, the military often kept reporters off the battlefields.
Fifty years later, when the U.S. entered the First World War, the military took control of all radio communications and censored all photographs.
Then Congress passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, making it illegal to publish anything disrespectful to the government, the flag or the uniforms of American troops.
By the end of the war's first year, 75 U.S. newspapers had lost their mailing privileges or been forced to change their editorial positions.
World War II brought the creation of a military office of censorship.
If the press wanted access, they had to apply for credentials from the office, which meant they had to play ball with the military.
This deal kept stories like the creation of the a-bomb out of the press until after the war.
But things were different in Vietnam.
As the war itself spiraled out of control, restrictions on the press became increasingly lax.
As the anti-war movement grew at home, the American press began to question the war and air their concerns on the nightly news.
From a PR standpoint, Vietnam was a fiasco.
In the wars that followed, the government put a much tighter rein on the press.
For example, both gulf wars have had a tremendous amount of press coverage, but critics fault the media for being more managed by the military than ever before.
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How Peter Falk cheated the system to serve in WWII-Columbo’s 1st case
I have always been a great fan of the cop show Columbo with Peter Falk in the title role. However I did not know that Peter Falk and I had a few things in common.
Born in New York City, Falk was the son of Michael Peter Falk , owner of a clothing and dry goods store, and his wife, Madeline (née Hochhauser) an accountant and buyer. Both of his parents were Jewish,coming from Poland and Russia on his father’s side,and from Hungary and Labowa, Nowy Sacz, Poland, on his mother’s side. Falk grew up in Ossining, New York.
When Peter was 3 he lost his right due to a tumor. This is where one similarity comes in, although I did not lose my right eye, I did nearly lose my left eye when I was 3. Due to an accident my eye was pulled out of its socket. I have had a very bad vision in that eye ever since, well until recently, I’ll come back to that later.
He used a prosthetic eye throughout his life, which makes his War contribution evene more remarkable.
Always embracing challenges, he tried to join the Marines, and even got as far as passing his first eye test, using “creativity.”, by memorizing the eye test chart. This is something I also did when I was called up for military service. A second round rousted Peter Falk out though. Undaunted, several months later he joined the Merchant Navy as a cook. He also tried to join the Israeli Irgun and the CIA, both turned him down. The CIA however did not turn him down because of his eye but according to Peter Falk in a Guardian interview “I’d joined the union of cooks and stewards at sea. And because I’d attended a liberal college and been in Yugoslavia.”
As I mentioned earlier I would come back about my eye. Ironically,although I had always fears of losing my left eye.In 2011 I ended up losing my right eye, well partially, because of a failed operation the wall of my left eye caved in, making it shrink and resulting in loss of vision.I now also wear a prosthetic eye, not a full one as Peter Falk though.
Peter Falk is one of my heroes, despite some set backs in his life he didn’t give up on his dreams.Such was the charisma of the man that when one thinks of Columbo one automatically thinks of Peter Falk, not realizing he was actually the 2nd actor to play the slightly confused but highly intelligent Lt Columbo.
The first actor who played Columbo was Bert Freed in an episode of “The Chevy Mystery Show” called “Enough Rope”
Bert Freed had served in the US Army during WWII in the European theatre.
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Unlike nearly all of the above examples, some of the biggest wartime explosions in history weren’t accidents at all. As reported on this very blog, during the 19th and 20th centuries, military engineers and sappers revived the ancient and medieval practice of tunnelling beneath enemy fortifications and walls in order to collapse them. This process of ‘undermining’, or simply ‘mining’, was revolutionized in the modern age with the advent of gunpowder. While historically, tunnels would be simply collapsed to destabilize the structures above, later shafts beneath the defenders’ feet were instead packed to the rafters with explosives. The explosions, which would often be followed by an attack, would simultaneously break up fortifications and stun defenders.
The Allies set off 19 such mines of various sizes beneath the German lines in the opening moments of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The largest, which was dug beneath what was known as the Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt, consisted of18 tons of high explosives. The resulting blast, which tore a hole in the enemy position could be felt in the streets of London. It was the largest man-made detonation history to that point. Another mine detonated that morning gouged a 300-foot wide, 90-foot deep crevasse in the German line known as the Lochnagar Crater. The gaping hole in the earth is still visible 100 years later. Of course, these massive detonations would pale in comparison to the notorious Messines Mine of 1917. The British Army set off more than 450 tons of explosives in 19 tunnels stretching beneath a long segment of the German lines on June 7. The inferno would vapourize between 6,000 and 10,000 enemy troops in a flash. Contemporary reports indicate that the explosion shook the earth for hundreds of miles, with rumbling being felt as far afield as Dublin. At the time, the Messines explosion was the largest man-made explosion ever — a record that wouldn’t be topped until the atomic bombs of the Manhattan Project. 
The season originally aired Sundays at 9:00-10:30 pm (EST) as part of The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie.
The DVD was released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
When elderly physician Henry Willis (Sam Jaffe) refuses to finance a return to the spotlight for his wife, aging former movie star Grace Wheeler (Janet Leigh), she kills him in his sleep, passing it off as a suicide. Their elderly butler (Maurice Evans) believes Grace was in a private screening room the entire time, watching one of her classic films.
Final clue/twist: Columbo believes that a discrepancy between the length of the movie and the time it took Grace Wheeler to watch it, including the few minutes it took her to fix the film after it ripped, proves that Grace spent some time away from the screening room. It was then, Columbo concludes, that she was out committing the murder.
This is one of the only two episodes in which the perpetrator is not arrested (the other being "It's All In The Game"), as Ned Diamond (John Payne), Wheeler's longtime song and dance partner who has always loved Grace, falsely confesses to save her after Columbo informs him she is suffering from a degenerative brain disease (the primary reason her husband refused to finance her return) and likely no longer even remembers the murder. Nonetheless, Columbo is prepared to arrest her. Diamond makes his false confession to Grace who briefly becomes hysterical. Columbo arrests Diamond, both realizing that by the time he is cleared, Grace will have died. Columbo's normal instincts thwarted, he makes several half turns – as though to enter the screening room – where Grace, lost in the past, is watching the film, having already forgotten Diamond's confession. Columbo then leaves the mansion, following Diamond.
The episode features excerpts from the 1953 musical comedy Walking My Baby Back Home, which starred Leigh. It is Grace's favorite film, the one playing when she was committing the crime and the one she is watching, mesmerized, at the end of the episode.
Hassan Salah (Héctor Elizondo), chief diplomat of the Legation of Suari, an Arab nation with a new young king, has a scheme for shifting power within his government. He enlists Rachman Habib (Sal Mineo), a naïve idealist in the Legation, to help him stage the murder of a security officer, then plants evidence to make it look like the work of radicals. Salah pins the murder on the now-absent Habib, who, as part of the plan, has gone into hiding. Salah later kills Habib as well. Columbo unravels the truth, but finds himself stymied by Salah's diplomatic immunity. Columbo then meets the new king, who is on a diplomatic visit to the United States, and is liked by the young monarch.
Final clue/twist: Columbo gets Salah, still under diplomatic immunity, to confess to the murder with the king listening in from the next room. To stay in the U.S. rather than be sent back to Suari and the torture that it is implied he would face, Salah signs a confession and waives his immunity from prosecution.
A CIA operative code-named "Geronimo" (Leslie Nielsen) contacts fellow CIA-operative, now working undercover as speech-writing consultant Nelson Brenner (Patrick McGoohan, who also directed), to demand his share of money from a previous operation they were involved in. It motivates Brenner to kill Geronimo. Columbo finds himself blocked at every turn by a man who knows a lot of private and classified secrets, and even by a visit from the Director of the Agency (David White).
Final clue/twist: Brenner's alibi, a taped speech for a client, is proven false when Columbo establishes that some statements in the speech were based on news that was not known until hours after the recording was allegedly made.
Retired and renowned matador Luis Montoya (Ricardo Montalban) is a Mexican national hero. His trusted bookkeeper, Hector Rangel (Robert Carricart)'s son Curro is also a bullfighter. When Curro (A Martinez) is gored in the bullring, Montoya freezes up in fear and does not challenge the bull. He later decides to kill Hector, who knows what happened. Montoya lures Hector to the ring, where he shoots him with a tranquilizer gun, and unleashes the bull on the prone man. The result is that it appears Hector tried to take revenge on the bull that gored his son. Columbo, who just happens to be in Tijuana for the weekend, is recognized by a suspicious local chief of police (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.), who enlists Columbo's help.
Final clue/twist: Due to the condition of the muleta used to attract the bull, Columbo deduces the time frame of the murder, a period for which Montoya has no alibi. To prove Montoya's motive, Columbo persuades Curro to lure Montoya into the ring. The bull is then released, and the ex-matador again becomes paralyzed with fear, this time in front of witnesses. This episode is noteworthy as the murderer's motive is not revealed until the very end.
The Great Santini (Jack Cassidy) is a magician extraordinaire at a cabaret. He is also being blackmailed by his insatiably greedy employer, impresario Jesse Jerome (Nehemiah Persoff), over the fact that he is actually Sergeant Stefan Mueller, a former Nazi SS prison guard. Mueller tires of the arrangement and Jerome's demand for more money, and kills his blackmailer in the middle of his famed water tank escape act, giving himself what he believes to be an airtight alibi. He sneaks out of a room where he hides during the act, makes his way dressed as a waiter through the cabaret's kitchen and up to Jerome's office, shoots him, then returns to his act with nobody noticing. Robert Loggia plays Harry Blandford, the club's maître d' and Jerome's less than enthusiastic business partner, whose personality was such that another character says of the late Jerome, "To know him was to detest him."
Final clue/twist: Santini is undone by the used carbon ribbon on Jerome’s IBM Selectric typewriter. The carbon ribbon has a clear imprint of everything written with it, so it is in effect a copy of the letter Jerome was typing to send to federal authorities, which revealed the motive for the murder.
Commodore Otis Swanson (John Dehner) is a retired naval officer who owns a shipbuilding company, and is not happy with the shady dealings of his son-in-law Charles Clay (Robert Vaughn), who has turned the modest and upstanding business into a name-brand production line for status-seekers. Nor is he pleased with any of the people closest to him - his alcoholic daughter Joanna Clay (Diane Baker), his middle-aged playboy nephew Swanny Swanson (Fred Draper), his lawyer Jonathan Kittering (Wilfrid Hyde-White), and his shipyard manager Wayne Taylor (Joshua Bryant). He announces at his birthday party his intention to sell the company. That night, someone murders the Commodore. Although we don't see the murder on-screen, Clay is seen covering up the death by taking the Commodore's body out on his yacht at night and throwing it overboard. Columbo investigates with the help of a veteran sergeant and a 29-year-old rookie. The detective's conviction that Clay committed the crime proves premature and inaccurate, an unusual development for Columbo. Clay himself turns up dead and Columbo realizes that someone else is responsible for both murders.
Final clue/twist: When Columbo holds what he says is Commodore Swanson's pocket watch to every suspect's ear, only Swanny disputes it, saying "'Tisn't" when he hears it ticking. The watch was broken at the time of the murder to create a false time frame, and only the murderer would have known the watch no longer works.(Clay's motive for covering up the murder is because he thought the killer was his wife due to planted evidence by Swanny he was killed when he realized who the real killer was)
Wartime Columbo (1 of 2) - History
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US military badge hallmarks.
A photo essay of original markings.
AMCRAFT ATTLEBORO MASS.
AMERICAN EMBLEM COMPANY, UTICA, NY
STERLING A.E. CO. UTICA, NY
There is a variation with AE CO above the inverted triangle as well.
Watch for fakes with a rough finish to the reverse.
Noted military goods maker from the Civil War on
AMICO (American Insignia Company)
Above: an early AMICO hallmark on an AAF pilot wing.
Below: more often encountered AMICO hallmarks.
ANGUS & COOTE Australian made.
Early pattern mark
On jump wings, Air Gunner and Pilot.
* For a Commonwealth wing to be sterling it would be special ordered or post war as in the Commonwealth nations sterling was not used wartime for insignia so be wary of sterling on a UK made badge.
A noted WWII German insignia maker that continued to produce for the Occupation Army after WWII.
L.G. Balfour Company, LGB, Balfour. Highly faked.
This hallmark is attributed to
BELL TRADING POST aka GENERAL INSIGNIA COMPANY.
Here is a later hallmark, 1950's.
Early Bell marking.
BB&B (BAILEY, BANKS, & BIDDLE)
1920's-30's wing marking.
The first paratrooper badge.
Hallmark is much crisper than the image would suggest.
Note, nice & crisp, not like on the current crop of fakes.
This is on a 1930's medal.
JEANNOT BEAUNNE (WWII)
A unique hallmark featuring a small palm tree
next to sterling. All incised, WWII only.
From a WWII Capt. bar
CAPPURRO SAN ANTONIO
from WWI insignia
WWII & prewar maker of a lot of the Civilian pilot & instructor material.
Scarce WWII maker. I don't know if they made other wings or badges.
DIEGES & CLUST
1920's to WWII
DODGE INC. CHICAGO.
DUROCHARM STERLING paratrooper wings.
Their incised hallmark appears more 'crisp' in real life than in this scan and runs from 12 o'clock to 6.
Their raised hallmark is noticeably larger than most markings.
The last variations I know of on the Durocharm wings are this attractive incised markings.
I do not know why this company that specialized in sweetheart pieces and costume jewelry changed their hallmark so often.
Here it is on a crest.
S.E. EBY, PHILA.
Below, It should NOT look like this.
those applied designs are bogus.
J.R. GAUNT LONDON
From a paratrooper badge.
From an officer's cap eagle.
From a major's leaf
From a wing.
A post WWII hallmark.
Early GEMSCO hallmarks on paratrooper badges.
Raised, runs from 6 o'clock to 12.
This one runs across the base of the wing.
On an AAF wing
STERLING GEMSCO raised from inset cartouche on para-glider
Early GEMSCO advertising
JACK HELLER attributed WWII hallmark.
H&H HILBORN & HAMBURG
Sterling as found on the Marine issued Army pattern para badges.
H-H bought Imperial in 1942, and used both hallmarks until 1943. After 1943 the name "Imperial", H-H also had the "Viking" line as well.
Below is the most commonly seen H&H hallmark.
KINNEY & COMPANY
Kinney & Company, K. Co. Jewelers.
LEVELLE & COMPANY
Definite wartime, I've never encountered fakes or postwar LeVelle hallmarks. Common on crests, somewhat on AAF Aircrew, tough on other pieces.
WWII German occupation, mostly crests.
K.G. LUKE MELB.
From an AAF officer's collar device
From a USMC officer's collar EGA
(First from AAF aviation badges)
First pattern, raised.
Second pattern, incised.
Then from rank badges
MEDALLIC ART CO.
This hallmark for MACO. ROCH. N.Y.
is found on a caterpillar club pin.
Many variations in it's long history with badges produced from WWI through the post WWII years. Add to that the reproductions and much confusion has arisen.
MINERO - NEWCOME & CO. INC.
H.R. NEWCOME & CO.
N.I.B. CO JAPAN
Japanese Occupation late 1940's through the Korean War.
NORSID CO. NY
A rather plain impressed WWII hallmark that is scarce.
Found on a wing.
Found on a screwback crest.
J. O'BRIEN & COMPANY
Hallmark known to exist on AAF Pilot wings not sure about other material.
STERLING BY ORBER
A distinctive raised disc hallmark. Orber wings are often encountered with the trademark name obliterated and only the word STERLING legible.
Rare full Orber hallmark
POELLATH (Occupied German WWII)
J.O. POLLACK, CHICAGO
Found on a late to post-WWII AAF pattern Flight Engineer wing.
ROBBINS Company Attleboro, Mass
Robbins has been in existence many years and the hallmark has gone through many changes.
WWI Robbins hallmarks.
1930's - WWII
Robbins used a very distinctive winged R hallmark that was raised but set within and inset cartouche or box. Also found on aviation wings. Believed to be immediate post WWII through the 50's.
Found on paratrooper, glider, and CIB's. ALWAYS an open loop catch.
SILVERMAN BROTHER (post WWII)
STERLING EXCEPT FITTINGS
The trademark of Daniel Smilo & Sons
On a WWI wing
On a rank badge
WALLACE BISHOP BRISBANE Australia
WHITEHEAD & HOAG
Columbo in the flesh – on screen and stage
The honour of first portraying Columbo went to Bert Freed, who took up the mantle in the aforementioned live-to-air murder mystery Enough Rope, which aired on 31 July 1960 as part of the Chevy Mystery Show drama anthology.
Running for just an hour, Enough Rope would nevertheless be easily recognised by the Columbo viewer of today as an embryonic version of Prescription: Murder. The chief protagonist was psychologist Dr Roy Fleming, who murders his unloved wife by strangulation and establishes an alibi by having his young lover dress up as Mrs Fleming and flounce off a parked plane – just like in Prescription: Murder.
Several other scenes would ring bells with by today’s Columbo afficionados, including the Lieutenant being in the Flemings’ apartment when Roy returns home from his solo vacation the false murder confession by a young upstart Columbo’s dogged pursuit of Mrs Fleming’s missing dress and gloves and his curiosity about Dr Fleming’s lighter luggage on his return.
“Running for just an hour, Enough Rope would be easily recognised by today’s Columbo fans as an embryonic version of Prescription: Murder.”
There are key differences, though. Columbo never gets heavy with Dr Fleming’s young love interest (here named Susan Hudson, not Joan) Mrs Fleming doesn’t cling on to life in a coma the two leads don’t share a hypothetical chat over bourbons and the ending is very different to the ingenious ‘dead girlfriend’ bait-and-switch Columbo plays in the 1968 outing.
Instead Fleming’s lighter luggage proves to be his undoing. Columbo pretends he’s uncovered the items from the Flemings’ home said to have been stolen after the murder by dredging the lake where Roy has been vacationing in Canada. Dr Fleming doesn’t fall for it, forcing Columbo to admit it’s all his stuff. The Susan walks in and says ‘Where did you find it?’ to blow Ray’s cover.
Reportedly the episode ends with Columbo saying words to the effect of: “We ain’t found the real stuff yet, but we’re sure gonna now!” as credits roll, which sounds moderately anti-climactic to me.
Roy Fleming (played by Richard Carlson) was very much the centre of attention throughout, relegating Columbo to a largely secondary role. As for Freed’s portrayal, I can only report from other sources that say many of the characteristics familiar to Columbo fans were there (the forgetfulness, the increasingly insistent questioning, the little things that bother him), but that Freed and Falk were poles apart in how they delivered the lines, as well as their physical stature (Freed, pictured, being a large, physically intimidating sort).
However, I’ve never seen Enough Rope, nor have ever seen it available to buy. If you have and can make more informed comment then please be my guest!
Two years later and a lengthened version of the story was produced by Levinson and Link for the stage. This time actually entitled Prescription: Murder, the play starred the suave Joseph Cotten as Roy Fleming and veteran actor Thomas Mitchell – then aged 70 – as Columbo.
The character had evolved to become more like the version we meet in Falk’s 1968 debut. Shabbier, obsequious, more confused. Indeed, the original script described Columbo as being: “A rumpled police detective of indeterminate age. He seems to be bumbling and vague, with an overly apologetic, almost deferential manner. This masks an innate shrewdness, however, a foxy knowledge of human nature.” How reassuringly familiar!
The stage version plays out very similarly to the 1968 screen version, a notable difference again being the ending. Perhaps realising that the luggage-related denouement in Enough Rope was a bit of a dud, the ending here was beefed up to enhance its emotional impact.
Columbo does stage a fake suicide scene to draw Dr Fleming out, but this time Susan (still not Joan) isn’t hiding in a corner to hear Roy wax lyrical about how he never really cared for her. Instead Roy really was in love with Susan and is so choked up about her supposed death that he insists on confessing to the murder there and then.
This emphasis on the killer’s regret and partial redemption is indicative of the belief that the main star of the production was very much Cotten’s Dr Fleming. Mitchell, the first man to win the legendary trifecta of Oscar, Emmy and Tony Awards, and who had graced legendary motion pictures Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, High Noon and It’s a Wonderful Life, was, like Freed before him, to play second fiddle to Fleming. Yet if the rumours are true, audiences responded so favourably to the Columbo character that it became clear that the disheveled detective had star power in his own right.
Columbo first rattled Ms Hudson in 1962
The play toured the US and Canada from early January to late May of 1962, but never made it to Broadway. Sadly it marked Thomas Mitchell’s final acting role, as he died from cancer that December.
It wasn’t, of course, the end of Lieutenant Columbo. It became a case of third time lucky for Levinson and Link (and the Lieutenant) when they heard Universal were on the lookout for good mystery scripts in 1967. The Prescription: Murder teleplay was duly picked up by the studio, but who to cast as Columbo – a character more pivotal to the story than originally intended?
Lee J. Cobb, then in his 50s, is said to have been the first choice, but his schedule was too full to allow it. Bing Crosby was famously offered the role but turned it down as he was enjoying retirement (and the lure of the golf links) too much. Instead, and despite reservations about him being ‘too young’, Levinson and Link turned to Peter Falk, who had just turned 40. Filming wrapped up in late 1967. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dare we speculate on what might have happened if someone other than Falk had got the role in 1967? It’s always impossible to tell. Lee J. Cobb could actually have been superb (his Lieutenant Kinderman in The Exorcist was entirely Columbo-esque), although I can’t imagine Bing in the role in a million years.
No, it’s safe to say that Falk was so wonderful, so perfect in the role of Columbo, that he and he alone could have turned the character – and the show – into one of the best, most enduring, most respected and most loved of all time.
Indeed it’s a testament to Falk, and the creative powers of Levinson and Link, that Columbo is likely to be as highly regarded in another 50 years as it is today.
What are your memories of your first encounter with Lieutenant Columbo? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
During wartime, one of the most effective weapons in any country&rsquos arsenal is sabotage: attacking the war engine itself by crippling key supplies, manufacturing, strategic locations and even logistic routes.
Saboteurs are not always an obvious and visible enemy. Many are underground agents, unconnected to official military authorities. More often than not, though, they have been trained and unofficially sanctioned by intelligence agencies or senior members of the armed forces.
The German government turned to sabotage during World War I in an attempt to thwart U.S. trade with Europe. German agents working on U.S. soil targeted munitions factories and plants producing goods to be shipped to help the Allied troops on the battlefields of Europe.
Throughout 1916 a number of mysterious fires and explosions broke out but none as brazen as the attack on Black Tom Island, a 15-minute ferry ride from the southern tip of Manhattan.
On July 30, 1916, German agents set fire to a complex of warehouses and ships to halt the movement of supplies to Europe. The explosion rocked New York City, windows shattered in downtown Manhattan and the noise was heard as far away as Maryland. The property damage was estimated at $20 million (around $377 million today).
At the time authorities downplayed the incident and many ordinary New Yorkers were unaware they were under attack, despite the continued strikes on strategic facilities.
A few months later in January 1917 a fire at the Kingsland munitions factory in New York destroyed 1.3 million artillery shells. In March there was an explosion at the U.S. Navy Yard at Mare Island, California, involving barges filled with munitions, killing 6 and injuring 31.
While the attacks were aimed at forcing the United States to back out, they instead ended up being a significant factor in the eventual deployment of U.S. troops to Europe.
By World War II sabotage had evolved and become more sophisticated. Nations organized agencies who were trained to attack military targets and disable the enemy&rsquos war effort.
Britain used sabotage to great effect by establishing the Special Operations Executive (SOE). One of their primary functions was the sabotage of enemy equipment, installations and means of production.
They ran secret training schools, where saboteurs were schooled in creating chaos and specially trained in unarmed combat and demolition, handling weapons and explosives.
One of the most successful SOE stings was Operation Jaywick where agents disguised as Malay fisherman snuck into Singapore Harbour and sunk 30,000 tons of Japanese shipping.
Anti-German resistance and partisan movements were also active saboteurs. By the end of 1942 around 200,000 partisans were attacking factories, military installations, railroads and bridges. Many of their actions were minor forms of sabotage, such as disabling German telephone lines.
Others were more advanced such as Groupe G, a sabotage team headed by scientists and engineers at the University of Brussels. They organized attacks on the Belgian transportation network, particularly railroads and waterways, electricity supplies and telephone communications.
Today sabotage has been replaced by what is perceived as a bigger threat to nations: terrorism. While sabotage avoided human casualties and focused on crippling the arteries of the war machine, terrorists strike at the heart &ndash the people.
Romania asked Peter Falk to help prevent an uprising after the country ran out of Columbo episodes
Over the past year of hibernation, many viewers have rediscovered the joy of watching Columbo . The landmark 1970s TV mystery series starred Peter Falk in his multiple-Emmy-winning role as a raincoat-wearing, cigar-smoking detective who always had just one more question. The show was also popular in the time of its original airing, where it rotated on the NBC Mystery Movie schedule and featured an array of dazzling murderous guest stars like Janet Leigh, Leonard Nimoy, and John Cassavetes.
Columbo’s reach even stretched to other countries: The people of Romania, for example, were huge fans. So much so that in 1974, when the Columbo episodes for that season ran out, the populace protested, and the Romanian government reached out to Falk himself to try to stem the uprising. This week, Twitter user John Frankensteiner dug up a 1989 Chicago Tribune article relaying the incident . Many on Reddit have called bullshit—but Falk told the story himself in his memoir Just One More Thing, and also during a 1995 David Letterman appearance.
The confusion, as Falk explains, came from the fact that the Romanian government had a quota on how much American television could be viewed in the country. With Columbo averaging less than 10 shows per season, the people of Romania were convinced that the government was keeping more episodes from them, stoking fears of a massive protest. So the U.S. State Department invited Falk to a meeting in a New York hotel room with a representative from Romania . In his memoir, Falk describes that he was understandably flummoxed, and asked, “[P]lease excuse the language, but what the fuck do I know about the Romanian government?” He was informed that the show had swept the country—that “Columbo is Romania’s Elvis Presley”—and was persuaded to deliver a phonetically spelled-out speech in Romanian to assure the populace that Columbo would in fact be returning the next TV season. For doubters, a transcript of the speech is available on WikiLeaks .
Falk unbelievably asks Letterman, “Was that a good story?” and the host and the audience enthusiastically assure him that it’s one of the greats. While the perennially humble Falk still seems overwhelmed by the rumpled detective’s popularity, having watched several seasons of the show ourselves over these past insular months, we totally get Romania’s passion for the program. Fortunately for current Columbo fans, seven full seasons are available for streaming on Amazon Prime, with 10 on Peacock.
64 thoughts on &ldquo Does Mrs Columbo really exist? &rdquo
I’m new to actually watching Columbo—for years my only exposure to him was through Wings of Desire—so I’ll see how my thinking changes. In the episodes I’ve watched, I don’t believe in her. in a series that turns on observing small details, no one has noted the absence of a wedding ring — and I like to think of the mentions of his wife as one of the many ways Columbo teases his interviewees with small dissemblances. Perhaps she only became real in later seasons.
I saw the Mrs Columbo series when it was broadcast in the UK, and more recently a couple of bonus episodes included on region 1 DVD’s of the Columbo series. (This includes an episode with Donald Pleasance as a Scotland Yard inspector).
If the series had been called “Kate Loves a Mystery” from the start, and If it had never been connected in any way with the beloved Columbo series, it would be regarded more favourably. I mean it. Kate Mulgrew was very attractive as a young woman and is a fine actor.
The premise of a young housewife and mother who is married to a homicide detective, and regularly solves crimes while working as a reporter for the local paper should not be taken too seriously, but is fine for some light hearted escapism. It’s no more far fetched than Miss Marple.
Of course Kate (the actor) was too young to be Lt Columbo’s wife, but maybe Kate (the character) could have just been nicknamed “Mrs Columbo” because she was good at solving crimes?
By all means, put it in a parallel universe, but give it a break.
The ending of the rather fantastic episode – Rest in Peace : Mrs Columbo , when the Lieutenant Calls her from the Sergeants house, is rather touching and had me in tears a little.
What a truly Wonderful piece of TV. I watched it for the first time tonight hard to believe that it came out in 1990, 30 years ago. One can only imagine the emotions of watching it for the first time back then it must’ve been truly magical but harrowing at the same time. One of my favourite Columbo episodes for sure.
I admit to being one of the more casual fans who questioned the true existence of Mrs. C. Finally watched RIP today anxiously wondering if the answer would be overt. Well, it was (she clearly exists), but I’m left still wishing she didn’t.
Before I continue I should acknowledge that I trust CP has laid out an accurate case that the show has long made clear she exists. I have not watched every episode and therefore don’t deny this fact.
But it’s interesting that her reality was largely up for debate until season 4. That’s when TV shows often need to break from formula and throw in new developments just to mix things up. I’m sure several writers were dying to lend credence to Mrs C so they did. But knowing that Levinson/Link/Falk originally didn’t know only adds to my opinion that she works better as a malleable muse (presuming you could go back and rewrite the specific scenes that blow that possibility apart).
Colombo eats many meals in bachelor diners, he’s always on the clock, he has hounded or staked out suspects at 3 am, 7am, 8 pm … how can he do this and maintain a fulfilling marriage? It’d be one thing if he was only called in on the big cases, but we see him time and again first on scene to apparent suicides, accidents etc., where he and only he suspects murder. He is clearly married to the job above all else. Not having to juggle a family life makes his ability to research esoteric clues like fine art (Suitable for Framing) or psych conditions (RIP Mrs C) on the fly more believable.
I suspect the writers eventually made Mrs C real for the very reason CP wants her to be real — she legitimizes Colombo as a well-adjusted, happy, normal human — not lonely or gay or Monk-ish or a homicide idiot savant or whatever else might have spoiled his genius to 70s audiences.
But I feel it’s his singular focused, obsessed, dogged, undistracted, approach to solving murder that gives him his edge. I want him to be happy but don’t think he needs a wife to be so. I think he actually ENJOYS making Mrs C into whatever straw woman she needs to be to serve each case. It makes far more sense that she’s an invented tool of a brilliant detective than to accept she’s this proto-magic pixie dream girl that is down to earth enough for old-fashioned Colombo to love with devotion but fantastical enough to inspire our hero’s various diatribes.
Again, I’m not saying Mrs C isn’t real in the canon, I’m just saying it’d be better if she wasn’t.
When I found out the house used to deceive the killer to confess in RIP was actually the sergeant’s house, I jumped for joy. The longstanding Colombo ruse is so thorough that Vivian Demetri wanted to kill a woman who didn’t exist. But then he calls up old sick Mrs C and the illusion is shattered, at least to this viewer. We’re left knowing that Mrs C exists but probably sees her husband a total of 45 minutes each week.
Watch the video: A Quick Nap. Columbo (June 2022).