Ashes to Ashes

Episode 67 – Ashes to Ashes

The sixty fifth episode of Columbo was titled Ashes to Ashes and was the third episode of the show’s final season. Columbo goes head-to-head with a celebrity undertaker. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the final appearance of a much-loved performer.

 

 

In his final on-screen role, Columbo veteran Patrick McGoohan makes his fourth appearance in the show, playing Eric Prince, a celebrity undertaker who shares the secrets of the dead with a tabloid reporter. When that reporter, Verity Chandler (Rue McClanahan), works out that Prince stole a valuable necklace from a corpse she tells him she intends to report it, a revelation that leads to her immediate death at his hands.

 

The episode focuses largely on Prince and Columbo‘s interaction (to its benefit), but there are small supporting roles for Sally Kellerman as grieving widow Liz Houston, Ron Masak as fence Eddie Fenelle, Spencer Garrett as Verity’s PA Roger Gambles, Richard Riehle as Sergeant Degarmo, Richard Libertini as Sheikh Yarami, Edie McClurg as another widow – this time one vital to the conclusion of the investigation – and Catherine McGoohan (daughter of Patrick) as Rita, an assistant at the funeral parlour.

 

Patrick McGoohan, as in two of his three previous performance, doubled up as director, working with a young playwright named Jeffrey Hatcher, who has gone on to create cinema screenplays for films including The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, and Mr. Holmes with Lord of the Rings star, Sir Ian McKellen.

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Ashes to Ashes, please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.

 

The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.

 

Ashes to Ashes was released in 1998. It is 88 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal (all remaining episodes are considered ‘Season 10’ in the DVD collection).

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Largo

    ATTENTION FELLOW COLUMBO FANS — PLEASE JOIN OUR SKYPE AUDIO CHAT :

    “Life, the Universe and Columbo” ** 🙂

    — On Saturday, March 19th, 2016 at 8pm GMT time / 3pm Central time / 4pm Eastern time / 1pm Pacific time [USA observes Daylight Savings on March 13th / the UK on March 27th] —

    Ian Baxter and Largo are planning on co-hosting a Skype audio chat session with as many of the Columbo Podcast Forum folks that want to join in! So please mark your calendars and download the free Skype application and establish your free Skype account, if you haven’t already done so. Then please send me the primary e-mail address and the username that is associated with your Skype account to:

    emilio.largo6583@gmail.com

    The contact information that is sent to the above e-mail address will allow me to initiate and ‘host’ a group call on March 19th. Within the Skype application, one can have a group call with a total of 25 participants. So please join up for a Columbo audio chat on Saturday, March 19th! Thank you!!!!

    ** Yeah, it’s a tad pretentious, but in a good way. In short, we’ll discuss all things Columbo!

    • I can’t make any promises, but I will try my best to stop by for a while!

      • Largo

        You just won’t believe the number of texts that I’ve received from Margaret regarding this forum response post of yours, eh! 🙂

    • Excellent – can’t wait. Now if you guys will excuse me, I’m heading over to the ‘Hart to Hart’ forum. When they met, it was moider!

      • Margaret Williams

        Trying to get through an episode of Hart to Hart was indeed murder! Tee hee hee hee!

  • Roberto

    Excellent episode and excellent podcast. Really “fun” watching McGoohan and Falk together again. Rumor has it that “Ashes to Ashes” will be the final good Columbo episode.

    Of course the forced clues and plot contrivances are annoying, but they don’t really spoil a very good episode. I guess the writers endlessly wrestle with trying to strike the proper balance between forced clues and Columbo magic. Personally, I have always wanted fewer forced clues and plot contrivances. But my views never have carried the day, and now that the Columbo franchise is running out of episodes, I fear they never will.

  • Ian Baxter

    Thanks again, good podcast and one of the better episodes. Shame you missed the minister in your show notes. He was played by Aubrey Morris and I enjoyed his quirky little performance; his message timed to perfection as the clock chimes was a nice touch.

    This is his IMDb biography…

    “He was one of those delightful, typically British, actors with a penchant for playing eccentrics. Early in his career, Jeremy Brett once quaintly introduced Aubrey Morris to Noël Coward as “the finest small-part player in London”. Born Aubrey Steinberg of Jewish-Ukrainian ancestry, he was one of several siblings with artistic inclinations (his brother Wolfe Morris was also a noted character player). Aubrey studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London on a scholarship and made his stage debut in 1944. During the 1950’s, he acted regularly on the West End stage, at the Old Vic and on Broadway.

    In addition to making excellent use of his Shakespearean-trained voice, his diminutive stature and beaming, toothy countenance proved a significant asset to a remarkable versatility on screen. Morris was adept at conveying unctuousness, cunning, duplicity, civility or obsession with equal ease and in a wide variety of roles and genres. His many memorable performances include the Freud-fixated writer Mr. Mybug in Cold Comfort Farm (1968); the sleazy probation officer Mr. Deltoid in A Clockwork Orange (1971); a sinister gravedigger in The Wicker Man (1973); the oily manservant Grosvenor, asking Michael Palin for the use of the ‘naughty books’, in “The Curse of the Claw” episode of Ripping Yarns (1976); the jolly captain of the ‘B-Ark’ (filled with such folk as telephone sanitizers), spending years luxuriating in his bubble-bath in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1981); and, last, but not least, the ancient thespian Chesterton, shuffling off this mortal coil while being read quotes from King Lear in HBO’s Deadwood (2004).

    Residing in the U.S. since the mid-1980’s, Aubrey Morris continued to ply his trade right up until his death at the venerable age of 89.
    – IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

    Trivia:
    1. Has appeared in four different productions with Patrick McGoohan: The Quare Fellow (1962), Secret Agent (1964), The Prisoner (1967) and Columbo: Ashes to Ashes (1998).
    2. He worked with his elder brother Wolfe Morris in The Sweeney: Stoppo Driver (1975) and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975).
    3. He and his elder brother Wolfe Morris both appeared in Hammer films: Wolfe in The Abominable Snowman (1957), The Camp on Blood Island (1958), Further Up the Creek (1958), I Only Arsked! (1958) and Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) and Aubrey in Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971).
    4. He had eight siblings. Two of his sisters became professional dancers, and a brother became a character actor.
    5. He attended Portsmouth Municipal College, and regularly took part in the Portsmouth Guildhall annual festival of music and drama. He won a scholarship to study at Rada in London.
    6. His professional debut was in “The Winter’s Tale”, in the junior role of Clown, at the Regent’s Park theater in May 1944. His West End debut was in “Fly Away Peter”, a family comedy at the King’s theater, Hammersmith, in May 1947.”

    • In the end I felt he wasn’t really critical to the plot, so I left him out. Interesting fellow!

  • Largo

    Patrick McGoohan makes a very welcome return to the Columbo Mystery Movie series with his final onscreen appearance as Eric Prince in Ashes To Ashes. This is a fairly solid Columbo episode and is one of my top ten favorites from the ABC revival series. Ashes To Ashes is easily the best Columbo episode from this final season, despite the many ham-fisted clues. I totally agree with Roberto that the winning performances and the ‘cat and mouse’ interaction between Patrick McGoohan’s Eric Prince and Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo are the very best items in this one. Or perhaps these performances are just one of the best components about Ashes To Ashes, depending on how one reacts to this episode’s rather macabre humor. One of my favorite bits involves tap-dancing legend Arthur Duncan: who appears at one of the Eric Prince funeral home’s services (in a top hat and tails) and tap-dances in tribute to a famous and now deceased Hollywood dancer — in front of the coffin.

    But I don’t want to get too dark here, so let’s celebrate the great Patrick McGoohan! Like I mentioned earlier, Ashes To Ashes was McGoohan’s final onscreen performance. So now I want to turn to Patrick McGoohan’s breakout performance as secret agent John Drake in the British ITV series, Danger Man (1960-62 and 1964-66). Before James Bond made his silver screen debut, there was special operative John Drake of NATO. The first iteration of Danger Man that was produced consisted of a total of 39 half-hour episodes. This format was successful in every television market save one: the USA. So, needless to say, this version of Danger Man eventually fizzled.

    However, once James Bond made a big splash on movie screens worldwide and the ‘spy craze’ was beginning to gear up full swing, ITV revamped Danger Man as a series of hour long episodes. Here in the States, the CBS Network didn’t want to have this new edition of Danger Man hitting the airwaves with the very same title as the “failed” first half-hour edition. So in the USA, this new version of Danger Man was re-titled Secret Agent. John Drake now worked for British Intelligence, but he was an agent with a very strong moral conscience and he only killed in self-defense. I recently purchased the DVD box set from Shout Factory and I’ve been really enjoying the adventures of John Drake. There are three volumes to this particular DVD edition and I’m almost done with Volume 2. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites so far from both versions of Danger Man. But first up is the superb Danger Man website that I found recently. I hope that you enjoy it Be seeing you! 🙂

    http://danger-man.co.uk

    • Largo

      Here are two fine examples from the first edition of Danger Man (1960-62). Enjoy! 🙂

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sK_SM3RHbY

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p25odlQwBdg

      • Largo

        And here are three of my favorite hour-long episodes from the second edition of Danger Man (1964-66). Enjoy! 🙂

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6hFU8E9sZc

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRJvjLZXL3k

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuyKibyEydM

      • Danger Man was obviously quite wonderful, but I wonder, Largo, whether you ever had the good fortune to catch Dangermouse?

        • Largo

          Are you referring to that British mouse with the eye patch? Why, yes I have, Kieran! But I haven’t seen any of the revival episodes, just the classic series from the 1980s. 🙂

          • Ian Baxter

            If I remember right he lived under 221B Baker Street!

          • Largo

            Ian — I do believe you are referring to Basil of Baker Street, which Disney Animation adapted into the film The Great Mouse Detective (1986).

          • Ian Baxter

            Both Basil and Danger Mouse live at 221B Baker Street

          • Largo

            Really? Maybe they’re related and Danger Mouse just inherited this same property. Or perhaps they both purchased it through the same reality company? 😉

          • Ian Baxter

            I think Danger Mose was under a pillar box out side the property whereas Basil was within the house itself

          • Largo

            But before there was Danger Mouse or Basil of Baker Street, there was Courageous Cat And Minute Mouse (1961), created by Bob Kane!!!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAmmT8Ng0mw

    • A fitting end to a marvellous career. One of my all time favourite actors, my favourite, in case you’re wondering, being Richard Burton, he of the Valleys with the most wonderfully recognisable mellifluous tones.

      • Largo

        Splendid, splendid! I totally agree with you, Kieran! My favorite actors all have rather rich and commanding voices: Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Charlton Heston, James Mason and Patrick McGoohan! 🙂

  • Nice to see a return to form (mostly) for the good lieutenant. Enjoyed the cast as always. Sad to be coming to the end of things. 🙁

    • Sad indeed, but all good things must come to an end.

    • Margaret Williams

      Or in the words of Dr. Seuss —

  • Largo

    ATTENTION CARLOS, DIGGER, EMRYS, PETER, RED HOBBES & RICHARD HINTON:

    Please take note of the very first post in this discussion thread. A Skype chat on Columbo is going to become a reality very soon and I haven’t heard from any of you gentlemen. Some of you have voted for this idea of mine when I’ve brought it up on earlier discussion threads. I sure hope that this is still of interest to you. Ian Baxter and I would be very pleased to have you join us in our Skype group call on March 19th. Please send me your Skype contact information as soon as you can if you would like to chat with us about all things Columbo! 🙂

    • Maybe try reaching out to them on twitter?

      • Largo

        Thank you for that suggestion, but I’d rather keep this particular announcement confined to this very fine forum. 🙂

        P. S. — Please check your e-mail – I would like your advice on something, eh.

  • Red Hobbes

    A fun episode, a fitting end for the series. Except it wasn’t the end. It was great to see McGoohan and Falk match wits again, even if the case was very weak. Both actors were having a ball playing off each other, you could tell in every episode they were in.

    Like I say, the case was extremely weak and tenuous, but the reason to watch was to see two old friends duel one last time. A great podcast this week as well, gents. Looking forward to the final two episodes.

  • A top drawer episode, with the wonderful Pat McGoohan on top form, both as an actor and a director. ‘Commodore’ is now just a dim and distant memory…thankfully.

    • Largo

      ‘Commodore’ is now just a dim and distant memory…thankfully.

      Indeed it is, Kieran! 😉

  • tyty

    Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but did you guys mention the Ferris Bueller connection in this episode? Edie McClurg memorably played the school secretary (“GRAAACE!”) in the 1986 film, while Richard Riehle played Principle Rooney in the short-lived 1990 TV series based on it.