Requiem for a Falling Star

Episode 12 – Requiem for a Falling Star

The twelfth episode of Columbo was titled Requiem for a Falling Star and was the fifth episode of the show’s second season. Columbo returns to the world of showbusiness and to Hollywood, looking to solve an apparent case of mistaken identity. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the show’s return to a familiar setting and a very unusual twist.

 

 

In Requiem for a Falling Star Columbo returned to more familiar territory than in the previous episode, but remained in the company of actors, principally Anne Baxter‘s murderous leading lady, Nora Chandler. Her unsuspecting victim Jean Davis was skillfully portrayed by Pippa Scott, making the most of a brief opportunity to shine.

 

Key supporting players in the drama were Mel Ferrer‘s scheming Jerry Parks; Kevin McCarthy as studio executive-cum-close personal friend of Ms Chandler, Frank Simmons; and Frank Converse as Mr Fallon, a frustrated bigwig, keen to move the studio into the second half of the twentieth century against much resistance from Nora.

 

There was also a cameo from celebrated costume designer Edith Head, playing herself – complete with an array of Academy Awards and a new tie for Columbo!

 

During this episode we asked listeners if they had any insight into tyre deflation on a car of the type Jean Davis drove and for a list of your top ten architects. If you have thoughts on that issue or any other aspect of Requiem for a Falling Star then please feel free to comment below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.

 

The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts, Spreaker 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.

 

Requiem for a Falling Star was released in 1973. It is 74 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all eleven seasons released by Universal.

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

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

  • Richard Hinton

    Thought I’d start with the most pertinent thing ~ Frank Converse (Fallon), Robert Culp & Robert Redford have never been seen in the same room at the same time!

    • I think Carlos pointed that one out a couple of weeks ago. Have to say Frank reminded me (Iain) more of Dylan Baker!

    • CarlosMu

      ha ha yes that leathery 1970’s leading man look, i love it. I haven’t seen this episode in a while but I do remember liking the suit Converse’s character was wearing, but not liking the tie that Edith Head gave Columbo.

  • Dylan Winslow

    One can completely open a Shrader tire (tyre) valve by unscrewing the valve stem. You need a special tool to do it, but they’re not at all hard to come by, and it’s not unknown to see combination valve cap/stem removers on cars.

  • hungbunny

    Interesting to hear your theory about George being a figment of Columbo’s imagination. I’ve often wondered the same thing about his wife… Third parties DO occasionally see and interact with her – Patrick Macnee in Troubled Waters, for example – but perhaps he hires an actress for holidays, social functions etc. It would certainly be interesting to discover that Columbo is in fact a delusional psychopath who has no life outside his job. (I’m deliberately ignoring the spin-off Mrs Columbo show here, because that’s what it deserves.)

    • Ian Baxter

      Poor George; I thought Iain and Gerry gave him a hard time… but it is a very amusing if macabre picture…

      Nora doesn’t hear George speak, only Columbo… but could George really be a mannequin in Columbo’s home with bits stuck to him with blue tack?

      A grotesque collection of memorabilia from Columbo’s past cases, like Mr.Ben’s drawer? A copy of a Mrs Melville novel on his knee, a contact lens tacked to his eye, an exploding cigar in his hand!?

      Well maybe…

      • I think we should assume that is the case!

        • Ian Baxter

          You know George (the real one, not the dummy) could just have been visiting on holiday.

    • digger01

      I have a far-fetched theory that all of Columbo’s relatives and the stories he relates are constructs of his mind. He uses these anecdotes merely as investigative tools.

      The first and most obvious is his never-seen wife. In various episodes he also mentions a brother-in-law, a nephew, a father-in-law, and other relatives – all with the purpose of giving the murderer the distinct impression that Columbo is a wide-eyed fanboy, is easily distracted, or as an excuse for his snooping.

      In this episode, he wanted to give Nora Chandler the impression that he was fawning and star-struck. His inappropriate behavior in asking her to say hi to his brother-in-law is very deliberate. He wants her to think he’s blinded by her stardom and not focused on the task at hand.

      He wants to get a closer look at the fountain in the back yard, so he uses the excuse that his wife loves souvenirs, and asks if he can pick a flower for her.

      There are many instances throughout the series where Columbo uses various family members as framing devices. Do they really exist? Or is Columbo just so adept at making us think they exist?

      • hungbunny

        Much as I’d like that theory to be true, there is a (terrible) 1992 episode – No Time to Die – in which Columbo’s nephew’s wife is kidnapped from their honeymoon suite on the night of their wedding. The nephew is a police officer totally lacking in Columbo’s charm, but he is undeniably real.

        I’m happy to ignore everything post-1978 if you are, though.

        • digger01

          Good call! I have seen that episode but didn’t recall that it was his nephew.

  • Ian Baxter

    Great job with the podcast again.

    I’ve always appreciate the way that the Columbo series plays down the violence, sex, and bad language and focuses on the relationship between the detective and the suspect. Columbo is free to hide his shrewd mind and be charming; making inappropriate phone calls, watching TV, picking flowers, or disrupting a film set. All the things that make him endearing and watchable.

    If you were to give this plot to a modern crime drama series I don’t believe they could resist sexualising the relationship between Jean and Jerry or focusing on the horror of a victim trapped in a burning car.

    I like this quote from Levinson and Link that describes their thinking behind Columbo:
    “We made other decisions those first weeks, the most basic of which was that the series would not be what is known as a “cop show.” We had no intention of dealing with the realities of actual police procedures. Instead, we wanted to pay our respects to the classic mystery fiction of our youth, the works of the Carrs, the Queens, and the Christies. We knew that no police officer on earth would be permitted to dress as shabbily as Columbo, or drive a car as desperately in need of burial, but in the interest of flavorful characterization, we deliberately chose not to be realistic. Our show would be a fantasy, and as such it would avoid the harsher aspects of a true policeman’s life: the drug busts, the street murders, the prostitutes, and the back-alley shootouts.”

    • Largo

      Thank you so much for this post, Ian! It really made my morning here at work. Columbo is not a cop show or a forensic procedural and that’s the beauty of it — for here character and their interactions are prime. I stopped watching Cold Case on Ion Television because the items you mentioned above that Columbo avoids, Cold Case seems to overemphasize to such a degree that it’s depressing. I also want to thank you for that Levinson and Link quote — great stuff!!!

    • CarlosMu

      Great quote! One way I think Columbo stands out is that the creators had a very clear idea of what it was about. And it seems like everyone involved, including the guest stars, did too.

    • That’s a great quote and sums things up pretty well!

  • digger01

    Great discussion again this week!

    I thought Anne Baxter did a great job in her role. She hit the all the right notes as an emotionally frail, egocentric, and melodramatic aging Hollywood actress. The plot was well-constructed and the run time kept it clicking along at a nice pace.

    Thanks again, Iain and Gerry, and best of luck with the Shorty Awards. Regardless of the outcome, you guys have created a first-rate and highly enjoyable podcast.

    • Ian Baxter

      Agree about Anne Baxter. I do think I’d have a more sympathetic view on her character if she had killed Jerry ‘the blackmailer’ instead of Jean ‘her faithful secretary’… but that doesn’t take from the performance. I just like the times Columbo shows some sympathy or understanding for the murderer, and whilst it’s there for the killing of her husband, it is not for her 2nd murder.

  • Peter

    Ann Baxter had at least 2 other great roles, one as Nefertiri in Ten Commandments and also in The Magnificant Ambersons. I always found this episode interesting as it has a nice plot twist.

  • Emrys

    I love this episode. Not without its faults though. The murder itself is overcomplicated, I think with purpose by the writers, for the sake of a semi-twist. If Nora wants to silence the only person who is aware of a murder she committed years previously there are better ways to do it. I could list ten ideas right now where she wouldn’t have been caught. But she didn’t ask me. Her loss.

    Interesting that the whole “Does Columbo’s extended family actually exist?” question has already cropped up. It’s a two-pronged question. For me, one prong is they don’t. Or at least none of the ‘stories’ concerning them that are shared by Columbo with the suspects are true. None. I thought this was implicit in the writing (or do I mean explicit… I’ll have to google it). Columbo invents a story to fit any given situation to further his line of questioning. I didn’t think this was even up for discussion. It seems obvious, purposeful and almost admitted on a number of occasions by Columbo himself. Although this may not be as ‘obvious’ as I’m suggesting on a brief flit through the series.

    But do the family members he references actually exist? As people. Solid. With mass. Maybe. Probably. A few of them. Maybe all. But I don’t think they are real in the context of any of his stories. I will sometimes mention ‘my sister’ for the purposes of a joke in conversation if necessary… but I don’t actually have a sister. Maybe I’ve watched too much Columbo. Ha ha.

    And let me make clear that I only consider the ’70’s series truly canon. I accept the come-back… and I enjoy the comeback, but for me Columbo is a ’70’s show. Steeped in killers wearing brown leather jackets, soundtracked by that great ’70’s music.

    Does Columbo’s wife exist? I’d like to think that she doesn’t. A lot of episodes would make a lot of sense if she was a figment of Columbo’s imagination for the purpose of luring in a suspect. However, there are enough instances in the original series where it would be difficult to get away with the serious suggestion that she doesn’t exist. A shame. I would like it to have been a little more ambiguous. Then people like me could believe in the character of Columbo as a loner. Others could believe in the family man. Everyone would be happy!

    Hmmmm… lost my way there again. In short, keep up the good work guys!

    • Ian Baxter

      Next time I’m planning a murder I’ll run it by you first 🙂

      • Emrys

        Next time? Doesn’t sound like you need to if the first one was a success!

        • Ian Baxter

          I’d love to tell you I was writting this from my prison cell… but I’ll confess… I’ve not bumped anyone off… yet

      • Largo

        Columbo’s wife exists and she’s absolutely gorgeous! That’s always been my theory and I’m sticking to it, eh. As for his extended family I totally agree with you: they are definitely real, but more than a few of his anecdotes about them are rather suspect.

        I’m not too comfortable about totally dismissing the second Columbo series that aired on the ABC network as non-canon, but I can still sympathize with you on this particular point. It’s very similiar to my feelings concerning James Bond truly belonging only to the Sixties. Be seeing you! 😎

        • Ian Baxter

          Well I’m sure you’d at least make a very sympathetic murderer 🙂

          • Largo

            That’s very kind of you to say, Ian. I sure hope I’d be more like Tommy Brown from “Swan Song” than someone like Montresor from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” 😮

    • Richard Hinton

      Columbo’s wife definitely exists – In Troubled Waters, other people direct Columbo to her whereabouts when he loses her.
      Anyone know of other episodes where she’s seen by others? (No spoilers for Iain though)

      • Ian Baxter

        In ‘No Time to Die’ there is refrence to his wife by family and friends before a crime commited.

      • Richard Hinton

        (Of course, I’m assuming Iain knows that Mrs Columbo is never seen on screen!)

    • Largo

      Columbo’s wife exists and she’s absolutely gorgeous! That’s always been my theory and I’m sticking to it, eh. As for his extended family I totally agree with you: they are definitely real, but more than a few of his anecdotes about them are rather suspect.

      I’m not too comfortable about totally dismissing the second Columbo series that aired on the ABC network as non-canon, but I can still sympathize with you on this particular point. It’s very similiar to my feelings concerning James Bond truly belonging only to the Sixties. Be seeing you! 😎

      • Emrys

        I’m not really dismissing the whole second era. I just think it deviated from the well-trodden path a couple of times with episodes you’ve already mentioned and spoilt its legacy somewhat. But I easily ignore that. I have a very selective memory.

        I think the fact that Columbo’s wife is never seen allows theories of her non-existence to be legitimate. ‘Troubled Waters’ is one of my favourites and does ruin the idea. But still, often, taken as stand-alone episodes, I like the idea that his wife doesn’t exist.

        And if I truly have to accept ABC Columbo I can only imagine that Columbo’s jacket was made from the material Alec Guinness invented in the Man in the White Suit. Not to mention the continued survival of his car. And Dog. (I do jest though. I love all Columbo. I even went to see Dirk Benedict play Columbo in Prescription Murder in the theatre. Face man as Columbo? Oh yes.)

        • Ian Baxter

          I was sorry to miss Benedict as Columbo… How did he do?

          • Emrys

            He was okay. Just very weird seeing someone else play Columbo. Hearing someone else say ‘just one more thing’. The production as a whole was pretty good. I’m a fan of Prescription Murder. I like the (for obvious reasons) staginess. Is staginess a word? Looks like a Scottish loch.

        • Largo

          Concerning Peter Falk’s Columbo raincoat: I distinctly remember an article in TV Guide (during the 70s) that was about how Universal Studios took several of these raincoats and “aged” them via a special process. So despite the Falk-inspired legend of there being only just one coat, there were several of these “pre-aged” Columbo raincoats for use throughout both runs of the series.

          • Emrys

            Interesting. I did not know that. I suppose it was necessary when drawing circles on it with chalk etc. But the raincoat was supposed to be the same one in the story from beginning to end was it not? And the car. And the dog.

          • Largo

            Yes, diegetically speaking, I assume we’re supposed to think that they’re all the same …… but, Emrys …… it’s just a TV show! Please just accept it, eh. 🙂

            By the way, today is one of the days that I take things a little too literally. Your comment triggered that memory of that particular TV Guide article and away I typed. Please forgive me for not placing my original response in the proper context.

          • Ian Baxter

            …and the same wife? 🙂

          • Largo

            Heh! Thanks once again for making my morning brighter here at work, Ian. I almost did a spit take in front of my computer screen with my morning java. Funny! 🙂

          • Emrys

            Come on guys, you know there’s no wife!

          • Ian Baxter

            She may be long suffering, she probably doesn’t do 90% of what Columbo says she does, but I believe there is a Mrs Columbo.

            Maybe Gerry and Iain should ajudicate on this one! 12 episodes in guys… Is she real or a clever construct?

          • Emrys

            No, I agree she exists. His family-related anecdotes are a construct though. Some of them are so unlikely/outrageous that sometimes even the killer stops, laughs and gives a round of applause.

  • Gummo Marx

    columbo sure had a thing for fading movie stars…seems like there were several on this theme. Great epidode, guys..I have been a columbo fan for many years and always assumed that columbo was brilliant but also bumbling. You’ve really made me wonder whether ALL of his bumbling is intentional. For example, him making noise on the set in this episode. Is that because he’s some sort of inept savant, or because he did it on purpose to rattle the actress?

  • Maddie

    One of my favorite episodes ! Loved the interactions between Columbo and Nora Chandler. Great job guys!

    • Thanks Maddie. We often talk about the relationship between Columbo and the killer. This was done differently, but it was still a compelling contrast.

    • Some lovely eye contact between Columbo and Nora Chandler…

      • Largo

        Well, except for that picture that the CPT chose for this particular discussion thread: it looks like Lieutenant Columbo is staring at an old mop! 😉