Candidate for Crime

Episode 18 – Candidate for Crime

The eighteenth episode of Columbo was titled Candidate for Crime and was the third episode of the show’s third season. A would-be senator looks to convince Columbo that he is a victim, not a killer. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the schemes, slip-ups and shocks that lead the Lieutenant to his culprit.



Jackie Cooper takes centre stage in Candidate for Crime as Nelson Hayward, a candidate in the California senatorial election. Cooper may be best remembered for his role as Perry White in the first four Superman movies, but was a child star before that, nominate for an Oscar in 1931 as a nine-year-old for his performance in Skippy. Hayward’s unfortunate victim, Harry Stone, was portrayed by the versatile Ken Swofford, perhaps best known for playing Major in 1991’s Thelma and Louise.


Tisha Sterling and Joanne Linville as Hayward’s mistress, Linda Robinson, and wife, Vickie, respectively, were compelling as two diametrically opposed characters playing critical roles in the candidate’s private and public lives. There was also an early appearance for the director’s daughter, Katey Segal, who would go on to find prominence in Married with Children and later Futurama and Sons of Anarchy.


Like Any Old Port in a Storm, the episode was written by Larry Cohen. This time the teleplay was composed by Irv Pearlberg, best known for his runs as associate producer on Dr. Kildare and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This was the second and final Columbo show behind the camera for director Boris Sagal, who also helmed Season 2’s The Greenhouse Jungle.


We didn’t ask any particular questions during this episode, but please chip in with your thoughts on any aspect of Candidate for Crime 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.


Candidate for Crime was released in 1973. It is 93 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

    TV and politics usually make me groan, but this episode had a good mix of humour, tension and deductions, without emphasis on politics.

    Thought I’d throw in my thoughts on padding of episodes – I like them. I like seeing Columbo in regular situations and the way he handles them, they always make me chuckle. Yeah, they’re not necessary to the plot and could easily be replaced by a couple of lines, but they’re filled with humour and makes him relatable. The dentist, garage mechanic, spot-check cops (LOVE the windshield wipers) & tailor scenes are terrific in my opinion and something I look forward to in episodes.

    For a change, Columbo didn’t learn something in this episode. Usually there’s a piece of technology that fascinates him, but not in this one (unless you count driving a pick-up).

    I like that Linda Johnson wore a ‘Scarlet Letter’ top (see photo) wonder if it was intentional?

    • That’s an interesting perspective. I can completely understand it – spending more time with a character you love is rarely a bad thing.

      The Scarlet Letter reference would be a pretty obscure one, but I don’t think it can be completely ruled out! It certainly is a good spot!!

      • Largo

        Well, I really wouldn’t call this one “pretty obscure.” I’d call it ‘Sledgehammer Symbolism’ — but that’s just me: ‘Largo — International Wiseguy.’ 😉

        • Ah, Largo, but you and Richard have sharper eyes and minds than most!

          • Largo

            Why, thank you very much! Great minds think alike, eh! But things would be a lot sharper over here at the Largo Condo if I had a super HDTV like the famous Richard Hinton. However, this year I spent all of my income tax refund on a new Mac computer. So maybe next year I’ll finally purchase a HDTV. 🙂

      • wattawoman

        That’s a very interesting observation. In *Requiem for a Falling Star*, the main character wore a sweater with the letter “A” patterned repeatedly across the bust.

    • CarlosMu

      that’s awesome. Probably not intentional in my opinion, but an awesome coincidence!

    • saltyessentials

      Richard, I’m with you on the padding. I like seeing little snippets that often give a more rounded view of Columbo the person vs. Columbo the cop. Not every scene has to move the plot forward to be enjoyable. Some can exist to move the character forward. That’s reason enough to have them.

      Of course, every once in awhile, you get scenes that not only don’t advance plot or character, they disrupt the episode’s flow and stick out like a sore thumb. But, for the most part, the slice of life stuff works for me.

  • Richard Hinton

    Oh, and thanks for the #ColumboTV mention, between 30 & 40 people get involved every month and, like the podcast, is growing in popularity all the time.

    • Hopefully that continues. Always exciting to see the number of people involved in these things growing. We had a record number of downloads last week, so all signs are encouraging.

  • FC

    This is most certainly on my top 10 list. Along with ‘murder by the book’, etude in black, any old port in a storm’…and others that have yet to be reviewed in the podcast. Thank you gentlemen for another great podcast. You both do an excellent job. Please continue.

  • Largo

    Probably one of the greatest exchanges on the Columbo series occurs in this episode. It happens during the scene between the car mechanic and the Lieutenant when he is distressed about his car repair bill:

    Mechanic: “What – are you undercover or something?”

    Columbo: “No, I’m underpaid.”

    Great stuff!

    • Agreed!

      • Largo

        D’oh! I didn’t realize until just now that you opened your podcast with this exact scene! I posted that comment during my afternoon break at work. I even found this episode on YouTube to make sure I got the quote right. Sheesh – I should have just played your podcast, eh! 🙂

  • CarlosMu

    I LOVE this episode! The office scene is Columbo heaven. References to multiple relatives, repeated requests from the killer for Columbo to get to the point. Very enjoyable performance by Cooper, I love seeing the killer get more and more impatient but still polite. And then multiple false exits by Columbo.

    And for some reason I just love party scenes where Columbo shows up. And I love the fact that the wife’s friends were hiding in the dark watching her get drunk alone, God knows how long they were there.

    The episode is also a good example of the ever presence of booze in Columbo. Pretty much every character is seen making themselves a drink at some point, in at least two of the clips you played you can hear ice cubes clinking.

    • Largo

      Your last comment reminds me of the time years ago when I entered a real classy bar and ordered a “double-scotch on the rocks” because that was what the cool folks in the movies ordered. I drank it and about gagged since it tasted just like I was drinking gasoline! How stupid I was, eh.

      • I’ll bet that’s why Jerry Horne from Twin Peaks ordered that too, when he arrived at One Eyed Jacks that time. 🙂

        • Largo

          One Eyed Jacks … north of the border … very dangerous! Yeah, that would be just like Jerry Horne: thinking that his brother’s brothel was a “classy” joint! Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like that, eh. My only exception for crossing the threshold of One Eyed Jacks would be to rescue Audrey Horne!

          • Looks like Coop agreed with you on that one, Largo…

  • Largo

    Great podcast once again, gentlemen, and it was most enjoyable! Both of you were very firm, but fair with “Candidate For Crime.” This particular Columbo episode is an almost great one, but it is marred with obvious padding and some missed opportunities in the script. I would have kept the tailor and the garage mechanic scenes, but dropped the dentist and the traffic stop sequences.

    Where did this script really mess up? The scriptwriters should have shown a little more of the relationship between Nelson Hayward and Linda Johnson. Jackie Cooper is so good at playing the charming, conniving and polished politician that I didn’t really buy into the fact that he would actually kill for this woman. All we really saw was how good Hayward was at manipulating poor Linda and not how much he loved her. This type of manipulation should have been reserved for the unloved wife, Vickie.

    However, both the mistress and the wife are a tad superfluous if we focus on that evil, smirking face that greets Harry Stone right before Hayward plugs him three times with the silenced pistol. I guess we are to gather from this rather revealing expression on Hayward’s visage that the real reason for turning murderer is to be totally free from the stifling control of Stone once and for all — and the women in Hayward’s life are immaterial in the long run. So maybe that’s the answer to my concerns about this supposed script weakness involving Linda Johnson.** Or maybe it’s not ….

    One define weakness in this script was the sloppiness involving Harry Stone’s watch. With all of Columbo’s brilliant deductive technique and determined detective’s logic on display here, it just begs the question on just why Columbo didn’t actually determine the actual watch Harry Stone really wore on his wrist. Columbo tells us that he totally relied on one jewelry store clerk’s recommendation solely based on the type of very durable clothes that Stone wore. I mean, certainly there’s a paper trail on the purchase of the actual Harry Stone watch — the watch that Hayward discarded and replaced with that cheap substitute. I dunno …..

    But despite all of this, this episode is still pretty solid because of the great ‘cat and mouse’ interaction between Columbo and Hayward. Plus there’s the added bonus of Hayward attempting to turn the tables on Columbo and fight fire with fire, so to speak. And Peter Falk and Jackie Cooper play all of these scenes beautifully. All of their scenes together in this the episode is the true highlight and that is why it tends to be ranked pretty high on most Columbo fan’s lists. The overall supporting cast is also incredibly good — but there is one actor that gives me pause. That one actor is Joanne Linville.

    What can I say about Joanne Linville except to say that she portrayed …. she portrayed …. THE FEMALE ROMULAN COMMANDER THAT TRIED TO SEDUCE SPOCK!!!!!!! I really don’t think I need to say anymore, now do I? I mean, I could go on and say that all one needs to do is to go over to the Internet Movie Database and look up Joanne Linville’s entry there. What do you find there by way of photographs, eh? There are only two photographs at the IMDB for Joanne Linville and it’s from the third season Star Trek episode, “The Enterprise Incident.” This is the episode where Joanne Linville played THE FEMALE ROMULAN COMMANDER THAT TRIED TO SEDUCE SPOCK!!! I rest my case.

    Thank you so much for another wonderful podcast! And a special thank you for mentioning not only me but also Richard Hinton’s “#ColumboTV” on Twitter. I just might have to reconsider this social media thing and download that little white on blue bird of twitter-ness on my iPod Touch. But I have to admit that it must be rather comical watching me type with just one index finger on my iPod. I just can’t do that ‘Thumbs at Warp Speed’ thing at all. Be seeing you!

    ** Yeah, so I want to see more of Tisha Sterling. Can you blame me? It’s those big, beautiful blue eyes of hers, eh! To wit:

    • Thanks Largo, appreciate the support. Hope you’ve noticed that for every appearance from a actor that’s been on Star Trek I use their Memory Alpha page as the link in our show notes!

      • Largo

        Well, I’ve been rather lax on the links in the show notes, I’m afraid to admit, eh. However, I did notice the Memory Alpha page for Susan Howard back during your “The Most Crucial Game” podcast. But I’ll be more diligent about those show note links. You guys are so great to all Columbo fans — not only with your superb podcasts, but with all of these little treasures hidden inside of the show notes, too! 🙂

      • Peter

        There are also a large number of actors in Columbo from The Godfather. Maybe Columbo could have investigated Michael Corleone instead of the U.S. Senate. Can’t imagine Michael would have tolerated him!

  • That’s another great piece of trivia Kieran – we’ll need to keep our eyes peeled for him in the future!

    • Ian Baxter

      This is the list from ‘imdb’ for Mickey Golden’s appearances in Columbo, looks like we’ll be seeing him again soon…

      – An Exercise in Fatality (1974) … Man In Hospital Waiting Room (uncredited)
      – A Friend in Deed (1974) … Reporter (uncredited)
      – Double Exposure (1973) … Bart Keppel’s Caddy (uncredited)
      – Candidate for Crime (1973) … Campaign Worker (uncredited)
      – Double Shock (1973) … Casino Gambler (uncredited)
      – The Most Dangerous Match (1973) … Reporter (uncredited)
      – The Most Crucial Game (1972) … Spectator (uncredited)
      – Lady in Waiting (1971) … Executive (uncredited)

  • Ian Baxter

    We do seem to have struck a rich seam of Columbo episodes in opening up season 3.

    For me there is padding and there is padding… the filler in this episode I enjoy as it does attempt to add a bit of humour. By the time you guys get to around November, I promise you, you are going to experience the type of padding that gives you enough time to daydream about the great padding you once knew. They are not one and the same!

    Thanks again for a good podcast (and the ‘ColumboTV’ mention).

    • CarlosMu

      there’s padding, and there’s the Tuba March. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil it for Iain.

      • Largo

        ¡Ay, caramba! The infamous Tuba March! But I better not go too ballistic about this scene since my little brother plays the tuba and absolutely loved this particular sequence when we first watched that episode.

      • Largo

        Speaking of that very same episode: there’s padding and then there’s that ‘Symphony of Utter Nonsense’ in that control booth scene involving Columbo and that array of monitors. I simply can’t wait until we get to this episode, since it’s another one that I want to really rip into, eh!

        • CarlosMu

          Yes, that one is arguably even more pointless. It also has a couple of false endings, you think “it’s finally over!” and then you realize it’s not!

          The amazing thing is that they actually cut scenes OUT of that episode. I found an original script online. Imagine being the writer watching that control booth scene knowing someone thought that would be a better use of time than a scene you wrote.

          • Largo

            Well, if the writer was anything like Harlan Ellison, they would be suing Universal and the Columbo producers. If it were me, I’d be quite apoplectic and then I’d be utilizing the WGA to have my name removed from the credits!

    • Peter

      I think season 3 might have been the best.

  • Ian Baxter

    What does a man do when he goes into the bedroom to escapes his wife, mistress and dodgy protection team? It’s obvious… He’s checking to see if the latest columbopodcast is available and preparing some witty and insightful comments! 🙂

    • Largo

      Oh, you witty cad, you! 🙂

      • Ian Baxter

        Only took me 5 hours to think of it!

  • Guys – thanks for another excellent podcast, which, as per my usual modus operandi, I listened to on waking today. Thanks in particular for the honourable mention of my reimagining of an early Columbo episode music theme. I have actually just been on and updated the details with a redirect back to here and a plug for the podcast itself. In the meantime I’m working on a lavish composition which will feature the descent from mellow to rant-mode of a certain Mr. Carsini [working title is ‘Any Old Port in a Storm aka The Moreno Bros’]. Will let you know when it’s complete.

    Incidentally I have been looking into the availability of the blu ray box set of Columbo for both the UK and US and wrote to Universal. This was their response:

    Thank you for your e-mail.

    Unfortunately we don’t have this Series scheduled currently for Blu-ray, we will log your request however and pass to the correct team internally for review.

    [The response was dated last Monday].

    • By all accounts remastering is an expensive process. Buffy fans weren’t unanimously happy when that series was done either – showed up some previously hidden flaws.

      • Agreed, however the Japanese version that’s been out for a few years is generally regarded as excellent, not withstanding the very hefty price tag. I saw one go on eBay a couple of days ago for £80 (described as nearly new). There is one on there at the mo for £275 [inclusive of delivery) direct from Japan. Unfortunately both those prices are too far in the opposite direction of Yorkshire for my liking!

        • Largo

          Blimey! The most that I’ve paid for an out of print blu-ray is $100 (Criterion’s edition of The Third Man). The most that I’ve ever paid for a TV series on blu-ray is $60 and that was for the original Star Trek (all three seasons!). There’s no way that I’ll be paying $400 for the Columbo set! 8-o

          • I am impressed at your use of the word ‘blimey’, and can only assume that you have been re-watching ‘Dagger of the Mind’. :p

          • Largo

            Eegah! Your sarcasm cuts me to the quick, Kieran. Okay — I’ll start using something more American. How about if I use “boogers” as an exclamatory word? 🙂

          • Haha. Well I have friends in NYC who use ‘Yowsers’.

    • Largo

      Universal Studios are the worst when it comes to releasing their television gems on DVD. Universal’s executive priorities seem to be theme parks and cocaine — at least according to one person I know who has dealt with them.

  • Jenifesto

    I’m finally caught up, and great job on this week’s cast. I adore that opening clip about being underpaid. This was a wonderful episode for Columbo calling attention to his money situation. And also for the details from the 70s that I (someone who isn’t American and wasn’t around in the 70s) don’t understand – the counter cheque! Oh, Columbo! Definitely looking forward to the next episode – I really love Double Exposure!

    • Thanks Jen, agreed on Double Exposure. Recorded Ep 19 last night, so will be with you on Thursday!

  • Arabian Knights

    I can shed some light on the two questions you raised in the podcast.

    – Counter cheques were quite common in many businesses and banks in the 70s until the mid 80s, I believe. They were provided as a convenience to customers who, like Columbo, did not carry cheques. The format was like the personalized cheques of today, but the customer filled in his/her name and address details, complete branch information and signature. All cheques were manually processed then, so it was no big deal, provided the establishment had confidence in its customer. Counter cheques vanished with the advent of encoded, personalized cheques and automated clearing.

    – In the 70s, local calling areas were quite restricted and seemingly arbitrary. Long distance (trunk?) calling was a very big money maker for telephone companies, unlike today where it’s almost a give-away. And all long distance calls were recorded either automatically (if self-dialled) or on a long distance operator’s billing ticket.

    I write this from my Canadian experience as both an operator and bank employee in that era. No doubt the situation in the USA was similar.

    PS, I love any scene with the late, great Vito Scotti!

  • CarlosMu

    the Mickey Golden thing is fascinating. My guess is that he is not an actor at all, that he is maybe a studio executive who got a kick out of being basically an extra in TV shows. He is entirely absent from Google, and even the most obscure actor in the world shows up somewhere.

  • Maddie

    Love this episode! One of the best “gotcha” moments in Columbo! The way Nelson Hayward lays out all the evidence himself. “You will agree that both bullets were fired by the same hand , then all that’s left is to dig the bullet out of the wall.”
    Oh that whole scene at the end was beautiful!!
    I don’t think there is any way this guy won’t get convicted!
    Thanks for another great podcast !!

    • Glad you enjoyed it Maddie. Agree that the finale is great. Another good one coming up in the next episode as well!

  • saltyessentials

    I think if they gave an award for Villain With the Most Outrageous and Obvious Instances of Trying to Give Columbo all the Answers to His Just One More Things, Nelson Hayward would win it. And it would be a large trophy, just to fit that title on it.

    And that ending was one of the most satisfying so far. The guy was pretty despicable and deserved what he got. Zing! Take that, Hayward!

  • Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

    Hello friends, while still awaiting some response to my question in the “Now you see him” page of this great podcast, here I am again with “just one more little thing” regarding Columbo’s lines of reasoning which seem to puzzle and embarrass the killers, putting a first crack into their presumed shell of impunity. One is left to wonder if, had they retorted some pretty obvious remark instead of giving in to doubt, they might quite easily have gotten unscathed through Columbo’s inquisitions.
    This episode’s “gotcha!” moment seems to be some spacial inconsistency between the driver of the pursuing car being forced to stay on the left of the garage in order to illuminate and dazzle the victim, and the deadly shots coming from the right. In my opinion, Hayward would have shut his hound dog´s mouth for good if he had stated the obvious: driver and killer were not the same person! The driver stayed on his left, lighting up the target. The killer jumped off the co-pilot’s seat, dashed to the right-hand side of the garage in order to get a better shooting angle, did his deed, rushed back into the car, and it was all over before anyone could ever have the chance to know what was going on. I think this simple answer would have dismantled Columbo’s guesswork.
    In a similar fashion, the inconsistencies in the timing of the phone call claiming responsibility por the murder could easily have been brushed away by arguing that it was a third accomplice who phoned the police at a time when he estimated his sinister pals had committed the murder. Perhaps overly accustomed to doing everything by himself, Columbo can’t figure out a team of delinquents! Whaddya think of it all, friends?

    • I think that’s a wholly reasonable point and if I didn’t make it on the podcast then I definitely should have!!

      • Largo

        Well, here’s an idea for another podcast that could be produced as one of your specials: “Columbo Plots and Murderers — A Second Look.” 🙂

  • Steve Cloutier

    Listened to this episode again. One of my favourite gotchas! ALMOST as good as the one in Suitable for Framing.

  • Adrian Bailey

    Watched this today. Not seen this one for a while. Great episode despite a few flaws. I’ve recently been watching some videos of William Link and Peter Falk talking about Columbo; it’s clear that humour was an important part of the show to both of them, and by series 3 this had reached its apex – Columbo had virtually become a comedy show. There’s dry humour all the way through this episode, all the way to Falk snoozing under a newspaper in the final act. And I don’t begrudge them this – Falk had a brilliant sense of humour and it’s great to see it in full effect.