Uneasy Lies the Crown

Episode 54 – Uneasy Lies the Crown

The fifty second episode of Columbo was titled Uneasy Lies the Crown and was the fifth episode of the show’s ninth season. A dentist tries to preserve his cushy lifestyle by killing his wife’s lover and framing her for the killing. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the twisted motivations of a selfish murderer.

 

 

The title of this episode is adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I and there is some overlap in the theme of a disgruntled family owed a debt by the principal actor (and of course Henry was also responsible for the murder of Richard II in the play of that same name!). This time our killer is Dr Wesley Corman (James Read), the disappointing spouse to Lydia Corman (Jo Anderson). When Lydia’s threat of divorce escalates via her father – Wesley’s employer, Horace Sherwin (Paul Burke) – he takes drastic action.

 

Some years previously Lydia lost her first husband when she used her heart medication, Digitalis, to try and help him when he suffered a heart attack, unwittingly leading to his demise. Wesley takes credit for “saving” her following that incident and has manipulated her since: marrying her; becoming a junior partner in her father’s dental practice; using her father’s money to settle huge gambling debts; and borrowing much more besides to invest in hopeless dreams and crackpot schemes. With that lifestyle slipping away, Wesley acts. Knowing Lydia’s lover, film star Adam Evans (Marshall R. Teague), will be with her that evening, he arranges a dental appointment and places Digitalis with a slow release coating inside a crown. Later, Evans appears to die in Lydia’s arms and the case commences.

 

Wesley’s alibi is secured by his presence at a poker game with celebrity guests (playing themselves in this episode) Nancy Walker, Dick Sargent and Ron Cey. Lydia’s brother David (Mark Arnott) is also present and these guests comprise the episode’s primary support.

 

Director Alan J. Levi directed the first of his three Columbo stories and this one was particularly interested for having been written by Steven Bochco in the 1970s and rejected for the show’s original run. Having been made into an episode of McMillan and Wife (with Nancy Walker!), it was revived for Season 9 with no additional writing credits supplied.

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Uneasy Lies the Crown, 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.

 

Uneasy Lies the Crown was released in 1990. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 9 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal.

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

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

  • Roberto

    Just listened to another great podcast. Great job as always Gerry and Iain.

    You guys have pointed out many of the weaknesses of “Uneasy Lies The Crown” so I will not repeat them here. I don’t remember if you mentioned it, but to me the biggest weakness of the episode/movie was that the lead character Wesley is too bland. He comes off as unlikable but not in the typical Columbo villain sort of way. I just didn’t care about him one way or the other. The father-in-law was a stronger character and that is not good (vaguely reminiscent of the 1970’s episode in which Mrs. Peck’s character overshadows that of the murderers).

    “Uneasy Lies The Crown” is an okay watch but definitely drags in places and is obviously padded to fill out the time slot. The crime itself is actually uber-clever (Bochco) but everything else is mediocre at best.

    I would rate this as a middling ABC entry. This may sound harsh but my go-to criterion of evaluating a Columbo episode/movie is if I discover that it is on TV that night would I watch it again. With very few exceptions, I would gladly re-watch all of the 1970’s episodes. There are some of the 1990’s movies that I would gladly re-watch, but “Uneasy Lies The Crown” is not one of them.

    • Thanks Roberto. Glad you enjoyed the podcast, at least!

      • I think I might have enjoyed this episode a little more than you did, Roberto, even though for me it was only on the lower end of average for the revival series. But I did think James Read did a decent job with the role. He’s no McGoohan or Cassidy, to be sure, but the missus and I were definitely hating his character throughout the show, so he must have been doing something right with it.

  • Ian Baxter

    Too clever for its own good this one. We end up with an overload of very chancy moments that only a massive dose of Columbo magic could ever possibly manage to bring together to a successful conclusion.

    In my alternative ending I’d have the psycho dentist call Columbo’s bluff and appear to get away with it, only to go home, and in a final act of irony, be poisoned by his wife!

    Thanks again for a fun podcast, great to see some of the actors following on twitter.

    • Thanks Ian. Just me, or is it quiet in here this week?

      • Ian Baxter

        Like a dentist waiting room? 🙂

        • Ian Baxter

          Hope you’re using the time well to prepare for a Christmas Special on Christmas Eve! 😉

      • digger01

        Still listening and reading the board every week! I’m a little behind lately, but this ride is just as much fun as it’s been since day one. Thank you!

        • Glad you’re still with us digger – one of our oldest fans! Still remember and appreciate your support from the very earliest episodes. 🙂

          • digger01

            You guys are the best. I remember writing the very first iTunes review, and then having it disappear and writing it again. I’m still not sure what happened there! But it’s been a pleasure to spread the word about this podcast. At this point it’s like re-visiting the episodes with friends.

      • It is quiet here, but less so at my house. We’re in “getting ready for Christmas” mode. Like many, we wait until half way through December and then spring madly into action with gift buying, party planning, etc. The missus and I did watch and listen this week, but I’ve yet to comment. Not that this one gave me much to comment about. It was pretty middle of the road. Not a lot to hate, not a lot to love, but watchable. But we thought it was a step above the previous episode. And the podcast was a blast, as usual!

  • Home run on the show note links this week, guys.

    Paul Burke’s link was fascinating, and a tiny bit scary. Sounds like he was a pretty intense fellow.

    Also really enjoyed the links for Nancy Walker and Dick Sargent. I vaguely remember his coming out in the news, way back when.

    And I skimmed over the first bit of Ron Cey’s article (read TSD, skipped over Tiny Shin Disease) and was actually thinking “poor man, but how heroic he made an amazing career in baseball with some kind of leg deformity.” I’m probably the only one who fell for that. What can I say? I’m not a sports fan. You got me with that one, Iain.

    Did a double take on Mark Arnott’s link, to make sure it really was him. Apparently he recovered sometime after having been bitten by the acting bug.

    I confess I didn’t finish the one on Alan Levi, but was quite happy to see the sidebar about his involvement with Bionic Woman. Being a bionic fan myself and all.

    Bochco sounds bitter.

    Also loved the McMillan and Wife link. Great article and it looks like a great site overall, too.

    Thanks, as always, for these behind-the-scenes looks at cast and crew.

    • Glad you enjoyed them Salty. Was pleased with what I found this week; way better than the bunch of Wikipedia links that I’m sometimes left with!

  • Red Hobbes

    Better late than never everyone, lol. This wasn’t a terrible episode, but it was plot that only worked if everyone acted a certain way. If his wife dialed 911, for example, the whole plot falls apart.

    On the other hand, the villain was very good. Smug, smarmy, and arrogant beyond belief. Which is why the gotcha worked. They established how he’s a compulsive gambler, but he’s not very good at it so that when Columbo bluffs him with the crown at the end, he folds immediately. I liked it.

    This is, probably, the last decent episode until the Faye Dunaway episode if I recall correctly, so… I’ll leave it at that. Really hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

    Another great podcast guys! Just wondering, what’s the plan after the current run has ended? Will you be looking at the Columbo novels or will you just move on to the Murder One podcast?

    • Nice connection, Red. I hadn’t thought about him being lousy at gambling tying into how quickly he folded at the end. Makes the Gotcha more palatable.

    • Largo

      “On the other hand, the villain was very good. Smug, smarmy, and
      arrogant beyond belief. Which is why the gotcha worked. They
      established how he’s a compulsive gambler, but he’s not very good at it
      so that when Columbo bluffs him with the crown at the end, he folds
      immediately. I liked it.”

      Finally – a review I can get behind, eh! Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, Red. But one of my favorites is coming up before that episode starring Faye Dunaway, and that is “Columbo Goes To College.” This is the episode that features Mike Nelson (actor Gary Hershberger) from Twin Peaks. Pus, it has Robert Culp in a bit part, too! Be seeing you! 🙂

    • Good call on the gambling. Still don’t buy the gotcha, but that would at least demonstrate some joined-up thinking!

  • Ian Baxter

    Enjoy Peter Falk in a poker themed episode of ‘Have Gun Will Travel’… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3WJMtBHPx8

    • Fun watch.

      The oddest thing I’ve ever seen Falk in (besides No Time to Die) was this:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Balcony_%28film%29

      • Ian Baxter

        I’ll have to look out for that one

      • Largo

        The weirdest flick that I’ve seen Peter Falk in was this perfectly awful “comedy” film called Luv (1967), with Jack Lemmon and Elaine May. It was one of those movies that I was watching on television with my folks while thinking to myself, “Why are my parents watching this crap and why are they allowing me watch it with them?” **SHUDDER**

    • Largo

      Thanks, Ian! That was nice getting to watch that episode again. What a great western series! I always liked the show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Paladin,” sung by Johnny Western:

      “Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man,
      A knight without armor in a savage land.
      His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind,
      A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

      Paladin, Paladin,
      Where do you roam?
      Paladin, Paladin,
      Far, far from home.

      He travels on to wherever he must,
      A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust.
      There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin,
      Of the man with the gun, of the man called Paladin.

      Paladin, Paladin,
      Where do you roam?
      Paladin, Paladin,
      Far, far from home.

      Far from home,
      Far from home.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=To-wfwkmXds

  • Adrian Bailey

    I thought this episode was a bit plodding – slicing 20 minutes off it might’ve helped. The denouement is silly too, but I guess it reminds us that Columbo is meant to be fun rather than a realistic police procedural.

  • Scott White

    I enjoyed the episode a lot. When you were talking about the impressionist being annoying i could identify. I am a stand up comic and on the road you have to share a house with another. Recently i had to share on with an impressionist and he would do voices all day. …very, very annoying!

  • Michael Betelli

    Not a bad episode, especially when you get to know how the villain is going to make things look like (while getting rid of the body).
    The only big thing I didn’t appreciate – that is for quite all revival episodes – is that you see ‘too much’ at the beginning. It would have been far more appreciated by me if you got to know how all happened directly by Columbo’s reconstruction! Perhaps, to respect new season’s length, they found no other way than showing all the thing, but it certainly loses a lot of the original ‘Columbo format’.