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Peter Falk of TV's 'Columbo' dies at 83

Peter Falk appears in a still from the 2001 film, 'Corky Romano.' (Touchstone Pictures / Jon Farmer)

June 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Peter Falk of TV's "Columbo" and "The Princess Bride" has died at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 83.

Falk died peacefully Thursday night, according to a statement released Friday by family friend Larry Larson.

He spent more than 50 years appearing on TV and in the movies.

Just one of his memorable movies is "The Princess Bride," but one role on the small screen turned him into a television institution: "Columbo."

He was a super sleuth in a wrinkled raincoat. It became his signature role.

"Columbo" first entered the television world in 1971. The series ended six years later but Falk, who won four Emmys for his work on the show, returned to play his guy Lt. Columbo in several made-for-TV movies in the late 80s, early 90s and even as late as 2003. "Columbo" appeared in 26 foreign countries and was a particular favorite in France, Iran and Japan.

"I was very gratified that when the emperor went to have dinner with the president, and President Carter asked him who he wanted at the table and he said, 'Columbo,'" Falk said.

During one of his final "Columbo" moments, Falk spoke to Eyewitness News reporter George Pennacchio.

"I worry about every scene, you know, and I still enjoy it. And for me, my thrill is when I look at dailies and if it's good, I get excited," Falk said.

Falk received two Oscar nominations for his early work in the films, "Murder Incorporated" and "A Pocketful of Miracles." He also starred on screen in 1965 with an all-star cast in "The Great Race" and starred opposite Gena Rowlands in the 1974 drama, "A Woman Under the Influence."

He won a Tony Award for the 1971 Neil Simon play, "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," and he was back on screen in 1979 opposite Alan Arkin in "The In-Laws."

Younger audiences discovered him as the grandfather in the now classic, "The Princess Bride."

As he got older, he seemed to get tougher on screen even in comedies, playing criminals in "Made" and "Corky Romano."

Six years later in 2007, Falk began suffering from advanced dementia, likely from Alzheimer's disease.

In 2009, his wife was appointed as Falk's conservator. Falk's adopted daughter Catherine fought the conservatorship, saying Shera Falk was not providing access to both of the actor's daughters. At the end of the legal battle, the court awarded Catherine the right to visit her father.

During testimony in the case, a doctor said Falk could no longer recall his role as the squinty, rumpled detective in "Columbo."

Falk is survived by his wife of 34 years and two daughters from a previous marriage.

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