Episode Guide / Opinion / Pilot

Episode review: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man


Just a shade over three years after he made his character debut in Prescription: Murder, Peter Falk was back in the role of Lieutenant Columbo – this time in an official pilot for what was hoped would become a hit series.

Airing on March 1, 1971, Ransom for a Dead Man was a big-budget spectacular with a cinematic feel and a captivating villain in the shape of two-time Oscar nominee Lee Grant. But would the mystery at its heart be good enough to win hearts and minds of the viewing public? Let’s buckle up and find out…

Ransom for a Dead Man blog

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Leslie Williams: Lee Grant
Margaret Williams: Patricia Mattick
Agent Carlson: Harold Gould
Paul Williams: Harlan Warde
Written by: Dean Hargrove (from a story by Richard Levinson and William Link)
Directed by: Richard Irving
Score by: Billy Goldenberg

Episode synopsis: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man

Lady lawyer Leslie Williams has no further use for elderly husband, Paul, so she shoots him, and disposes of the body in the ocean. A wily one, Leslie has a perfect plan to side-step suspicion. Using answer machine tape audio of her husband (the first example of what would become a Columbo staple), and by fashioning a ransom note saying he’s been kidnapped, she puts her elaborate scheme into action.

Ransom gunshot
Stylish visuals are a hallmark of the episode

The FBI is called in, in the suave shape of Agent Carlson. The LAPD representative is his polar opposite: the scruffy Lieutenant Columbo, who appears in bumbling fashion having lost his pen in the dark doorway of the house. But while the FBI go through the motions, ignoring Columbo, it is the Lieutenant who starts asking questions.

As an automated phone call comes in to her home, playing the message Leslie created to make her husband appear to be alive and well, and demanding a $300,000 ransom, it’s only Columbo that notices that she didn’t ask if he’s alright. That bothers him, and it’s the first sign of the cogs in his razor-sharp mind whirring into action.

Once she has the ransom cash, what follows is an intricate set piece where Leslie, a skilled pilot, heads out in her light aircraft to a pre-arranged drop point over the desert. There she flings an empty bag out of the plane window, supposedly containing the ransom money, which she had already nabbed. As Leslie circles back to the airstrip, the FBI and police storm the drop site to find just the empty bag.

Again, only Columbo wonders why the kidnappers bothered to leave the bag behind instead of making an instant getaway. He even picks the lock of Leslie’s locker in the airport’s pilot room, but she’s already removed the evidence and stashed it in a secret compartment in her walk-in wardrobe.

“Lieutenant Columbo appears in bumbling fashion having lost his pen in the dark doorway of the house.”

The next day, the body of Leslie’s husband is discovered. The news is broken to her in court prior to trial and, for the first time, she breaks down, collapsing in front of witnesses and has to be escorted out. Again, Columbo is bothered. Why lose it now when she’s been so calm and collected? Why didn’t she ask where the body was found, or how he died?

Columbo’s suspicions aside, things have gone to plan for Leslie. All until Margaret – her husband’s daughter – returns home from Switzerland, that is, to act as the thorn in her side. The two despise each other and Margaret makes a scene at the funeral, slapping Leslie’s face and bellowing: “This what you wanted, isn’t it?” Columbo comforts Margaret at the cemetery. He has found a likely ally in his bid to prove Leslie’s guilt.

As the episode races to its conclusion, via a wonderful scene where Leslie takes the Lieutenant on a spin in her plane (much to his discomfort), it is the relationship he has forged with Margaret that gives Columbo the edge. Over a bowl of chilli at his favourite diner, Margaret reveals to Columbo that Leslie hated her father, and had used his reputation in the legal profession to springboard her own ambitions. Margaret is sure Leslie pulled the trigger, but there’s still no hard evidence. So they cook up a scheme of their own as fiendishly clever as Leslie’s was.

Margaret Williams: a model example of the benefits of a private school education

In full-on psycho mode, Margaret terrorises Leslie in her own home, firing blanks from a gun at her, and letting her know that she knows the ransom bags were switched. Margaret will get out of Leslie’s hair and back to Europe, she says, if Leslie will pay her her $25,000 annual allowance. Leslie takes the bait.

After an icy farewell at the airport with Margaret, Leslie runs into, who else, but Lieutenant Columbo. He invites her to have a drink: his tone suggesting it’s a farewell knowing she’s beaten him fair and square. Then the coup de grace: Columbo produces the ransom money that Leslie had used to pay off Margaret. Only the killer could have the money. Ultimately, it’s Leslie’s greed, and total lack of conscience that has done her in.

As Columbo puts it himself: “Mrs. Williams, you have no conscience and that’s your weakness. Did it ever occur to you that there are very few people who would take money to forget about a murder? It didn’t, did it? I knew it wouldn’t.”

Another officer escorts Leslie down town, and Columbo is left with a bill for the drinks he can’t pay, despite having $25k on the table in front of him, as credits roll…

Ransom for a Dead Man finale
Money, money everywhere, but not a cent to spend

Best moment – the quiet ‘f*** you!’

It’s a bit of an under-the-radar moment, but the scene in the courtroom following the revelation that Leslie’s husband’s body has been found, where the Lieutenant asserts his authority over the smarmy Agent Carlson, is a moment to treasure.

When Columbo starts discussing all the things that bother him about Leslie’s reaction, Carlson gets snooty. “Let’s understand this one thing,” he bleats. “If you start harassing this woman I’m going to take it upstairs.”

Cue a magnificent Columbo comeback: “Um, just one minute, Mr. Carlson. It’s like this. This is not just a kidnapping. This is a murder now and I kinda figure that’s my department. I’ll see ya around.”

The message is clear: Columbo may be small. He may be scruffy. He may be humble. But he will not be pushed around. It’s a brilliant scene, and well worth refreshing your memory on below…

My thoughts on Ransom for a Dead Man

What a difference three years makes! If you’ve read my previous review of Prescription: Murder, you’ll know that, while I loved the episode, I suggested that the Columbo we encountered in it was one we couldn’t love. As the official pilot episode, Ransom for a Dead Man’s Lieutenant Columbo had to be a character the audience could really dig in order to give the network confidence to commission a full series. This placed no small amount of pressure on Columbo’s creative team – but they nailed it in every way.

Peter Falk’s performance here was arguably the single most important barometer of success. Granted, he might not have 100% mastered the character yet, but he’s very close. It’s a terrific performance, full of warmth and trickery, and packed with the idiosyncrasies that will come to define the character. It’s a big step up from Prescription: Murder and sows the seeds of a character that we really will take to our hearts.

Ransom for a Dead Man
Columbo and Leslie Williams are evenly matched throughout the episode

Ransom’s Columbo is a less confrontational figure than in his debut outing, while his efforts to lead those around him to underestimate his mental prowess have been strongly dialled up. Take his intro scene here, when the seemingly bumbling Lieutenant is searching fruitlessly for a pen in the dark doorway of the Williams’ household. He doesn’t seem a threat to anyone.

Another good example swiftly follows when Columbo raises the troublesome issue of how the lemon-shaped soaps in Leslie’s bathroom stick together when wet. The facial expressions on display from Leslie and snooty FBI agent Carlson make it abundantly clear that they believe him to be a fool. It’s the classic Columbo disarming technique in action and was rarely displayed better. Falk was in the groove straight away.

Lee Grant also excels as Leslie Williams. Indeed, she would earn an Emmy nomination for her turn here and one must concede that it was well deserved. She’s wickedly cold, yet dangerously alluring at the same time (witness her flirtatiousness with Agent Carlson); a confident woman in a man’s world who isn’t afraid of anyone or anything. Leslie takes calculated risks to achieve her desired outcomes, both professionally in court, recreationally in the air, and personally in murdering her ageing husband, and later in paying off the troublesome Margaret.

“Leslie Williams is a confident woman in a man’s world who isn’t afraid of anyone or anything.”

As befits a leading lawyer, Leslie’s also a very smart cookie. Despite initially falling for his bungling incompetent charade, she quickly learns that there is much more to the detective than meets the eye and recognises the ‘shop-worn bag of tricks’ that he uses to put suspects off their guard. She thinks she’s cleverer than him, naturally, but to give her credit, Leslie doesn’t underestimate him like so many others will in years to come. “Lieutenant Columbo, fumbling and stumbling along but it’s always the jugular that he’s after,” she notes. “And I imagine that more often than not he’s successful.” She certainly got that right.

The two leads share plenty of screen-time making for several juicy encounters. Highlights include Leslie taking Columbo for a joyride in her plane (putting an end to his niggling questions in the process) and the enjoyable gotcha scene where Columbo lays bare the moral vacuum at Leslie’s core. Great friends off-screen, Falk and Grant had genuine chemistry together and would go on to star together in Broadway hit The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the end of the year.

Columbo regretted his decision to have chilli for lunch…

Ransom is, in many ways, a big step up from Prescription: Murder. That one was an adaptation of a stage show and it sometimes felt constrained by that. Not this time. Ransom for a Dead Man was an original story and a big budget piece of television with few limits. They ramped everything up to 11, the sets, costumes, fashions and locations – including filming within the iconic Barney’s Beanery chilli haunt and capturing sumptuous aerial footage of Leslie’s light aircraft over California’s Tehachapi Mountains.

Ransom has style and class in abundance and captures that sense of ‘how the other half live’ as well as we ever see in the show’s long lifespan. It’s a visual treat and would have been great to see on a big screen to really gain maximum enjoyment from (as was possible in 1978 when the picture was released in cinemas in Italy and the UK). Some of the editing techniques and fades are very 70s – particularly Leslie’s eyes fading demonically into a set of car headlights and the highly stylised freeze-frame murder scene – but they enhance the episode’s charm rather than detract.

“Billy Goldenberg’s score is a cinematic wonder – as good as anything gracing the silver screens of the time.”

Dean Hargrove’s teleplay is sharply scripted and does an excellent job at showcasing Columbo’s speed of thought. Time and again, the Lieutenant is first to notice little inconsistencies in Leslie’s reactions to events, the types of minor details that elude the more polished FBI men around him. Even at this early stage in his career, Columbo is a fascinating character study and a highly believable on-screen presence.

Special praise must also go to Billy Goldenberg’s score. It’s a cinematic wonder, as good as anything gracing the silver screens of the time. He created a single iconic theme and then fashioned variations on it, sometimes subtle, sometimes haunting, sometimes sweeping and orchestral. Heck, there’s even a muzak version being played at the airport. It’s simply great stuff. The soundtrack was released on vinyl in 1976 and if you’re lucky enough to own a copy, I envy you. Remind yourself of the majesty of the score below…

So, if that’s all good, what didn’t work? Well, the hate-filled Margaret/Leslie relationship seems a bit too pantomime to believe at times. In fact, Margaret as a whole can be quite hard to stomach and the quality of her portrayal is something that divides fans.

Patricia Mattick was just 20 years old at the time of filming and was making only her third screen appearance. While undoubtedly a fine actress, her Margaret seems much more theatrical and less convincing than the assured screen presences of Falk and Grant. Also, I get that she’s the wronged party and has a right to furious with Leslie, but a lot of the time her peevish act meant that I just wanted her to pipe down and get off screen.

“Ransom is technically superior to Prescription: Murder, yet oddly less enjoyable.”

Saying that, Margaret has two fine moments when she slaps Leslie at the funeral and later even tries to clobber Columbo when he admonishes her for her clumsy attempts to frame her stepmother. Both are powerful, emotional scenes that stand out in the memory.

Margaret aside, there’s the question of Leslie’s motive to consider. We never really know why she decides to kill Paul. We can infer that she had no further use for him and needed him out of the way to allow her to fulfil her growing professional and financial ambitions, but it’s never made clear. It doesn’t damage the episode, but I personally always find it more satisfying when we have a clear-cut reason driving the murderer’s actions.

No love lost between these two!

Some critics have savaged the ending, too, citing that someone as intelligent as Leslie would never be caught out the way she is. I don’t agree. As I alluded to earlier, I see Leslie as a risk taker. She calculates her odds in everything she does and her decision to use the ransom money to pay off Margaret is just another example of that. Her actions are believable for her character.

The issue I do have with the ending is that it’s all over in such a hurry. Ransom is long for a Columbo episode, with a 98-minute running time. They had ages to play with, yet the final wrap-up in the airport is gone in a flash. This is a shame, as it gives the viewer little opportunity to savour the gotcha, or marvel at Columbo’s stunning victory.

As a result of these imperfections, Ransom is, perhaps, a little less than the sum of its parts. It’s technically superior to Prescription: Murder, yet oddly less enjoyable. But credit to director Richard Irving, editor Edward M. Abroms and art director John Lloyd. They set out their stall to impress, and they succeeded. The episode was a ratings hit and a critical success. A month after Ransom debuted, NBC commissioned a full series. Six months later, Season 1 would air.

Gee whizz, will you look at that? NBC have commissioned a series…

So, while Ransom might not ultimately be one of my absolute personal favourites, it has many merits and played its part more than well enough to pave the way for greater things to come. I call that a job well done.

Did you know?

Ransom for a Dead Man was released in cinemas around Europe, notably in the UK (in 1973) and Italy (in 1978). A magnificent series of film posters was produced for the Italian release (Riscatto per un uomo morto), which can sometimes be found on eBay and are well worth tracking down if you’re a collector. My own home has a good few of ’em.

Ransom for a Dead Man artwork
A series of very cool Italian movie posters for Ransom were produced

On a sadder note, Patricia Mattick, who played Margaret, died of cancer in December 2003, aged just 52. Watch the episode closely and you can see that Margaret is watching the film Double Indemnity in the house kitchen during an argument with Leslie. Double Indemnity is about a woman who kills her husband to claim an insurance payout. Nice touch!

How I rate ’em so far

While it’s fair to say Columbo’s career is off to a flying start, I do prefer Prescription: Murder to Ransom, albeit it only by a slim margin.

  1. Prescription: Murder
  2. Ransom for a Dead Man

Where does Ransom rank in your list of favourites? Vote for your number one episode in the Columbo best episode poll here.

Thanks, as ever, for reading. I’ll be back with a review of Murder by the Book soon.

Contribute to this site’s upkeep from just $3

Read my thoughts on the 5 best moments from Ransom for a Dead Man here.

Evil Leslie
See you next time…
How did you like this article?

247 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man

  1. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo By Dawn’s Early Light | The Columbophile

  2. One thing about the Margaret character — I guess I always felt she was supposed to grate on you just like she would grate on Leslie. Even though she is the wronged party as you put it, she is likely not fun to be around. And I sort of felt they were trying to show the personality of her father through her. I might have been reading way too much into that, though.

    • I agree with you, ELLGEE. Since Pattye was directed to behave like an obnoxious brat, the director must have wanted her to annoy the audience the same way she annoyed Leslie. I think her intelligence bothered Leslie as well. She knew that Margaret would figure it all out, and that scared her – enough to give her a briefcase full of money!

      • Exactly Iva- the actress (Patricia) followed what the director instructed her to do, to act in a certain way. She did an awesome job as Margaret- hence the reaction of the public as how “bratty, obnoxious, over the top, uber-catty: etc. Margaret was…..

    • I don’t think the portrayal of Margaret has anything to do with trying to show the personality of the father. In the one brief glimpse we have of him, he seems like a decent fellow. There’s no hint that Leslie is getting back at him for some terrible wrong of deed or character. Perhaps the actress could have played Margaret a little more subtly, but she was fine. It’s odd to quarrel with a performance for effectively playing a grating character. The real objection then is to the characterization and the writing.

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  4. As usual, this review is very enjoyable. Leslie’s summing up of Columbo’s methods and tactics (I agree it follows the pattern in Prescription Murder) is very entertaining. (-:

    • Wanted to comment again on this episode. 🙂

      “What a difference three years makes!” It really does! Since it was about to be a series of movies, he must have wanted to flesh out the character fully.

      “Columbo may be small. He may be scruffy. He may be humble. But he will not be pushed around.” When he first entered the home where the FBI were milling around with the villainess, he seemed so out of place among the agents, but he can stand up for himself when it counts and he doesn’t delay for a second in responding.

      One thing I observed about this episode, perhaps it’s the cinematography – some scenes were shot very wide, encompassing alot of the room or office. I think it contributes to how riveting the story can be, and I’m more riveted with other episodes because of the way they’re shot, I think. Still, such a good plot and episode.

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  6. I think this is a decent enough episode it is always a good watch espeically yhe aeroplane scene , margaret and the final gotch at the airport might not be in the 5 star club for me , yes i agree prescription murder was better but if you had all the columbos reviewed it would be in the 20 – 25th place give or take a couple of places which isnt bad out of 69.

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  9. This is my second favourite episode after Suitable for Framing, again I think the music is magical from Billy Goldenberg and it really adds an extra dimension. These two episodes also seem to exude a special quality as regards light and sunny exterior sets which is one of my favourite aspects of Columbo, and a definite attraction for cheering up another wet, grey Sunday afternoon in northern England.

    Only one thing “bothers me” about this episode. What if the body was discovered before the faked phone call? Am I missing something here, surely that was a possibility? The timing of the finding of the body seems just a little too convenient!

    Aside from that, thanks again Columbophile for another great review. I’ve finally got round to reading them all…!

    • I also thought the police could have found out when Williams was killed–that he had been dead before the ransom call.

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  11. I would like Leslie’s motives for killing her husband gad more fleshed out. Was he abusive,domineering,stingy with money? Did Leslie need money fast? We aren’t told

    • Fair point. It would be helpful to know why she hated her husband so much as there’s nothing to suggest he’s a bad guy. I suppose we must simply take it as her being ambitious and ruthless to the extreme, as is the case with many other killers in future years.

    • The motivation for the murder of the husband is obviously financial, but there’s a few lines of dialogue that point to the psychology of why she did it. The scene when Columbo and Leslie return from their daytime flight and Columbo mentions his annoyingly “perfect” cousin who, he claims, is infuriating to the point where Columbo could kill him (not literally, I think). That’s one such clue that stems from a conversation between the two that transpired a few minutes earlier in the plane, when Leslie attests to her husband’s impeccable ethics and singular demeanour. I think she found him dull and utterly straight-laced. It may not seem like much of a reason to kill someone, but it is mentioned on more than one occasion in relation to the dead husband’s personality.

    • The motive is explained in the diner in the scene with Columbo and Margaret. Margaret says that her father visited her in Switzerland and told her he was a fool to marry Leslie. Leslie had married him only to advance her career. She insulted him and demanded that he leave the firm and that they live separate lives while maintaining the appearance that they were a married couple. Margaret said that her father told Leslie he would never live a lie like that. Since she wasn’t going to get her demands, she sought an alternative.

    • Margaret has a few ideas of
      her own which she tells Columbo
      His probing also suggests that her very different ethics
      to her husband may have been the cause. Leslie wants
      the law firm for herself, perhaps to concentrate solely
      on defending corporate offenders in tort cases. Without
      her husband who came from the state supreme court

      Columbo may’ve been trying to get an admission from
      Leslie about clashes in their law firm when he provokes
      her at the end of their plane ride. When he tells her he
      knew someone like her husband so perfect, that sometimes
      he felt like killing him.

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  14. One thing that always irked me about this episode is that an attorney who is at least in her mid-forties is running around dressed in micro-minidresses and with long hair. I’m sure she presents a very professional image in court dressed like that. A smart woman like Leslie would wear power suits and have hair no longer than shoulder length.

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  16. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and review on the Ransom for a Dead Man episode! I had no idea it was only the second Columbo installment! Peter Falk seemed so grounded in the character that I assumed he had already done several episodes. My favorite scenes: The airplane ride–Yeaahhh. Subtle Columbo reaction at it’s best! Then there were the scenes with the step daughter, Margaret. When she came out of the gate accusing LW (Lee Grant) of murdering her father, it was too delicious for words. And then the final scene in the airport bar. I just loved how LW dissected Columbo’s Modus Operandi. But Columbo had HER number as well–‘And Miss Williams, you’re greedy.’

  17. Have enjoyed this very informative blog (including many of the comments) as I watch Columbo episodes on Cozi TV.

    Enjoyed the acting in this episode. But, no way does the very intelligent and careful attorney played by Lee Grant allow herself to get set up by her stepdaughter or bring the actual ramson money out so soon after the crimes.

    Somebody with her connections and professional background would have been able to get a loan for the pertinent amount–assuming that she didn’t choose to doublecross the stepdaughter, if only by delaying the payment of the agreed upon amounts.

    Furthermore, I don’t buy Columbo’s assessment of her as being someone lacking in the imagination to understand how her stepdaughter might think or be motivated. As an apparently successful trial lawyer, she would have more than enough pertinent imagination.

    • Gary Franklin

      Your loan idea occurred to me also as a much better alternative. Why Leslie would give the actual ransom money to a stepdaughter who has made her hatred clear and who had just forged evidence against her seems implausible, whatever the psychobabble reasons given.

      Hard to believe that as a prominent attorney with that big house and an airplane and the like, she couldn’t quickly secure a loan.

      • Except that none of
        the property was hers…
        yet. Which she would need to use it as collateral.
        She may’ve even already been disinherited.

        And the ransom money cleaned them out of all
        legitimate liquid assets. That was because of
        Leslie’s greed to steal as much of it as possible.

        Columbo touches on this when he explains why
        he had so much faith in the gotcha.

        Incidentally, the psychobabble came from the Timothy
        Carey character at the beanery, who suggests that
        Columbo’s lack of imagination along certain lines, is
        what limits his choices (in his case, from the menu).

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  22. Of course a classic, however, I have an issue with the murder. The husband is shot at close range on an obviously high value rug of blues and whites. No blood is forthcoming (not unusual for Columbo of course and within the narrative suspension of disbelief) but surely a high class lawyer would line up the “kill zone” more efficiently? (neutral floor just next to said carpet?)

    • In that era of TV blood was never shown after a murder. The same was true of Perry Mason. Unrealistic to us today, but I prefer it over the violent and gory scenes they give us now.

  23. I was a great fan of Peter Falk and Columbo, I was trying to find out the name of the cemetery, in the series, Ranson for a dead man, thanks Shane.

  24. A huge Columbo fan here and I’m so glad to have found this website. After seeing the NBC episodes many, many times, I just started watching series from the beginning on DVD and comparing with your episode reviews.

    Regarding Ransom for a Dead Man: Lee Grant is gorgeous and for the most part carried off the Lesley Williams character well. However, I found a couple of story points hard to believe:

    1. That a 5′ 3 3/4″ (according to IMDB) Lee Grant as Lesley Williams can haul her 6′-even dead husband from the living room to the car and into the trunk without breaking a sweat. The scene goes from a dead Paul Williams on the floor cut to Lesley Williams closing the car trunk then taking a couple of medium breaths and then she’s ready to go. Human beings, even dead ones, are heavy and from my experience moving bags of heavy materials around, I could imagine it’s not easy even for strong people to move a dead body let alone someone smaller and with a less muscular frame. (I have a similar issue in Blueprint for Murder with Patrick O’Neal hauling around Forest Tucker). Of course they say that when under stress, people have been known to exhibit feats of great strength so you could say she got the strength from the stress of having just murdered her husband.

    2. I found it implausible she would give Margaret cash from the ransom money. Columbo tried to explain it as that she didn’t have a conscience and she thought other people were just like her…but I don’t buy it. This woman is extremely smart and very good attorneys know that people do not all think alike…she would be very attuned to Margaret’s love of her father. Plus she’s aware of Margaret already talking/scheming with Columbo earlier. If I’m Lesley Williams I am certainly not using the ransom loot as my source of cash for paying off Margaret.

    I realize this is picayune stuff…but then that’s what a Columbo fan site is for. 🙂

    Definitely agree with your Best Moment.

    • Dave in SoCal

      You came up with two issues which occurred to me. I also thought it was unlikely that Leslie could drag her much larger husband about.

      Another thing I would question is assuming that a .22 caliber bullet would not go through a body. I think that would depend on what it hit. If only flesh, I think it could go all the way through from close range like that. At least I wouldn’t bet my life & freedom on it not going right through and lodging in the wall.

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  30. Patricia Mattick was my closest friend at the time Ransom for a Dead Man was made. She enjoyed working with Peter Falk and Lee Grant. She told me her favorite line was, “Goodbye, Leslie,” at the end. I love knowing that when I watch her say it.

    She bought the skirt she wore in the Barney’s Beanery scene after filming concluded.

    As to her performance, Margaret is a really angry, clever and annoying girl, and she was supposed to be. Pattye was a remarkably accomplished young actor, and went on to guest star in numerous other TV shows, films and plays. Her real love was theatre, and it was always a pleasure to watch her on stage.

    I miss her like crazy and love to see this episode of Columbo whenever it shows up on my cable.

    Thanks to all who have shown interest in my dear friend. She would love to know that her work is remembered.

    • Thanks very much for your comment, and how wonderful to have known Patricia. She is most certainly well remembered. Indeed one of the most common search terms that leads people to this site is ‘patricia mattick columbo’.

    • It would be wonderful to know more about Patty. I posted a request on IMDB last year, there are so many people who admired her acting skills. So its nice to know we have one of her friends and admirers on the site. Thanks.

      • Thank you for your kind words, Clive. It would make her so happy to know that you appreciated her work.

        I think that acting was what Pattye enjoyed the most in life. She was so good at such a young age, it was astonishing. Her performances were always exceptional.

        I remember an occasion when she was in high school, she and Morgan Brittany (then Suzanne Cupito) were rehearsing together at Pattye’s house. Watching these two talented young actors reading lines together was fantastic.

        I have been thinking of Pattye a lot lately, since The Beguiled was remade. When Pattye was on location for the original film, she wrote me letters about what was going on, and some of the stories were so funny.

        She was a very special friend and had a great sense of humor. I really miss laughing with her.

    • Thank you, I. Turner. It’s wonderful to read more information about Patricia. Contrary to what seems to be the prevailing opinion on Columbo blogs and podcasts, her performance in RFADM has always struck me as very, very good – dynamic, intense and impactful. She certainly made the most of her supporting role. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend at such a young age.

    • Hello to all!

      This message is for Iva Tuner- apologies Columbophile but I have no other way of communicating with her- she may read this message here. : )

      Ida if it is not too much to ask- could you just take a look at these 3 pages about Patricia? When you have a moment, forgive me for bothering you.

      One if from Listal- mostly pictures- the other one is a board on Pinterest, and the last one is Find a Grave. Most of the information I got from IMDB, Ancestry.com or TV websites, or books about the late Maria Ines Fornes- since Patricia worked with her many times.

      I also updated her Find a Grave page- that one existed already, but I updated it.

      Why am I doing all this? I seeing her work or most of it- haven’t seen her theater work, but her TV acting was awesome. I would like these online pages/board to humbly serve as a reminder of who this talented actress was and that she is not forgotten. That’s why, and if people visit them, that’s my reward.

      Every time they show Columbo, or Ironside or Cannon, or Mannix, people also remember her. So talented and lovely- scary in “The Streets of San Francisco.”

      If you find any mistakes on the information and since you knew her so well and were her close friend, please point them to me. I just sort of wanted your “blessing.” My eternal gratitude.

      Thank for this communication, Columbophile!

      Ed Porben : ), librarian from Miami, FL

      Find a Grave:
      (shows as Patricia Collen Mattick)

      Listal: https://www.listal.com/patricia-mattick
      (shows as Patricia Mattick)

      Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/edpor68/patricia-colleen-mattick/?sender=402298316622138893&invite_code=46b076d9458c4e9d92e18c500502b768
      (shows as Patricia Collen Mattick)
      Many of the screenshots were taken by myself- hence lack of the “professional eye”- other ones are from the Vagebond’s Columbo Screenshots, and from the awesome Columbophile.

    • I loved her in this episode. I didn’t find her character annoying, but justifiably furious and vengeful. I loved it when she struck Leslie in the cemetery, and I thought her scenes with Lee Grant crackled.

      • Ransom for a Dead Man is a great episode, with great actors. Patricia did a great job as Margaret Williams- could she have imagined that people were going to be taking about her the episode and her portrayal of Margaret almost 50 years after the episode premiered on March 1, 1971.

        A timeless performance by a great actress gone so soon.

        Ed from Florida

    • After seeing this episode, I became interested in Double Indemnity, which I was able to see in a theater yesterday. While reading the opening credits, I noticed Edith Head was the costume designer. This, of course, should ring a bell to true columbophiles, as she appears in the series as herself (“Requiem for a falling star”, season 2).

    • Jim, if it helps, you can think of it as S0E2, since it was the second pilot but not part of the first season proper. “Prescription: Murder” can be S0E1. 🙂

      • Hello Felicity4771,

        I believe Ransom for a Dead Man is considered a pilot, pilot # 2- and is included with the DVD of season # 1. Pilot # 1 is Prescription for Murder- aired on 2/20/1968, Ransom aired on 3/1/1971- and season one started on September 15,1971 with Murder by the Book.

        Best regards,

        Ed from Florida 👍

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  33. A very good episode. But I have a question: There is one sequence where Margaret is watching an old film on television. What is the name of that film?

    • Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I&l1287;#l just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any points for rookie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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  37. Thanks for this blog. I have always loved watching Columbo. My mother was a huge fan. She died last October and whenever I watch, I feel like she is still with me. “Just one more thing…”

  38. Pingback: Columbo episode review: Lady in Waiting | The columbophile

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  42. Ransom for a Dead Man was certainly good, although not up to Prescription Murder standards in my opinion. Also, in Peter’s autobiography, he alludes to having worked with Lee Grant previously in a play, and indeed they were very good together. Contrary to most opinion I thought the role of Margaret, played by the late Patricia Mattick was very good. It brought a further dimension to the plot, and Patricia played the role of spoiled, edgy and tense teenager very well, however I do agree, her role was somewhat theatrical at times. It was very sad to see she had died many years ago, and I never did find out much about her life on the Internet etc. Just a solitary photo of her grave in Colorado. Was she ever married or have a family I wonder?

  43. Pingback: Columbo episode review: Death Lends a Hand | The columbophile

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  45. Great review however I would have liked more about how this episode used elements from Prescription Murder. Such as the dialogue about Columbo and his ‘well used bag of tricks’ almost certainly reused because well it’s a great line (and the writers no doubt thought P.C. was long forgotten about) haha. There was something else but I can’t remember at the minute.

  46. You synopsis is spot on. Grant was perfect for the role of Leslie, as was Mattick for the role of Margaret. Let’s keep in mind, that Leslie consider Margaret as a spoiled, self-centered brat who always got her way. Mattick, as grating as the character was, managed to capture this in every scene. As for me, I felt a sense of satisfaction when Margaret won out in the end and Leslie was taken into custody.

      • I agree too, although let’s remember Patricia was very much the “junior” in the cast, a mere twenty years old at the time, with no serious acting roles beforehand. Imagine being alongside those great actors – Peter and Lee, and trying to remember your lines!! Patricia did some acting at her school, so I think she did extremely well being cast for the part.

  47. It’s a nice blog you have here sir and you’re a great writer, well done. I’ve always liked Ransom For A Dead Man, I think it was one of the first episodes that I watched among many other episodes that I look forward to reading about here in the future. After watching Ransom many times (and studying scenes closely) I’ve really learned to appreciate the editing and acting from the cast involved, it’s such a slow film and I enjoyed watching and noticing little details, the minor gestures and body language of Columbo as he walks around and the time he takes to think is time for us to do the same – we’re able to create our own theories of what’s going on in his mind, he was a stimulating and intriguing character to observe, he was a brilliant actor and I’ve only watched about 10 episodes so far.

    I’m actually a creative artist and you might be interested to know that I recently finished some digital art about a month ago featuring Columbo and some of the cast of the great film you’ve written about above.

    I’ve wrote more about my art and thoughts regarding Columbo in a post over at the ‘Ultimate Lieutenant Columbo Site’ forum for anyone interested. You’re building the foundations for a great website here, thanks.

    • Thanks so much for your comments. I know the ‘Ultimate Lieutenant Columbo Site’ well, so will look for the forum post. I love Columbo artwork and I’d be happy to share it online if you’re happy for me to do so?

      • If you do like the art you’re welcome to share it for others to see, I really like the idea of inspiring other artists or encouraging others to experiment with design. There’s a link to my website in my username that you might want to try, thanks again.

  48. An excellent and detailed analysis of a key episode and one I remember well, due to the flight scene and the ending. I like the ending. I agree, Margaret is a little grating.

  49. So excited to see a new entry! I love how you are showing the evolvement of our beloved Columbo episode by episode. I agree he’s not 100% there yet with this episode but we’re very close. Keep them coming!


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