Viewers of Columbo Season 1 could scarcely have been better treated. Every three weeks or so, when the Mystery Movie Wheel circled back to the lovable Lieutenant, they were virtually guaranteed not only a gripping mystery, but an A-List star of the day as Peter Falk’s chief antagonist.
That all changed on 15 December 1971, when Columbo was pitted against a virtual unknown for the first time as Lady in Waiting aired. The actress in question was Susan Clark – a capable performer in a number of small screen roles up to then, but hardly a name to set pulses racing.
So how did the episode compare with the sky-high standards of Season 1, and how did Clark cut the mustard against Cassidy, Culp and the cadre of exceptional villains we’ve met up to now? You’ll only find out by forging bravely on…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Beth Chadwick: Susan Clark
Peter Hamilton: Leslie Nielsen
Mrs Chadwick: Jessie Royce Landis
Bryce Chadwick: Richard Anderson
Directed by: Norman Lloyd
Written by: Steven Bochco
Score by: Billy Goldenberg
Episode synopsis – Columbo Lady in Waiting
Downtrodden Beth Chadwick is fed up of having her life governed by despotic, interfering older brother Bryce, the head of the ultra-successful family advertising agency, so decides to do something about it.
Bryce has taken over from where their late father left off – oppressing Beth and refusing to let her live her own life, even as far as intervening with potential suitors. But he oversteps the mark when he pens a poison letter to Beth’s current squeeze – company lawyer Peter Hamilton and threatens to sack him if he doesn’t leave Beth alone.
Incensed, Beth puts a cunning plan to rid herself of Bryce into action. Having already pinched his door key while he slept early in the episode, we are shown her plan of attack in a wonderfully realised daydream-style sequence that simply had to have been filmed in the 70s.
As Beth (alone in bed, in a grandma-ish nightgown, tucking into a box of chocolates), imagines what lies ahead, the camera plays out the assassination plot in soft, swirling focus. We’re shown Beth’s plans that will involve the keyless Bryce come round to her patio window and ask to be let in, at which point she’ll slay him, slam on the burglar alarm and play the old ‘Ah was sleepin’ an’ done thought it was a prowler‘ routine that so seemed to fool US juries in the 1970s. What could possibly go wrong?
BUT HOLD YOUR HORSES! Did I just hear the sound of a needle skipping across a record, that universal signifier that the game doth change? I did! For Beth’s plans have been scuppered not once, but twice.
Firstly, Peter (just back from a business trip) has received the letter from Bryce and ain’t happy. In fact he leaps into his car and screeches straight over to Chadwick HQ to give the control freak a piece of his mind.
Worse still, Bryce himself – that perennial party pooper – sidesteps Beth’s plans. Instead of falling for the bait, he’s simply let himself in through the front door with a spare key hidden in a plant pot (as millions of normal folk would – good foresight, Beth) and wanders into Beth’s bedroom, casual as you like, to ask why she didn’t answer the ringing doorbell.
Despite being stunned, Beth recollects herself, guns Bryce down and sets off the alarm. Peter, who has just arrived, hears the shots and the alarm, vaults the driveway gate, gazelle-like, and jallops to the house as Beth desperately tries to make the cold-blooded killing look like the accident she had planned.
And in one of the tensest of all Columbo moments, just as she’s finished moving briefcase, body and all into their proper positions, the front door bell rings. Beth’s sense of panic is palpable. Her best-laid plans have well and truly gone to pot.
“When Bryce and Beth’s mother arrives, her first act is to slap Beth’s face for killing her beloved son.”
Luckily, Peter’s a sympathetic audience, and when the police arrive at the scene – including one Lieutenant Columbo – he keeps them at arm’s reach. Beth’s story is plausible, certainly, but it’s not all plain sailing. When Bryce and Beth’s mother arrives from Phoenix, her first act (after hilariously demanding Columbo carry in her luggage and pay her taxi fee), is to slap Beth’s face for killing her beloved son. But despite family friction, Beth is determined to turn over a new leaf. She just needs to come through an inquest, first. No biggie…
As luck would have it, the inquest jury lets her go free, and Beth starts making those major changes to her life. She has a complete makeover, going from a bookish, timid type to a saucy minx with a daring dress sense and dashing new hairdo.
“Beth has a complete makeover, going from a bookish, timid type to a saucy minx with a daring dress sense and dashing new hairdo.”
She also assumes control of the company, tough talks the board room stiffs, belittles her mother, and starts domineering Peter – first promoting him without asking, then announcing their engagement without consulting him. A puzzled Peter doesn’t know what to make of this sudden transformation and says so. Beth begins to wonder whether he’s really man enough for her after all.
The main fly in the ointment for Beth is, of course, Columbo. Despite her being found innocent, he won’t go away. Those little things that always bother him are doing so again. If Bryce broke in through Beth’s window, why was there a copy of the evening paper by the front door? Why didn’t Bryce have grass cuttings on his shoes after walking across the freshly-cut lawn to her room window? And why did Beth order a brand new Ferrari, which she must have done in advance of her brother’s death?
“The main fly in the ointment for Beth is, of course, Columbo. Despite her being found innocent, he won’t go away.”
The wily Lieutenant manages to engineer a situation where he finds himself in a bar with Peter, who is drowning his sorrows as he contemplates love on the rocks. The two get talking and Columbo produces Beth’s transcript from the inquest that states she was woken by the burglar alarm, and then shot at what she thought was an intruder.
Peter is a fine lawyer with a great memory for detail. He recalls that he heard the shots first, then the alarm. With all the rest of the circumstancial evidence Columbo has amassed, it’ll be enough for a conviction.
So again we encounter Beth in her bedroom, this time sexily attired, reading reports while smoking and drinking. She really is a new woman. She hears a rustle outside of her window and reaches for the gun, but soon twigs it’s Columbo playing a trick on her.
He enters the room and tells her she’s under arrest. She laughs in his face, but when he explains that Peter’s testimony is what has been her undoing she draws a gun on him. “There’s no point in that, not with the police officers outside,” Columbo retorts, as calmly as if he were passing the time of day with a petrol pump assistant. “Besides,” he adds. “You’re too classy a woman.”
Won over by his chivalrous words, Beth smiles, hands the gun to Columbo and heads off to slip into something less alluring before going downtown.
Columbo, meanwhile, steps outside to light his cigar. The camera draws back through the dark garden to reveal not a policemen in sight, as credits roll…
Best moment – the dreaded ringing at the door
There are some splendid scenes throughout, but Beth’s moment of unadulterated terror as lover Peter rings the doorbell midway through her post-murder tidy-up work is really well done.
The sense of panic invoked by the camera work, the music and Clark’s facial expressions combine like a charm. It’s as convincing a display of panic as you’re ever likely to see on the small screen, and it sets the viewer’s heart thumping with the tension.
Columbo Lady in Waiting: my opinion
I regard Lady in Waiting as possibly the most under-rated Columbo episode of all. I know few fans that mention it amongst their favourites, yet when given close scrutiny it stands proudly in its own right.
Susan Clark was the least high-profile guest star murderer of Season 1 by a mile, which could contribute to why it’s comparatively under the radar. I rather suspect this is an episode skipped over by casual viewers, who prefer to sit in front of a Cassidy or Culp classic. But Lady in Waiting really delivers – and at its best it’s very, very good.
“Susan Clark was the least high-profile guest star murderer of Season 1 by a mile, which could contribute to why it’s comparatively under the radar.”
The main characters and their respective journeys make it an episode that keeps the attention. Clark is a big surprise. She’s superb and her character arc is intriguing. We really pity Beth at the start (she appears in my ‘Most sympathetic Columbo killers‘ article as a result). She’s been a victim of chauvinism all her life, and her own mother has let it happen. But as the episode progresses, and Beth’s new-found freedoms go to her head and fundamentally alter her character, any sympathy erodes away.
It’s excellent writing, and believable stuff. We can see why Beth would act this way after years under the heel of her beastly family. We can see why lover Peter would act how he does, too, in such rapidly-changing circumstances. All credit to writer Steven Bochco, who again rises to the occasion after also boasting writing duties on the superior season opener, Murder by the Book.
As an aside (and by no means one meant to plunge this into lewd, wolf-whistling territory), Clark is absolutely gorgeous in this. I love her physical transformation, the visual equivalent of the huge psychological change she undergoes. The self-doubt rolls away with her old look. The new Beth is smart, sexy and in the driving seat. Clark does a fine job in portraying both sides of Beth Chadwick. No mean feat when playing against as testing a co-star as Falk.
As mentioned in my ‘Best ever Columbo supporting stars‘ article, I really rate Leslie Nielsen’s performance in this. Seeing him playing it straight takes quite some getting used to for an audience more used to his capering antics in Police Squad and Airplane!, but he’s on top form.
He nicely portrays the confusion and inner conflict brought about to Peter by Beth’s character transformation. He truly loved Beth for who she was. He would have quit his job for her in a heartbeat. Yet her emancipation alienates him.
The natural comic talent still shines through at times, though. His cheerful response of “No, I hate you with a passion,” to Beth’s early-episode plea for him to confirm his love could have come straight out of Naked Gun. In short, he’s a joy to watch. But it does raise the question: was his hair ever anything other than grey?
On a more serious note, another question must also be asked: could Peter only have loved the down-trodden Beth, the one so desperate for his love, and the one without the strength to take fate into her own hands? Were they ill-fated lovers all along? The more you consider this, the more likely this seems, and it adds a nice dimension to proceedings for the more thoughtful viewer.
Special credit must also go to veteran character actress Jessie Royce Landis, who plays Beth’s overbearing mother. It’s a small role, but she tackles it with aplomb, firstly mistaking Columbo for home help, and making him struggle in with her luggage and pay her cab fare (telling him he “hardly looks the part,” when she realises he’s a policeman); then violently striking Beth for the death of her brother; before ultimately, meekly fading into the background as an increasingly dominant Beth starts calling the shots.
The character drama is compelling, but there’s plenty of fun to be had, too. As well as the taxi scene outlined above, the drive-in scene, where Columbo takes Peter for a ‘slap-up’ burger lunch to discuss the case, raises smiles galore – plus it’s nice to see the top down on the Peugeot for a change.
Falk as Columbo is predictably superb. The Lieutenant is at his tenacious best, never giving up on his belief of Beth’s guilt – regardless of the little matter of the jury finding her innocent.
His personal highlight is how he extricates himself from a potentially fatal situation at episode’s end. Beth has little to lose by gunning Columbo down. After all, he’s behaving in a most un-policeman like way. Yet he dodges death with guile and charm, finding a chink in Beth’s armour in that warm, human way Falk does so well. Take note ABC years – Columbo does not need to do stupid stuff like putting his head in a guillotine. This is how he handles crisis situations to close a case.
“Columbo dodges death with guile and charm, finding a chink in Beth’s armour in that warm, human way Falk does so well.”
As an aside – and this is purely my opinion – this is the first episode in which I sense the writers really knew that Mrs Columbo was real, and not some figment of the Lieutenant’s imagination designed to drop into conversations to flummox and disarm the killers.
Columbo’s barside conversation with Peter about his argument with Mrs Columbo, and her love of proverbs, is so genuine, and is such a slice of real married life, that she simply must be real. I find that comforting, and it’s perhaps another reason why I rate this outing so highly.
So in conclusion, Lady in Waiting is one of those Columbo episodes that surprises the viewer with just how good it is, even if it’s never quite top of their watch list. It’s a decent mystery, if not a great one, but the performances to a man and woman are superb. If you haven’t watched this one for a while I really encourage you to dig it out. You’ll be glad you did.
Did you know?
Like Dead Weight from earlier in the season, Lady in Waiting was also beset with difficulties between Falk and the studio, leading to walk-outs and a delayed schedule. Although it didn’t cause bad blood between Falk and Clark or episode director Norman Lloyd (who is still with us at the age of 101), it did give rise to a potential studio solution to the on-going run-ins.
Universal execs of the time came up with the idea of book-ending seasons of Columbo with Falk episodes, and then letting 4-5 other actors play the character in between. I think I speak for all fans when I say: Thank God they never did it…
How I rate ‘em
It may stun viewers to learn that I rate an episode many overlook ahead of the iconic Prescription: Murder, but I stand by my decision. I personally enjoy Lady in Waiting a great deal, so it sneaks into 4th place. Here’s my full list so far:
- Suitable for Framing
- Murder by the Book
- Death Lends a Hand
- Lady in Waiting
- Prescription: Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
You can check out the other reviews by clicking on their respective links above. And if you haven’t yet done so, please vote for your very favourite episode in my Columbo poll here. More than 1200 fans have done so up to now. Don’t be that guy who hasn’t done it…
Next up on my journey through Columbo Season 1 is Short Fuse, starring the ever bonkers Roddy McDowall. It’s one I watch rarely, and my memories (reluctantly) chiefly centre on Roddy’s outrageously tight trousers. Whether there’s more substance to the episode than that remains to be seen!
Your writing and analysis is really readable and draws one in.
I dont know how to applaud your efforts any higher.
Thank you Ameer – that’s the highest compliment you can give me!
This was a delightful Columbo sleeper episode. The acting, writing, pacing, music, and plot were done well and very believable. Susan Clark was superb. There is a lot of sympathy built up for Beth prior to killing her brother. The 1970s was an era of women’s liberation. I like that Beth transformed into a strong assertive fashionable woman. Columbo does masterful superb low key detective work. I found it a little uncomfortable while Columbo was talking to Beth in her nightgown. I would have liked to see Columbo work more with the police. At times he seemed to act like a private investigator. Overall all this was a splendid Columbo.
Good placement on the list of best episodes. I’ve always loved this episode. The fashions Beth wears during her transformation scream early 70’s and provide a very gratifying experience for this fan of 70’s nostalgia. Any episode featuring Leslie Neilson and Richard Anderson is a hit in my book.
By the way, the episode synopsis says: “The camera draws back through the dark garden to reveal not a policemen in sight, as credits roll…” but the camera pans back from the WINDOW back through the backyard. The cop there to arrest Both would be waiting by the front door. There’s no reason to believe Columbo was bluffing about the cop.
I’m sorry, but I can easily see why Peter was taken aback and not quite as sure about continuing the relationship after Beth’s big change. I think the idea that it’s only because Beth got independent and became a mature, capable woman and therefore this is sexist is complete garbage.
Beth didn’t turn into a mature, capable woman who was sure of herself and finally blossoming into her own independence. She turned into a vile, cruel, vindictive jerk. I’m sorry. I understand she was psychopathic brought on by a cold, awful piece of garbage mother, and a domineering, infantilizing brother. However, that doesn’t change reality (or “reality” as it was in this fictional episode). She was way too docile and submissive, yes, but there’s no suggestion that THAT’S the reason Peter was in love with her (and it’s insulting and quite sexist and misandrist to even imply that men can only love women for their docility, IMHO). After her change, though, she became rude, crass, crude, dismissive, and arrogant. Who would stay in love with someone like that?
She dismissed anyone’s ideas that didn’t match up with hers (like her business partner), she announced both a nepotistic promotion and an engagement without having the basic human decency to consult with her partner and make it consensual (that’s a big word these days, but it should be equally applied to men as well as women, right?)
This modern idea that men have to docilly and submissively be subservient and allow themselves to be abused by women like this is one of the great tragedies of our age, and I ain’t buying it. Peter was right to distance himself, and any man should feel free to choose their own partners without modern activists telling them who they can and can’t love.
Mate, it’s just columbo.
I like this episode a lot, but I think I enjoyed the part where the murder takes place the most. It contains a lot of tension.
Btw. In the US you can actually get a way with gunning someone down who is entering from your window, if you think it is a burglar? Glad I’m living in Europe…
Yeah, we should allow criminals to break into our homes unabated……
Do you find the need to break into peoples’ homes in Europe? Strange.
Todays big new word is “sarcasm”, look it up and report back.
This is one of my favorite episodes. The intro sequence really got me hooked. The first time I watched it, my heart was racing and I started to wonder whether she was going to accidentally shoot Peter instead of Bryce — it would have been very interesting to see Columbo investigate a murder with an accidental victim. But even as written, with Bryce getting killed mostly as planned, it was still thrilling to see each clue worked out along the way. Susan Clark was very compelling and I loved her transformation.
I’ve always enjoyed this real sleeper of an episode so much as to having the intro theme as my current ringtone.
An underrated and magnificent score! I believe Goldenberg won an Emmy for the score of this episode.
Goldenberg was nominated for “Lady in Waiting” — but Pete Rugolo won the Emmy for an episode of “The Bold Ones: The Lawyers.”
Your reviews are just great.
Most fans don’t ever mention this little gem! I was pleasantly surprised by Columbophile’s appreciation of it when I first read the review years ago, and I must concur: It is a wonderful little episode, almost a character study with an especially great and (from a modern point of view, at least) unexpected serious performance by Leslie Nielsen. He is so good and believable as the honest and ethical lawyer that is more sincere than everyone around him!
BUT: The long sequences with the alarm ringing always stress me out and have brought many a family member and/or room mate to check in on me! They thought my alarm clock was broken or something 🙂
And my dog hates this episode …
Enjoyed this episode a lot.
Also, Nielsen was a non comic actor for much of his career. It changed later on.
One of my favorite scenes in all of Columbo is in this episode. The lengthy part of Beth setting up for the murder follows her call with Peter from Atlanta. After changing the light bulb, she steps into the bathroom, contemplating the upcoming events. The camera pans to the alarm on her desk and then to a doll on Beth’s nightstand. With one hand of the girl touching her lips, the contemplative innocence of the doll refects the same characteristics in Beth. And as the camera fades away from the doll, its face disappearing, so, too, does Beth’s innocence begin to fade, as she sits in wait for her terrible deed to unfold. The wonderful music during these silent scenes adds to the mood of the episode.
This was never one of my favorites (the part where Beth shouts “Oh, stop saying ‘Calm Down’ before Peter even says ‘Calm Down’ really bothers me and sort of typifies some of the irksome qualities to that character (might be the actor, too)), but these scenes are worth the price of admission.
“Leslie Nielsen’s performance in this. Seeing him playing it straight takes quite some getting used to for an audience more used to his capering antics in Police Squad and Airplane!, but he’s on top form.”
At this point in his career, Nielsen was known for his dramatic roles (Forbidden Planet, many TV drama guest parts). That made his change to comedy roles such as Airplane! and Police Squad! funnier because of his having previously played more serious characters.
By the way, all six episodes of the Police Squad! TV series are available on YouTube and well worth watching.
IMDb.com shows the location of the Hamburger scene w/ Leslie Nielsen & Peter Falk…at Tastee Freeze in Eagle Rock, Ca. Having lived near both locations & eaten at both…often 1975-2002 I could easily say that IT’S BOBS BIG BOY in Burbank, not far from Universal. I’ll take the pix next time I go to Bobs & I have no doubt…
Entertainment: 5.5 out of 5 (bonus of 0.5)
Much to recommend here. Perhaps no other episode
examines the murder plan itself, and what might’ve
happened otherwise, in such detail. One of the few
(though not unique) ‘accidental’ murders in the series,
and the only one I know in which the killer’s imagined
plan is shown.
Beth Chadwick is a pupa who emerges as a death’s-head
moth. Ironic as had she aborted her plan the moment it
went awry, she might have gotten much of what she wanted
through boyfriend Peter’s rescue. Her greatest enemy
though is her ‘new’ self, which she can’t even hide from
the world. Perhaps domineering brother Bryce
knew a lot more about her than he was saying.
Bonus for showing the imagined plan, and Clark’s
transformation of Beth, not easy to pull off as convincingly
in so short a time.
Great humour touches. The little barking Yorkie that
hounds Columbo rivals Dog as series’ funniest canine.
Clues Leading Columbo To The Killer: 2.5 out of 2.5
Of course, there’s only one possible killer. But after
her brother Bryce upstages her plan, Beth winds up
leaving clues aplenty that it was no accident.
Ironic here too, as even then, she might’ve gotten away with it
had Peter not intervened, drastically cutting down on her
crime scene cleanup. And winding up as the only eyewitness
Final Gotcha: 2.0 out of 2.5 (penalty of 0.5)
The gotcha indeed is a smoking gun. But not really
a surprise, nor ingenious, two essential elements.
Showing the imagined plan makes it rather easy
for the viewer to find the mistake that brings Beth
down. All that Columbo has to do, as he said, is wait
for Beth’s fiancee to come around.
Final Score: 10 out of 10
P.S. My bonus mark
for the Entertainment,
included the clever murder plot, which
so different from the imagined murder plan,
turned out to be so full of twists and turns.
Leaving a riveting impression on the viewer.
Some Trivia: The distinctive Billy Goldenberg
score was used in the soundtrack (without giving
credit!) for Owning Mahowny, an otherwise good
2003 Canadian film about an embezzling bank
employee played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
(Not to be confused with The Silent Partner, another
Canadian film partly about a bank embezzler… We
may have a fascination for this kind of crime.)
Rating revised as I forgot to make two 0.5
deductions from the final gotcha, not one.
Revised Rating/Final Score: 9.5 out of 10
Not quite ten territory.
This is one of the few episodes in which I strongly disagree with your rating and review. “Lady in Waiting” doesn’t have any utterly destructive aspects (like Commodore or Dagger of the Mind), but it also has almost zero standout aspects to cover for a boring script, little humor, no truly memorable scenes, mediocre acting by the murderer, no chemistry between her and Columbo, a paltry trail of cues, and a final clue that was blatantly obvious from the start. Moreover, no court would convict based on a witness’s late recollection of the precise order in which he heard an alarm and gunshots. Finally, besides the fact that there is hardly a legal basis for Columbo entering her house w/o permission, doing so would be insanely reckless on his part, given her demonstrably erratic behavior, and her desperate desire to find an excuse to get rid of the only man who threatened her freedom, And her behavior hardly justified her being seen as a “classy woman.”
You’re the only one who pointed this out. This episode didn’t make any sense to me what so ever. She was acquitted, she can’t be tried twice for the same crime. Her allowing Colombo to follow her around town and on her private property is not realistic. She certainty wouldn’t answer any of his annoying prodding questions. Anyone would have called the police to make a complaint of the harassment by this lieutenant. You’re own points are on point as well. Frankly, I’m glad she got away with it (I can only imagine Colombo was schooled by the commissioner) forcing him to set her free.
An inquest is not a criminal trial. There is no defendant, no criminal charge being determined. A coroner’s verdict is not an acquittal, and has no preclusive effect on any subsequent criminal case.
I enjoyed this one a good deal. Clark did such a good job transforming her character.
It’s funny, I think of Nielsen as a straight actor not a comedic one. I think that’s the type of role I’ve seen him in most. For example as captain of the Poseidon in the original movie. (It was one of my faves as a child). And I think you’re right. I don’t ever recall seeing him with anything grey hair.
The fact that she was the mother in Webster really floored me when I found out. I didn’t see it at all.
Nielsen harks back to Forbidden Planet, a sci-fi
classic in which he starred along with another
Columbo guest star, Anne Francis. And yes, he
did have dark hair in that one.
I have a belated announcement. Norman Lloyd, who directed “Lady in Waiting” and was one of the legends from the entertainment world, passed away in his sleep at the age of 106 on May 11, 2021. Lloyd worked with and was friends with many other legends from the entertainment world, including Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Houseman, and Alfred Hitchcock. He also directed Steve McQueen at the start of his career and veteran Peter Lorre in a terrific Alfred Hitchcock episode “Man From The South,” and appeared with Denzel Washington and Howie Mandel in the TV series St. Elsewhere and with Robin Williams in the picture “Dead Poets Society.” Lloyd was a busy performer to the end, appearing in film panels and festivals, in student films, and in his own one-man show at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. What a wonderful life!
I’m sorry to hear this. We just recently watched a wonderful interview with him by Ben Mankiewicz on TCM and I was wondering if he was still alive. I knew how old he was. I don’t know when the interview was taped, but Lloyd was sharp and witty and told wonderful stories about his career. I enjoyed him on St. Elsewhere, and I believe he portrayed the villain in Hitchcock’s “Saboteur” who fell off the Statue of Liberty at the end. He was an associate producer of Hitchcock’s weekly series. We have it on DVD and are currently rewatching it, and I can’t wait to get to the McQueen-Lorre episode, which is very memorable. I didn’t know Lloyd directed it; another reason to anticipate seeing it again!
Elaine, The “Man From The South” Hitchcock episode is on YouTube in a beautiful “print,” in two parts. The episode also co-stars Neile Adams, Steve McQueen’s wife at the time, who was then more famous than he was. When I first saw the episode as a child in TV reruns, I found it nerve-wracking. But even today, I think the suspense still works, thanks to Norman Lloyd’s expert direction.
It is a terrific episode. I know that Neile Adams was McQueen’s wife, but I didn’t realize she was more famous at the time! It’s definitely one of the best of the half-hour Hitchcocks.
As you know, the marriage between Neile Adams and Steve McQueen fell apart as Steve’s fame skyrocketed. This seems to be a Show-biz disease. The same happened to Peter Falk and first wife Alyce Mayo and countless others.
God bless Norman Lloyd!
Absolutely. That’s why I really admire long-term married couples like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward or Alan and Arlene Alda.
Wow! 106 years old. That’s a good run!
Beth sabotaged herself by promoting her new fiancee. Even with newfound independence she needed his big brain a desk buzzer away for business decisions she was incapable of making on her own.
Obviously a lot is left out for time and pacing but I find the whole Chadwick family very odd.
Mother has moved out, leaving brother & sister alone. You would normally expect to get mother insisting daughter lives with her, to wait on hand & foot, while brother works & socialises.
There’s also no indication either is supposed to marry to “continue the Chadwick dynasty”. A story of this sort would usually feature – in addition to Bryce disapproving of Beth’s boyfriend – him wanting her to marry some friend or business crony of his, probably someone inappropriately older, and produce the next generation.
Maybe mother & brother think Beth is unstable and that she might pass that on to any children?
Could her behaviour in completely changing her style &c also be supposed to indicate instability? (Not to mention her picking murder as a problem-solving method!)
Beth IS incapable of running the business – because she has no training. She doesn’t appear to have any sort of further education, at least none is mentioned, though she has learned how to drive. Obviously this is considered essential, despite there being no indication she goes anywhere much and being able to afford to be driven anywhere Bryce would approve of her going.
I did note that early on Peter IS specifically asked about the order of alarm & shots – was the alarm going when he heard the shots? – so I think it’s a bit awkward when later he suddenly realises/remembers it was the other way around. He’s supposed to have such a good memory! It does feel a bit like he was covering for Beth early on & only tells the truth when he’s less sure he still wants to be around her (& she’s more or less dumped him).
A very good Columbo!
I watched Lady in waiting last week and while I admit that its s a quality episode , with some great performances especially from Susan Clark and her mum , Leslie Nielsen etc. and a sprinkle of humor but I personally don’t place it among my true favorites ,
My main beef is Beth chadwicks motive is far too obvious and she even celebrates like a lottery winner when the accidental verdict in the courtroom room the very second its delivered right in front of columbos eyes , this could have been done better a more sly approach from Mrs. Chadwick would have made a tougher case for columbo and then ordering flash new cars in advance , expensive haircuts at LAs top boutique’s , new clothes , taking control the family business , you get my point its a little bit too obvious a motive for murder which makes it a bit hollow for me , But its a lot better than Dead weight , short fuse , A matter of honor and Requiem for a falling star which l I find a bit boring.
I don’t believe it was a deliberate cover up by Peter at the start of the episode. He was simply in shock from what had just happened and he actually volunteered to the officer that he was turning around to get back in his car when he heard the shots. The officer didn’t specifically ask him if he heard the shots before or after the alarm but simply said “And the alarm was going” to which he replied that’s right…it was later when Columbo made him really think about the order that he realized what happened.
This is one of my favorite Columbo episodes. I think is Susan Clark was magnificent. Is it wrong that I found the woman so charming I almost wanted her to get away with the murder? I mean, we’ve all done things to our siblings we regret, right?
Columbophile had the perfect description for Susan Clark after she transformed: saucy minx!
Something screws me in this episode. According to the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, there cannot be a retrial after an acquittal. Beth Chadwick has been judged once : it was an accident. She is acquitted. She cannot be rejudged. And if Columbo harassed her, she can easily sue him.
What do you think of this ?
This was asked and answered earlier in this thread. A coroner’s inquest, which determines the nature of the deceased’s death, is not a trial, so double jeopardy did not attach. Columbo determined sufficient evidence that Bryce Chadwick’s death was homicide, thus vitiating the coroner’s original determination of accidental death. So Beth could, indeed, stand trial.
I saw this episode for the first time…today, on march 2021 (!). Our french tv channels send to us oftenly the same episodes.
And, even if I agree with you than Beth is a wonderful character, I think this episode is still weak because of the “easyness” (forgive my english, please) of the proof. It was obvious since the beginning than the witness would be the solid proof. He hear 1) the shotgun, 2) the alarm, 3) the broken glass of the window : “Gotchated”.
Still, I really appreciate the psycho-social background of Beth (even if I don’t think the feminist POV was right. Her brother was right, she’s not able to manage the company).
I also appreciate than the lover was a sincere one.
Simplicity is not always the best, but the best is always simple.
By the way, let me defend the attorney Peter Hamilton, as he is not here to defend himself. He, the witness, will not have heard the sound of the breaking glass, because the alarm was too loud. So there is only 1) the shotgun and 2) the alarm. In an exceptional situation like this, I understand that Peter does not necessarily have to question what has happened, if there is somebody inside the house who can tell him what happened: his beloved Beth. Loyal as he is to her, he didn’t see one single reason to be sceptical. Only Columbo saw some. If Columbo hadn’t figured out that 1 and 2 were possibly switched, Peter might never have wanted to relive the horrible moment in his mind.
It wasn’t a “shotgun” it was a gun shot! Although I love the idea of her explaining to the police how it is she sleeps with a shotgun next to her bed. 🙂
By switching the shot and the gun, I was just putting the cart before the horse again, just as the Lieutenant’s ingenious wife advised Mister Columbo to do. 😉
I just wanted to point out one thing that might be a minor error in your synopsis: The mother is said to live in Palm Desert (which is mid-valley from Palm Springs,) not Phoenix. A very expensive cab ride to L.A. nonetheless!
To me what drives Columbo’s persistence is not the shot/burglar alarm sequence but Beth’s actions after the murder. Her behavior is much more obvious even than that clue. Despite the inquest declaring the shooting accidental, the fact remains that she did kill her brother. Any normal moral person would be devastated by that. Yet after her initial “shock,” she shows no sign of grief, mourning, or guilt, but suddenly blossoms into new life–physical transformations, new assertiveness, ambition, and outgoing personality. Her behavior just screams, “I did it and I’m glad, now I have the life I wanted.” Columbo may have missed the sequence clue at first, but he certainly didn’t miss the truth that her actions told him.
Yes, the teleplay makes Beth’s lack of remorse and her character change the key to Columbo’s investigation. Also, Columbo sees the strain that Beth’s character change has put on Peter Hamilton’s relationship with Beth. Remember that “Show-Biz disease” I mentioned above? Perhaps it should be called the “Success disease,” as Beth starts thinking she may have “outgrown” Peter. This is the rare Columbo case where Columbo bonds with someone very close to the murder suspect. And the scenes between Columbo and Peter are exceptionally well written, acted, and directed.
Peter Hamilton : …I won’t be a hypocrite, Lieutenant. I’m sorry about poor Bryce being killed, but it has gotten Beth out from under his thumb.
Columbo : Oh, yeah, yeah… Way out! Huh?
[He gestures with his hands]
Peter Hamilton : Now, Lieutenant, you don’t really think that Beth killed her brother in cold blood, now do you?
Columbo : Well, as a matter of fact… I do.
Columbo : This is a terrible thing to admit, but, uh… I think that, in a way, her brother’s death is the best thing that ever happened to her.
IMHO there’s an huge plot hole. I’m not from USA and perhaps laws were different back in the 70s. Once the case go to court, there should not be further investigation. Furthermore, it’s not possible to bring to court the same persons twice for the same crime, once is declared not guilty… Beside that, great episode!
Been thinking the same thing after watching ‘Double Jeopardy’ not long ago. Maybe someone from the US/ with some law knowledge can enlighten us. 🙃
Gents, I can probably set you straight on the issue of double jeopardy and these two episodes. If you’ll be good enough to tell me what incidents of the episodes “Lady in Waiting” and “Double Jeopardy” raise the questions of not trying someone again for the same crime; that way I can be more direct to the things which concern you. (I think I know already, but I want to be sure.)
Thank you. That would be great. ‘Douple Jeopardy’ is a film with Tommy Lee Jones that is based on the premise that in the US, once a person has been tried and judged for a crime they cannot be tried for the same crime again.
So, in ‘Lady in Waiting’ Beth seems to have been acquitted of murdering her brother by stating that it was an accident yet Columbo arrests her for the murder later on. I’m just wondering if in reality she wound stand trial again after having been acquitted before.
It can be confusing, but Beth is not tried not acquitted. The grand jury is convened solely to decide if she should face charges for shooting he brother. If so, she would be held until the trial could occur. When the grand jury decides not to charge her, ruling it an accident, the matter is dropped (except for Columbo’s pursuit of more evidence). But because Beth has never been
officially charged nor tried, double jeopardy does not come into play.
She was never found “innocent” in a proper trial, just never charged due to lack of evidence. When more evidence comes to light, she can still be charged and tried.
My answer was going to be longer and more detailed—I get like that when I want to be thorough—but G4’s reply is essentially correct. A coroner’s inquest is not a trial; it is a fact-finding hearing to determine the cause when a death occurs under questionable circumstances. Thus the doctrine of double jeopardy doesn’t attach.
While it’s not a double jeopardy situation, it is weird that Columbo continues to pursue the case after the authorities have ruled “nothing to see here.” In fact, I believe he may be hounding Beth on his own personal time, not as an on-duty assignment.
Though I could be totally wrong on that last point.
Ah, thank you. That clears it up. It makes sense that he is following it up in his own time because he smelled a rat. His boss would proper not let him since the case has officially been closed.
It’s only a coroner’s inquest, not a trial. Columbo finds evidence that it was murder, not an accident, so Beth can be tried.
There was no way that Beth could have been found culpable at the inquest in any event because Jupiter and Venus were in good aspect with Pluto.
I wish your favorite episode allowed rank choice, or top five, or something besides winner-take-all, because this episode has been in my top ten forever. A solid #8 or #9 in my top ten, for sure
Compelling in its own way; a good episode.
A couple of memorable moments early on in the episode have passed without any appreciation in what is a typically excellent Columbophile review.
When Columbo has his first encounter with Beth and her beau on the night of the dreadful “accident”, he parts querying if it was the butler’s night off. When Beth confirms that fact, the astute lieutenant snaps back, “Of course it was”. This seemed a wry and pointed shot straight across Beth’s bows, so to speak, and very early in the piece!
And right away after that telling exchange there is a pause, and Columbo rather absently – but again seemingly pointedly – observes to Beth, “It’s a great, big place, isn’t it?”. Or words very much to that effect. And, on top of his previous retort, this second observation again seems to nudge Beth off-balance, as she wordlessly holds his glance.
That second comment about the size of the mansion (or its expansive grounds?) seemed weighty and potentially significant as it was played out in the scene… but I still can’t work out how it figures in the resolution. Maybe there was an extra clue that finished up on the cutting room floor?
Nielsen’s “Peter” character, Beth’s dashing beau, is an unknown quantity at the start, but grows and grows in straightforward integrity with every passing scene. Columbo seems to quickly gauge his calibre, and they share a rare rapport that can survive some pretty confronting moments and emerge stronger still; respectful and playful and uncomplicated by blind loyalty or personal defensiveness.
If I did a “fan fiction” spin-off, I might even have Peter Hamilton return as a legal resource, confidante or even occasional ‘logistical sidekick’ for the rumpled one.
I was happy to realize that Peter did truly care for Beth when she had been so pummeled by her brother’s insistence that he was only a fortune hunter. I felt sorry for him when her transformation revealed such an unlikeable and egocentric side to her character.
Maybe Peter didn’t love Beth and was actually coming over to con Bryce into a hefty Stay-away-from-my-sister!! payout. And maybe once he saw that Bryce was dead, he (Peter) realized that hi$ only hope now wa$ to make Beth believe that he really did love her. $$
I believe the “great big place” bit is because he has already realized the evening paper is too far away from the body. Later he says it was “all the way on the other side of the house” or something to that effect.
Jessie Royce Landis passed away a couple of months after release of this episode :-(.
Landis also played Cary Grant’s mother in North by Northwest–even though the two were quite close in age!
I have mixed feelings about this one. Susan Clark is brilliant as the dowdy Beth Chadwick who after murdering her brother turns into a beautiful, confident new woman. It is a superbly nuanced performance displaying so many different character traits from selfish to immature and petulant. As a character study Lady in Waiting is excellent but I can’t look past the fact that the case should have been solved within five minutes of interviewing Peter Hamilton. I love murder mysteries but I am useless at piecing together clues and guessing the culprit but even I can work out that the alarm going off after the shots were fired puts Beth in the firing line so to speak. But it takes Columbo the entire episode to come up with something that was staring him in the face all along. And why break into her house and run the risk of suffering the same fate as Beth’s brother? A good episode but the poor gotcha brings it down for me. On a plus note I love it when Columbo is mistaken for help and is ordered to pay the taxi and bring the luggage into the house, his relationship with Mrs Chadwick’s dog is also very funny.
This was before he had his own dog, so apparently he learned later how to handle canines!
Dress shop with a full bar and pool table.
I’m pleased you rate this one so highly. It’s always been one of my favourites – although I admit that has a lot to do with Susan Clark, who I’ve always found very appealing. (She’s also good in the films Valdez Is Coming and Coogan’s Bluff ). Admittedly the gunshots and fire alarm thing is a bit weak, but I find so much to like about this episode : all of the acting, the humorous touches in the script, and the music. Plus the preposterous outfit Clark wears at the board meeting !
The true tragedy of this case in my eyes is that Beth didn’t need to kill her brother. Peter would’ve happily taken her away from her annoying family and while she might not have been able to afford a Ferrari, they would’ve lived comfortably – and likely happily.
The way her brother poisoned her mind, assuring her that Peter wouldn’t marry her without her money, seems to me the ultimate trigger for killing him. Because she wants Peter and her freedom, so she needs her riches. I disagree that they were doomed from the beginning. Peter seems genuinely in love with her and while baffled (and possibly suspicious) at her change, he doesn’t really ark up until she begins to steamroll him with decisions concerning himself. And even then I believe they might have reconciled if Columbo hadn’t arrested her.
You have a point, but seeing this side of Beth’s character come out makes me think Peter was saved. If they had gotten married and only then he learned how acquisitive and power-hungry she was, it would not have been happy for him. And who’s to say she might not eventually have killed him if he’d stood in the way of what she wanted?
I had two major issues.
First, why didn’t Columbo cast doubt over the likelihood that she would hit her unintended target three times if she was shooting in the dark? What is she, an expert gunslinger?
Second, I thought the gotcha was very obvious from the murder. It was clear that the fact that she hit the alarm after the shots would undo her.
Yes – I was expecting the “three shots fired accurately in the dark” thing (after having just woken up, no less) to be a major part of the gotcha. But Columbo never mentioned it.
It was part of the gotcha in a later episode though (not saying which one to avoid a spoiler). Maybe one night not long after Lady in Waiting, Columbo sat bolt-upright in bed, clasped his palm against his forehead, and realized he coulda got Beth this way. But now at least it was in his mental toolbox for future use.
How does Columbo form the opinion that Beth is classy? She is greedy, shallow, egotistical, vain and materialistic. Thta scene where sho conducts a five minute board meeting standing up and wearing overcoat and Tam O’Shanter is ridiculous.
He might have called her classy to rescue his own skin. Beth was pointing a gun at him when he told her so 😉
She’s been told she’s worthless all her life. Columbo’s witnessed some of the poor treatment she’d be on the end of when her own mother slapped her face in front of him. I think it was reasonable for him to assume that she’d respond favourably to a kind word – especially from a man in a position of authority after her father and brother oppressed her so much.
In real life, a peson who resorts to murder so easily is worthless.
We know Columbo doesn’t always say the truth, but says what is necessary to be said at that moment. And what he said was necessary, not only for him, but also for her. In Try and Catch Me, Columbo tells the difference he makes between the people and their acts.
And, 🙂 happily for us, she murdered. She gave us an episode…
(I have not any sympathy for Beth as we see her, but) she is young, and even with a long punishment, she will be free some day, and be able to do worthful things.
Next time I’m held up by a mugger, “Sir, please, you’re too classy.”
Beth was a sociopath who, for all we know, could have, for years, been given chance after chance by her parents and Bryce, only to prove each time that she was incompetent at business; irrational, emotional, and gullible with men; and generally self-destructive. Maybe her family had had to protect Beth from herself, and protect the family business from Beth, many times.
Some commenters have totally fabricated P.C. backstories about how Bryce and mother were controlling monsters, and how poor Beth was oppressed. Maybe poor Beth was an imbecile, or a total nutter, or evil, and the family was very logically, reasonably, and even sympathetically (!) just acting responsibly.
I watched it and something is very wrong, the brother did not let himself in with the spare key but entered the house via the panned window door in his sister room, also he told him that she did disable the alarm, which he didn’t. So the alarm sounded first then she shot him. That totally invalidates Columbo’s conclusion at the end, the lawyer could not have remembered the shots first then the alarm.
Either the chapter has been modified, or the conclusion is totally wrong. I would put a zero for the plot. Sorry
Better watch again in a less absent-minded state, and next time don’t mix up the intended plan (which is illustrated first in Beth’s dream sequence) with the real outcome (by which Beth is not amused at all).
Watched yet again and I get peeved everytime that mother Chadwick doesn’t put Beth in her place when she sets up a Board meeting. Ummm.. the board would need to authorize her position, no? Momma has controlling stake, right? Am I wrong? Great episode.
Huge Oscar Goldman fan!!!!
Momma should have had security escort Beth escorted to the curb!
It pleases me to read that the atmospherical “Lady in Waiting” isn’t underestimated in this blog. Although not moving up and down within my Top 10, it has never failed to be a genuine enjoyment. It’s a tragedy that Leslie Nielsen was used twice in “Columbo” but didn’t play a killer – I’m sure he would have hit heights.
By the way: Norman Lloyd’s age has just turned into 105. How about an article mentioning the so far most short-lived and most long-lived artists involved in a Columbo production?
I wonder…..Is the blonde clothier in “Lady in waiting” the same actress who portrays the blonde nude model in “Suitable for framing” ?
Apparently so, although she’s also uncredited.
I don’t enjoy lady in waiting that much bar the ending and even that’s not great , would struggle to make my top 20 if at all
“Lady in Waiting” is on par with the stronger Columbo outings for all the reasons cited in this article. But there are glaring plot holes that lower my grade…
Why is there no trace of blood on the floor where the brother falls dead on the floor? After all, she shot him three times. And why is there no line of blood leading to where the body is dragged, keeping in mind that she had zero time to clean anything up?
Furthermore, since when are American detectives allowed to freely march into a citizen’s abode in the middle of the night and confront a suspect in her bedroom? Officers must knock before entering a home, declare their presence, and wait for the inhabitant to come to the door. This is called the “knock-and-announce” rule. The reason for this rule is to allow people a chance to respond so that violence can be avoided and privacy ensured, otherwise police can waltz right into any abode and watch individuals having sex, bathing or going to the bathroom.
Also, do detectives continue pursuing cases after the suspect has been declared innocent by a court of inquiry? Are they paid to keep harassing the individual or do they do this on their free time?
And doesn’t Columbo take a great risk at the climax? After all, this woman has proven that she’s a little sociopathic (to put it nicely) and more than willing to murder someone in cold blood. Yes, he takes a similar risk in “Columbo Goes to the Guillotine” (1989), but he was much older then and thoroughly confident of his conclusions on the suspect’s character based on decades of experience. And, even if he were wrong in “Guillotine” and ended up dead, he probably reasoned that he had a good run; in other words, he was in his 60s and lived a full life already, not so here.
“Lady in Waiting” is certainly an entertaining episode, but there are too many blatant plot issues to give a rating above C+/B-
Agreed, and I think some bits of glass should have ended up on the brother’s body when she broke the glass in the French door. Another bit if evidence that wasn’t addressed.
Yes, all solid points. Entertaining because of the great acting performances but the story is riddled with holes.
There is never any blood shown after a Columbo killing. The same was true on Perry Mason, and probably most crime/detective shows of the time. Apparently there was a code prohibiting gore on TV. Would that were still true.
Blood is not there because there was no blood allowed on TV, especially broadcast TV, through most of the 70s and even 80s. Watch any TV show in the 70s and you would notice this immediately.
Also, the “knock and announce rule” point is not entirely correct. There’s such a thing as a “no knock warrant” which let police get into your house without knocking. They are controversial NOW, but remember, Columbo takes place (and was created in) the 70s. Back in those days, police had a lot more leeway and could enter places when given entry by someone with the authority– they didn’t need a warrant if someone (who was allowed to) let them into your house. They also didn’t need to knock and give the criminal a chance to get away when going to make an arrest.
In Wikipedia’s “History” for no-knock warrant, it even states: “The use of no-knock warrants is a product of the country’s ‘war on drugs’ launched by President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, and which gained momentum in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. It is associated with the militarization of police.”
Yes, there are liberties taken for the sake of entertainment (so sue them), but to count the items in this post as “glaring plot holes” just doesn’t match the facts.
A decent episode but not one of my favourites a bit in the mid tier good ending lacks columbo chemistry and humour between Beth and columbo .
lady in waiting wouldn’t come near my top 10.