TV was brilliant back in the seventies. Not only was classic Columbo soaring in the viewing figures, but back-slapping tomfoolery in the shape of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast was also riding high.
The latter series, hosted by our mate Dean, subjected a different celebrity each time to a ‘roasting’ from his fellow celebs. And while it was somewhat indulgent, it sure was good, honest entertainment.
So imagine how good it would have been if they had combined the two shows, you might be thinking? Well some bright spark thought of that in the 70s, too, and in July 1978 one of the great mash-ups of the modern age came into being as Lieutenant Columbo was a guest of honour at the Frank Sinatra Celebrity Roast, and gave Ol’ Blue Eyes a real ribbing.
Staying perfectly in character throughout, Falk’s portrayal of Columbo, and his typical self-deprecating mannerisms, brought the house down. Columbo was the star of the show, amidst red-hot competition. As well as Sinatra and Dean Martin, the other ‘roasters’ included Ronald Reagan, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Telly Savalas, Ernest Borgnine and Orson Welles.
“Staying perfectly in character throughout, Falk’s portrayal of Columbo brought the house down.”
Falk and Sinatra were no strangers, of course. They had starred together in the Rat Pack vehicle Robin and the 7 Hoods in 1964. But this outing really shows the affections the men held each other in. It’s 10 minutes of pure fun from a simpler televisual era that now seems a lifetime ago. And the highlight? Columbo asking for Frank’s autograph for his wife – revealing her first name in the process (admittedly non-canonically)!
If you’ve never had the pleasure, it’s time extremely well spent and you can view some pure TV gold below!
NB – if you’re in a hurry, skip to about 6 mins in and watch from there to hear the name.
I do hope you enjoyed the clip as much as I do. It’s a great reminder of Falk’s natural comic timing and the endless lovability of the Columbo character. Falk was a man at the peak of his powers as his career moved into an interesting phase. The final episode of Columbo Season 7, The Conspirators, had aired less than 2 months previously. There was no indication that another series was in the pipeline.
“Falk put on one hell of a turn to ensure the character got a memorable, and suitably high-profile, farewell.”
It’s as if Falk knew he was hanging up the crumpled raincoat (for a decade, at least), and put on one hell of a turn to ensure the character got a memorable, and suitably high-profile, farewell.
And if you’ve not read it, find out why I think Frank Sinatra should have played a Columbo killer here.
Thanks, AS ALWAYS, for reading and helping keep the memory of Columbo alive.