The closing months of 1973 saw the US engulfed in political storms, with the fuel crisis and the Watergate scandal stealing the headlines in October and November.
The timing was perfect, then, for Columbo’s first foray into the political arena. This came on 4th November 1973, as the shabby Lieutenant went head-to-head with unscrupulous would-be Senator Nelson Hayward.
Does Candidate for Crime romp to a runaway victory in the hearts of viewers? Or is it a dud, attracting little popular support from the masses? Let’s don our new camel jackets, fling away our bras and drink oceans of scotch as we find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Nelson Hayward: Jackie Cooper
Vicky Hayward: Joanne Linville
Linda Johnson: Tisha Sterling
Harry Stone: Ken Swofford
Chadwick: Vito Scotti
Sergeant Vernon: Robert Karnes
Deputy Commissioner: Regis Cordic
Directed by: Boris Sagal
Written by: Irving Pearlberg, Alvin R. Friedman, Roland Kibbee and Dean Hargrove (from a story by Larry Cohen)
Score by: Dick De Benedictis
Episode synopsis: Columbo Candidate for Crime
Senatorial hopeful Nelson ‘His Own Man’ Hayward (Jackie Cooper) is at police HQ talking to reporters about the threat made against his life in the build-up to election day. His courageous refusal to give up on his campaign is winning him hearts and minds, but Hayward’s also been assigned constant police protection, with Lieutenant Columbo (in a rare pre-murder appearance) part of the work detail.
Cut to ape-man (or is it man-ape?) Harry Stone, who is watching Nelson’s interview on TV – and loving every minute. He orchestrated the death threats, you see, as part of his bid to ensure Hayward’s election. Stone is Hayward’s aggressive campaign manager and although he has all the charm of a rock himself, he’s on the cusp of realising his own professional goals through Hayward’s elevation to the Senate.
Naturally there’s a stumbling block, and that block is in the lithe but braless form of Linda Johnson – the appointment secretary of Hayward’s braless wife, Vicky. Linda and Hayward are lovers – something Stone plans to put a stop to to avoid it compromising Hayward’s chances at the polls.
Stone tells Linda that she’s history, but she refuses to yield. After she splits, Hayward himself shows up only to be given an ultimatum. The loathsome Stone has got Hayward where he is today and knows all his dirty secrets. If Hayward doesn’t ditch Linda, it’ll be political suicide.
The clever Hayward is one step ahead. He agrees to Stone’s demands, on the condition he can go and break up with Linda now, in person. Problem is that his police guard are following his every move, so Stone will have to wear Hayward’s hat and jacket and drive Hayward’s car round the LA streets until he loses the tailing cops. The two will meet at Hayward’s remote beach house later to debrief.
Stone agrees, and effortlessly gives the guard detail the slip. But when he arrives at the beach house an unpleasant surprise awaits as Hayward emerges from the shadows of the garage and guns his campaign manager down. He then slips a dainty watch on Stone’s gargantuan wrist, sets it ahead to 9.20pm, and smashes it against the floor to set the time of death before racing off to establish his alibi at a surprise party at home for his wife’s birthday.
About an hour into festivities, Hayward slips into his study to call the police, telling them that Nelson Hayward has been killed and to check out his beach house for proof. He then returns to the party to make a very visible fuss of his wife. The devious politico looks to have covered his tracks impeccably.
Over at the Hayward beach house, the crime scene is chaotic. It’s awash with cops, including the Deputy Commissioner, who has been tasked with Hayward’s protection. Given that the corpse they’ve found is Stone’s, not Hayward’s as initially feared, the Commissioner assigns Columbo to investigate.
Columbo duly turns up on the doorstep of Hayward HQ to crash the party and deliver the bad news. Playing the part superbly, Hayward immediately seems racked with guilt that his switcheroo stunt has resulted in his long-time colleague’s death. Shutting down the party and refusing to answer Columbo’s questions, Hayward flounces out.
Undeterred, Columbo shows up at campaign headquarters the next morning. He’s kept waiting as Hayward and Linda have a ‘meeting’ behind closed doors (.i.e. smooching), but he is there to witness a lovely new camel jacket being delivered for Hayward and twigs right away that it’s made from the same material as the one Stone was sporting when he was slain.
When he’s finally granted an audience with Hayward, Columbo reveals a few things that are bothering him about the crime scene. For one thing, the engine of the car driven by Stone was cold. Police were on the scene minutes after the crime was called in, so the engine ought to have still been warm. Columbo’s own engine was warm for more than hour after he drove out there. The inference is clear: the murder could have taken place a lot earlier than Stone’s ladyish broken watch suggests.
How the killer had enough light to kill Stone by also troubles the detective. The streetlight outside the garage is broken, and the road too narrow to allow the killer’s car to have turned its lights on Stone. The angle the bullets were fired at suggests that the assassin was hanging around waiting for someone to show up. If Hayward was known to have round-the-clock police guard, why would someone do that?
Columbo also grills Hayward about the new jacket. He admires its cut. Where could he get one like it for an upcoming function he’s attending with Mrs Columbo? Hayward directs the scruffy policeman to officious tailor Chadwick, where his suspicions continue to rise. Columbo learns that Hayward ordered the jacket 10 days earlier. Did he know he’d need a new one to replace the one now riddled with blood and bullet holes?
All Columbo’s hunches are pointing towards Hayward. The Lieutenant even enlists Vicky to give him advice on Stone’s sense of style. The man wore nothing but durable clothes. His suits and shoes were virtually indestructible, yet his watch was a fragile thing that smashed easily? Both agree that the watch seems out of keeping with everything else Stone owned and wore. Someone could have put it on him just to establish time of death.
Columbo also plants seeds of suspicion in Vicky’s mind. He asks her if, during her party, Hayward had left the room at all around the time the murder was called into the police. Poor Vicky is now extremely flustered, and Hayward realises that he’s firmly in Columbo’s sights, which forces him into playing his final trump card.
Cut to the morning of election day. Hayward has faked another death threat and security is tight at campaign HQ. Anyone going into Hayward’s suite is thoroughly searched, and Columbo has requested to be alerted if Hayward is on his own at any time, for any reason.
It’s not long before Columbo gets just such an alert. Hayward has requested privacy to make personal calls. But it’s not calls he’s making, folks. Instead, he takes the silenced gun he used to kill Stone (which he’d stashed in his suit jacket), steps out onto the balcony, and fires through the glass door as if aiming at someone sitting at the phone desk.
“Hayward realises that he’s firmly in Columbo’s sights as the prime suspect. It forces him into playing his final trump card.”
Calm as you like, he then draws the curtains, hides the bullet in the wall behind a chair and slips the gun into a briefcase, which the unwitting Linda escorts out of the suite. Grabbing Vicky by the hand, Hayward then skips merrily out to cast his vote.
Some hours later, Hayward is back. There’s an air of revelry in the air and it looks like ‘His Own Man’ will romp to victory. Slipping away to make more ‘private calls’, Nelson returns to his suite and sets a firecracker off on the balcony.
Thinking a gun has been fired, there’s pandemonium amongst the campaign supporters outside, and the police bust in to secure the scene. A shaken Hayward says a man on the balcony fired a shot at him through the window before disappearing without trace. Check out the bullet hole in the glass and the bullet in the wall behind him!
It’s now that Columbo calmly saunters in. There’s no need to look for the shooter, he says, because the man who fired the gun is still in this room. That’s right, it’s Hayward.
Now livid, Hayward tries to prove his innocence. There’s no gun in the suite is there? So how could Hayward have fired it? Surely all the police need to do to prove Hayward’s innocence is to dig the bullet out of the wall and see if it it was fired from the same gun that killed Stone?
No sir, says Columbo. You see, he’s already had the bullet run through ballistics and can confirm that it is a match for the murder weapon. When he was alerted earlier to Hayward requesting privacy to make calls, Columbo gave his full attention to the interconnected phone system. If Hayward had been making calls, a light on the phone corresponding with his suite number would’ve lit up. It never did.
If Hayward wasn’t making calls, what was he doing? When Hayward goes to vote, Columbo goes to investigate and what he finds seals Hayward’s fate forever. “I dug this bullet out of that wall three hours before you said that somebody fired it at you three minutes ago,” Columbo tells Hayward. “You’re under arrest, sir.” With no room left to maneuvre, Hayward can only close his eyes in resignation as credits roll…
Candidate‘s (second) best moment – Chez Chadwick
Rather than focus again on the majesty of the gotcha (which is actually the best part of the episode), I thought I’d highlight another gem of a scene featuring one of Columbo‘s most-loved regulars, Vito Scotti.
Cast as uppity tailor Chadwick, Scotti is on vintage form. It’s a blast to watch his reaction to the shabby detective, which is just on the polite side of disdain as he attempts to help Columbo find a jacket for an impending bowling league dinner dance.
The humour of the scene works perfectly, but it also has a pay-off in that Columbo learns just how far in advance Hayward had to order his own replacement jacket for the one Harry Stone was killed in. While not conclusive, the revelation is a key element in Columbo’s strengthening case against the crooked candidate.
My opinion on Columbo Candidate for Crime
Inserting Lieutenant Columbo into the skulduggery of politics is a delicious premise. Sure, he’s come into contact with the rich and famous before, but going toe-to-toe with a man with one foot in the Senate was something new and exciting for the series.
And on paper Candidate for Crime really is gold. The murder is deviously plotted and carried out. The killer is a suitable contrast to the earthy Lieutenant. There are also numerous intriguing relationship plot points unfolding throughout the episode, a good sprinkling of humour and it all rounds out with a truly amazing denouement, which is easily right up there with the series’ very best.
There are enough brilliant elements in Candidate for Crime for it to be ranked amongst the series’ greatest hits. So why, then, is this only a partly successful episode? Well my friends, it’s that pesky longer running time problem yet again…
Regular readers will know that a criticism I often have of the ‘longer’ episodes is that they’re only very rarely as well paced as ‘standard’ 75-minute episodes. Candidate suffers more than most. Running to 93 minutes, it’s miles too long. It could easily have lost 20 minutes without hurting the plot, packed as it is with scenes that are either tediously extended – or not necessary at all.
Not convinced? Then consider these:-
- The crime scene investigation in Hayward’s garage. It goes on for 9 minutes, most of which is merciless padding
- Columbo at the dentist being lectured about negative profiling of Italians in the media. The scene goes nowhere slowly
- Columbo’s interview with Hayward at his campaign office is interminably long, with the Lieutenant taking eons to make his (absolutely inconclusive) points
- Columbo’s car being pulled over for an inspection by traffic cops, revealing a litany of problems. It’s quite funny, but no one would miss it if it wasn’t there. The scene even ends with comedy music, for Pete’s sake!
- The Lieutenant takes an AAAAAGE to pay his car repair bill, endlessly searching his pockets for items
- The drawn-out chat with Hayward and Columbo at Hayward’s home prior to him shooting his poolside video is minutes longer than it need be
There are other examples, too, but you get the picture. There’s an awful lot of filler here which prevents Candidate from reaching its full potential. I’m aware there are two schools of thought on these longer episodes. Some enjoy simply spending quality time with Columbo and learning more of his eccentricities. I’m all for that if there’s a pay-off or if it’s funny and charming. If not, then I’m champing at the bit.
“There’s an awful lot of filler which prevents Candidate for Crime from reaching its full potential.”
It’s not just me who thinks this way, either. Peter Falk, Steven Bochco and critic Mark Dawidziak have all rued how longer running times have negatively impacted otherwise classic episodes. It’s a great pity here because Candidate starts and finishes terrifically, surprising us with Columbo’s early cameo and stunning us with Hayward’s downfall – the latter undoubtedly one of the show’s greatest ever reveals. If only the whole episode was as perfectly paced.
All that said, there are enough gems hidden in the script to keep the viewer keen. Notably there are some rib-tickling conversations between Hayward and Columbo, as well there should be given the amount of screen-time they share.
Doubtless for padding purposes, the Lieutenant takes longer than ever to explain himself to hayward. There are so many lost threads, asides and pocket searches that an impatient person would be shaking Columbo by the lapels in frustration. The writers do well to make light of this, with Hayward pleasantly stating. “You’re a very nice man, I like you very much. But I’d hate to have to depend on you if I was in a hurry.”
In the build up to Hayward sending Columbo off to his tailor, there’s also a heart-lifting exchange about the state of Columbo’s appearance. “Why, Lieutenant, are you considering a change of wardrobe?” Hayward asks innocently. “Oh, no, no,” replies Columbo. “Every once in a while I think about getting a new coat, but there’s no rush on that, sir. There’s still a lot of wear in this fellow.” Yes, approximately 30 years’ worth as it turned out!
I rather like Jackie Cooper in this. His Nelson Hayward is not as smooth as Jack Cassidy or as threatening as Robert Culp, but he presents a believable mix of charm, hardheadedness, untrustworthiness and insincerity.
I also find his character nicely intriguing. Clearly he’s out of love with wife, Vicky, who’s sunk into borderline alcoholism as she struggles to cope with his disinterest. But how genuine are his affections for Linda? Hayward’s willing to kill his successful campaign manager to keep her around: a pretty big commitment. Does he love her, or is he simply enjoying carnal delights? It’s a topic that would’ve warranted further exploration, as it would have fleshed out Hayward’s motive.
Speaking of Hayward’s love rivals, how good is Joanne Linville as the embattled Vicky? I say very good. There’s a sadness about her that is sensitively portrayed, despite the litres of scotch her character swigs throughout. Vicky has the measure of Nelson and could doom his political hopes, but she’s desperate for his love at the same time. She’s a fascinating study.
By contrast, Tisha Sterling’s Linda is far less interesting. In fact it’s hard to see what Hayward finds so alluring about her that he’d risk his marriage and political ambitions for. It suggests that there’s more going on than we know, but the script doesn’t go there. Another missed opportunity.
When considering the script I can’t help but wonder if too many cooks were involved. There are five credited story contributors. What level of involvement each had is unknown, but it feels like they may have unwittingly tied each other up in knots – doubtless as a result of having to extend scenes or add new ones to bump up the running time.
A prime example is the inconsistent use of phone records. Columbo admits he checked the records of Nelson’s beach house to confirm the call to the police didn’t come from there. So why didn’t he check the records from Hayward’s home, where his prime suspect was known to be at the time the call was made? That could’ve tied up the case there and then. Use of phone records has been inconsistently applied throughout the series (inconclusive in Most Crucial Game while damning in Double Shock), but inconsistency in the same episode is a bit much (NB – a possible explanation for this inconsistency is detailed here in a handy article about how US phone systems worked in the 70s).
“Columbo aside, all the cops in this episode appear to be absolute bunglers.”
Likewise Hayward’s new camel jacket. Hayward tells Columbo that he was in two minds about ordering one the same as the one Stone was killed in. We subsequently find out that it was ordered it 10 days earlier – way before Harry was killed. And even though his reason given for having done so is plausible (a cigarette burn on a sleeve), how could Hayward reconcile the two contrasting statements? Columbo usually picks up on these things in a flash and uses them to his advantage. That he doesn’t here is indicative of the jumbled writing in evidence.
Speaking of evidence (weak segue, I know), this case proves more conclusively than ever how lucky the LAPD was to have Lieutenant Columbo on staff. Put bluntly, all the other cops in this episode appear to be absolute bunglers. Hayward’s guard detail seem particularly inept, letting the disguised Stone easily escape their clutches and then taking an eternity to trace Hayward, at his home.
The most culpable seems to be arch-dunderhead Sergeant Vernon, who is essentially Hayward’s personal protector. Vernon’s low point is when he picks up Hayward’s gun-laden jacket, only to hang it up rather than bust the plotting politician for carrying an undisclosed firearm.
Little wonder, perhaps, that Hayward had the confidence to attempt his audacious final stunt, which included setting off an instantly-findable firecracker on his suite balcony. True to form, when Vernon lollops in and gives the balcony a cursory once over, he completely fails to see the firecracker debris, simply mourning that Hayward’s fictitious assassin ‘must have been a human fly’. Good work, Vernon!
[Side note: actor Robert Karnes, who portrayed Vernon, also played the similarly incompetent Sergeant Grover in Boris Sagal’s first Columbo directorial outing, Greenhouse Jungle. I like to think that Vernon simply had a name change between episodes to try to put past bunglings behind him and start afresh. He failed…]
“For all its failings when Candidate does deliver, it delivers magnificently.”
It’s all left for Columbo to masterfully take down Hayward in what proves to be one of the most satisfying and memorable take downs of all. Indeed, I’d rate this second only to Suitable for Framing in the list of great gotchas. And that’s high praise indeed.
For all its failings when Candidate does deliver, it delivers magnificently. If the whole episode had been paced as tautly as the opening and closing scenes, this really would be amongst Columbo‘s best cases. As it is (and rather like Nelson Hayward who is still languishing behind bars) we can only reflect on what might have been had our Candidate for Crime made a few better decisions at crucial times.
PS – If anyone out there has the skillz to make a 75-minute fan edit of this, then hit me up! Between us we can Make Candidate Great Again!
PPS – Since the above plea, plucky fan ‘Thanael’ has done precisely what I asked – made a streamlined version of Candidate for Crime! View the fruits of his labours here.
Did you know?
As referenced above, this was the second directorial effort by the able Boris Sagal, who first took the Columbo hotseat in Season 2’s Greenhouse Jungle. Looks like old Boris pulled some strings so that his 19-year-old daughter Katey Sagal got a small role as secretary at Hayward’s campaign office. It was just the third screen outing of her fledgling career.
How I rate ’em
Candidate was potentially a great episode, but its ponderous pace ultimately causes it to slot into the middle of the pack in my rankings – right above Boris Sagal’s other Columbo directorial contribution, Greenhouse Jungle. Read any of my past episode reviews via the links below.
- Suitable for Framing
- Double Shock
- Murder by the Book
- Death Lends a Hand
- A Stitch in Crime
- Lady in Waiting
- Any Old Port in a Storm
- Prescription: Murder
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- Candidate for Crime
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Requiem for a Falling Star
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
- The Most Dangerous Match
- Lovely but Lethal
- Short Fuse
- Dagger of the Mind
Please let me know your thoughts on this one. Candidate has many fans, so if you’re one of them please feel free to expand on your favourite moments.
Check back soon for the Season 3’s next exciting instalment: Double Exposure. That’s great news because it means BAD BOBBY CULP is back! See you then…
Something that is mentioned above and I’m surprised is not talked about more is the long single-take shots the series has. The one in the garage is extremely ambitious with a lot going on. Really a cut above
I don’t know how much of this is really typecasting, but there’s an AKFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR episode called “Change of Address,” about a man who murders his wife, and another woman is his immediate reason (even though he seems to have others). And Tisha Sterling plays the other woman and Robert Karnes plays a detective.
Was Karnes a competent detective or a bungling fool?
I missed several key points about this episode and even nodded off at one point so some of the impact was lost. Now that I think about it, the car inspection scene really was worse than useless; I personally didn’t think it was funny. And the dentist scene (and the dentist in particular) was also meant to be funny but it was mostly just annoying.
Re: Katey Sagal, if anyone is interested in seeing her very first screen appearance, the link to the TV movie is below. The film is called ‘The Failing of Raymond’ (1971), featuring Jane Wyman and Dean Stockman, who would later appear in the Columbo episode “The Most Crucial Game”.
Random: At the very beginning of the scene where Columbo arrives at the party for Hayward’s wife, there’s a young man, chatting with a woman at the piano, who looks very much like a young Peter Scolari?
Does anybody know the location of the Haywarth mansion?? Not the beach House,but the residence with the swimming pool etc
I think this episode deservers better rating on the strength of Peter Falk. He carries the levity and the razor sharpness of the character in equal, balanced measure. The super long panning shots of the crime scene, he is both visually making powerful deductions and blowing off the commissioner simultaneously (this is also where he tosses out the mistaken ID theory, but knows he’ll need a lot more). The Lt. gets to drive a big old tow truck with a lot of gears, and looks fine doing it. He gets to nap with some comfy newspapers for blankets and makes it look like standard procedure. His dialogue with all the players, of which there is plenty, is nuanced and revealing. So imagine this plot etc used in any other TV shows, it would be a complete snooze! But Falk makes it all good. I don’t mind the length because I like the show, the more the merrier for these earlier episodes.
Great review, but I love the long sequence in Hayward’s office!
I actually tend to rewatch it again and again because I love the candidate’s increasing annoyance at Columbo’s insane procrastination tactics that drive him more and more up the walls – until he knows that he is in deep, deep trouble … it is beautiful!
To me, that is classic Columbo …
I’m very impressed by the briefcase/attache case which Jackie Cooper uses in Candidate for Crime (as a CPA you’ll have to forgive my geekery on this). Can anyone help me identify it please?
I am broken that we never got this series offered with commentaries, I’ve loved that option since the first one I saw: “The Private Eyes” with Tim Conway and Don Knotts, Mr. Conway does the commentary and it’s like watching the movie with him in the same room; funny, enlightening, full of insider/behind the scenes tidbits and when he does his Don Knotts impressions: golden moments, and I still use his “don’t let that door…shut” game
“Columbo’s interview with Hayward at his campaign office is interminably long, with the Lieutenant taking eons to make his (absolutely inconclusive) points” – this is one of my top ten scenes in the whole series
Victim Harry Stone departs for the beach house. Then murderer Hayward departs for the beach house. Yet somehow Hayward arrives at the beach house first…in fact, early enough to prepare for his ambush on Stone.
Was this explained?
If not, my assumption is that Stone had to elude his pursuers, so he took longer to arrive at the house. Hayward might reasonably expect to arrive first.
This one works mostly because of the cat and mouse. But there’s a lot that strains credulity that goes beyond long run times (which I don’t mind).
For instance, in the bit about the headlights, a killer could easily just slide across the seat and exit on the passenger side. Indeed, wouldn’t that keep them more hidden from the target, who had a headlight in their face but could see anyone coming out of the driver’s side? What if there were two in the car — a driver and a shooter? What if the car simply parked at an angle behind the other?
The notion that Hayward — obviously not a dumb man — would be so rattled by Columbo’s theory falls flat.
The bit with the sport coat is much the same. It relies on us to believe Hayward is either sloppy or arrogant enough to send the obviously suspicious Columbo to his tailor. As a result, the episode feels like an M. Night Shyamalan outing, where in order for the twist at the end to work, a lot of suspension of disbelief is required of the prior plot machinations.
Regarding the braless look which Columbophile notes several times — that was an “in” look during that period of time. The Women’s Liberation Movement was in full swing, and bras were considered by some to be a tangible manifestation of the restraints put on women. If you don’t like that particular aspect of the movement, consider some of the other outcomes — such as shining a light on the overuse of radical mastectomies as “therapy” for breast cancer. It was the WLM that called attention to this.
If I may defend our humble moderator on this front, I don’t read CP’s wardrobe riffs to be pro or con, per se, merely observation of a very noticeable and distinctive fashion trend that permeated 70s entertainment (and, as Cris notes, society). In the same way a flapper dress screams the 1920s or midriff-baring tops give away 2003, Columbo’s frequent use of the opulently braless sophisticate is hilariously ‘of the moment.’
CP has also poked fun at the gigantic ties and razor sharp lapels sported by the men of Columbo. His bonafides as an equal opportunity quipster are well established.
Many thanks, G4, for that stout defence. I shall be adding ‘equal opportunity quipster’ to my résumé immediately!
Just saw this (2 weeks late). When I saw CP had mentioned the braless look several times in the episode review, I didn’t take it as negative. I took it as puzzled. I remembered that going braless was the fashion at the time, and thought people who weren’t around then might like to know. But then, when I explained it was the WLM that triggered the fashion, I didn’t want readers to think that’s all the WLM was about. (The bra-burning thing is a myth; what happened was more complicated than that.) I tried to head that off by mentioning a positive example of the WLM’s efforts from that period. Having worked in the field of cancer research, I was conscious of that example.
Just watched this episode again on Sundance Channel. Is it just me, or does Vito Scotti just absolutely NAIL every Columbo appearance he is in?
Vito absolutely does. 🙂
I can’t remember having seen this episode or many others before but somehow I stumbled on YouTube over The Columbo Channel, watching the clips and started to watch the whole series from the start.
I really like this episode, its definitely long and You don’t need every scene, the villain is good but to me not as good as some others (like Jack Cassidy as writer or magician, Nicol Williamson or Robert Culp any time), it has a great ending but…even without that they would have caught the politician, cause the whole idea with the assassination is pretty stupid…in many episodes I noticed, that the murderer is shooting once and I am always thinking…really, not even a second one to make sure? In this case it should be a professional and he or she is standing on the balcony with the door open…why shooting through the window? why shooting only once? how did the shooter get there and away? and what’s with the little firecracker on the balcony? Even Vernon would have realized that nothing adds up.
What I really liked was the part at the crime scene in the beginning, to me it wasn’t too long, i especially liked all the people and interaction and Columbo looking around, I thought it would be nice, if there would be an episode that would simply play at one location (is there one?).
I liked this episode but I had to laugh when Nelson Hayward set off the firecracker in his room to pass off as another attempt on his life. With everyone rushing into the room, how could he hide or dispose the firecracker without it being discovered ?
This is not the first story of a murderer that tries to convince
everyone that he/she was the intended target.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot had a simular story but I can’t remember
the name and I’m sure there were others.
I edited this episode down to around 75 minutes – https://archive.org/details/columbo_fan_edit_candidate_for_crime
Fantastic! I will watch with great interest!
The dentist scene was very funny, I would hate for it to be cut!
An otherwise decent review marred by the author’s obsession with braless women while ironically spending many paragraphs moaning about the episode’s padding and filler.
“Burn the Bra” was quite the thing in the early ’70s US.
Don’t blame me, blame the wardrobe department.
OMG the braless comments are totally warranted! Especially the would-be Senator’s wife: elephants in the room.
Been watching this for years, and just now spotted when Columbo “makes” Hayward (to use a cop term) as the killer. It’s during the discussion in the office. Columbo has his visual-aid with the cars, and he’s (apparently) trying to work out a few troubling details w/ the Senator. He’s just demonstrated the physical impossibility of the killer driving his own car. You can sense Hayward at the crossroads– an innocent person would say, “Well, Lt, what’s your theory?” And he picks the other path: tries to blow it off as some strange quirk of fate. Keep stalling. “Very interesting.” The answer of a man with something to hide. Columbo merely nods, and knocks on the table in front of him– something just fell into place. I think he’s got him at that point. They continue talking, but Columbo’s definitely giving him The Look after that.
It’s interesting to watch the scene after that moment– it kind of changes gears, and turns into one of the best “Columbo giving the killer the Treatment” bits they did.
Yes, an innocent person might have pointed out that the gunman could have been a passenger on the right side of the car. But Hayward knows darn well that this was no mob hit.
I saw this episode at the weekend, so with it fresh in my mind, yes, Columbo first suspects Hayward because he was the only one who knew where Harry Stone would be, and how he would be dressed.
His suspicions are further aroused when he sees the pretty young assistant at campaign headquarters, and he “makes” Hayward during the discussion about the cars.
But I think it’s here that Columbo maybe cheats a little? I have said before that the “mob hitman” could have been a passenger on the right side of the car, who could have easily shot Harry Stone across the garage.
Now, Harry parks the big car in the middle of the garage, making this possible, but Columbo’s diagram makes it impossible, by having Hayward’s car parked on the right of the garage (at the top of the diagram) meaning that the shots would have had to go through the car.
In short, the diagram is not to scale. And maybe this explains why Hayward never proposes the passenger theory?
Heard the distinctive voice of Carlton the door man and did a double take. Sure enough that was Jack Riley as the TV Director.
Hi Jilly. I thought that Carlton the doorman was voiced by Lorenzo Music?
Columbo should have asked when he met Eve Babcock.
You are correct! I’m thinking Carlin from the Bob Newhart show!
Thanks Jilly. I’ve seen some episodes of “Bob” and of “Newhart”, but not The Bob Newhart Show, so I didn’t know who Jack Riley was. Nice talking to you.
I like that you can see Mr Carlin back there, getting ticked off at Columbo for spoiling the shoot.
Carlton the doorman from ‘Rhoda?’ I believe he was voiced by Lorenzo Music.
I really enjoyed this episode, and it was so satisfying to see Columbo end with some actual hard evidence for a change. A lot of the gotcha moments in the episodes running up to this have been very very thin. This is the first one in ages I can’t see a defence lawyer wriggling out from.
What hard evidence? The only thing he proved was that Hayward staged a mock shooting in his room. How does that make him guilty of murdering his campaign manager?
The ballistics report shows the bullet fired during the mock shooting was a match for the one used to kill Harry Stone. Very damning evidence.
Yes, during his rant, Hayward says something along the lines of “Would you further concede that if the bullet in the wall matches the one that killed Harry Stone, they were fired by the same person?” to which Columbo replies “Yes sir”.
Unbelievable performance from Jackie Cooper, he’s 100% genuine as a politician. Even the looks of him resemble a run-of-the-mill politician, rather than an actor. Great casting. And Joanne Linville beats all other younger “Columbo” babes throughout the show. So, that’s already two pluses for this episode. Other than that, Nelson went over the top with simulating the assassination in the apartment, and the gotcha is quite ordinary.
Well, of course Nelson went over the top. He’d fallen into the trap that Columbo set for him by having to hastily improvise another “assassination” attempt.
And what’s ordinary about digging a bullet out of a wall and getting the ballistics report three hours BEFORE the gun was (supposedly) fired?
For the scene in Hayward’s office that draaaaags on and on, there is a long exchange about the available light in the garage. The street lamp was out, the garage was dark, the street was narrow blah blah blah.
Why does it not occur to anyone that the killer could have had a flashlight? For all Columbo knows, the killer could have intentionally taken out the street lamp to increase his stealthy attack.
Still, what an awesome gotcha. Ranks up there with A Friend In Need.
Hi Kevin. That’s a good question about the flashlight (or torch). Or there could have been two people in the car, the driver and a gunman sitting in the front passenger seat. Both are sensible theories that do not stretch credibility.
I think the point of the scene though is that Columbo already knows darn well that Nelson Hayward did it and is just trying to unsettle him. Hence the fact that the scene goes on for an unusually long time for a two hander.
It’s not unnecessary padding, it’s Columbo taking his “just one more thing” tactic up to 11.
This might be the one time that the audience get a taste of the discomfort that the killer experiences.
Regarding your question about why Columbo checked the phone records from the beach house but not the main house, Columbo explains that. He says that he could check the records from the beach house because it was a toll call (i.e., a long-distance call). But, there were no records of calls made from the main house since it would be a local call and the phone company doesn’t log those.
Additionally, there would be no record of a call made from a pay phone since those calls are paid for with cash and nothing is logged.
Yes, Columbo often asks if he can use somebody’s telephone, and gets permission when he explains that it’s “a local call”, i.e. free. It’s almost as common as “555”.
I knew Katey Sagal was the director’s daughter but I didn’t realize that was her at campaign headquarters. Thanks for pointing that out.
I found this episode dull. Joanne Linville was great but that’s about all for me.
I thought the casting of Jackie Cooper for this was a nice nod to his hit TV series back in the 50s, “The People’s Choice”, where he played a young city councilman with political aspirations.
And there’s a rare technical gaffe in this episode: in the scene where Columbo first arrives at the Hayward home and Vickie lets him in, you can see the shadow of the boom mike on the wall, and then it quickly moves away.
Pedants Corner: At the end of this episode, Hayward insists that there is no gun in the room, and Columbo (who we know never carries a gun) emphatically agrees with him.
But there is a gun in the room. We know damn well there is, because we’ve just seen
Sgt Vernon draw it and then put it back in his shoulder holster.
I mean, he’s standing right there. (No way is it the murder weapon of course).
Pedants Corner: At the end of this episode, Hayward insists that there is no gun in the room, and Columbo (who we know never carries a gun) emphatically agrees with him.
But there is a gun in the room.
We know damn well there is, because we’ve just seen Sgt Vernon draw it and then put it back in his shoulder holster. I mean, he’s standing right there. (No way is it the murder weapon of course).
An important clue in this episode is where could the “hit-man” have made his telephone call to the police from? Columbo establishes that the call could not have come from the beach house, and that there were no public telephones available in the immediate area.
Now, of course there were no cell phones back when this episode was made, but surely car telephones were available as far back as the 1960’s? It would be just about possible for the hired killer to have called from the car they were using.
But it’s more likely I think that the car would have been stolen, and so would probably not have a phone. This possibility never comes up in the conversation at the poolside, but I think the point is that Columbo just wants to see how Hayward reacts to the paradox.
On Perry Mason, Paul Drake had a car phone.
Thanks Elaine. I am assuming you are referring to the episodes made in the early 1960’s? (I think there was a Paul Drake Jr in the 1980’s episodes?).
If so, it would have been technically possible in 1973 for the “hit-man” to have made the call. But of course, Columbo knows darn well that it was Hayward.
(Incidentally, sorry everyone about my double posting of “Pedant’s Corner”. I didn’t think the first one had been sent and took it as an opportunity to edit it a little).
Fellow TV sleuth Barnaby Jones had a car phone in the 1970s, but at that time, in order to make a call, he had to call an operator who then placed it for him. I imagine a system like that kept a paper trail, and would have been easy to track back to the source.
Thanks Gene. That might explain why neither Columbo or Hayward mention the possibility.
“Sarah, get me the coroner’s office, would ya please?” Oh wait, that would’ve been Andy Taylor, not Barnaby Jones.
After I scribed the Columbophile Blog Feb 2021 “Just One More Ring” article about the use of telephone records in 70s “Columbo” eps, I’ve taken it as a personal challenge to try to research and address various telephone issues in all episodes, including the 90s. So, if you are looking for updated information about, for example, the use of cell phones and 911 in the soon-to-be-reviewed-by-CP “Butterfly in Shades of Grey”, I’ve done the legwork and noted it in my comments for the article.
But let’s talk about car phones of the seventies. I found a ridiculously detailed history of mobile phones and car phones (THE MOBILE TELEPHONE (wb6nvh.com) that provides – with some combing through the flotsam and jetsam – some clarity. Car phones were expensive and bulky, requiring extra equipment to handle the specifics of transmission, and if the phone was used through the Bell System, a manual operator-assisted call was required. Callers did not have unlimited access, as there were only a small number of channels designated for usage, and if the channel was being used by another subscriber, you had to wait until the channel was available. The technical process is complex, but essentially, a button on the handset connected the caller to the operator, who placed the call. As Gene notes, a record of such a call could have been feasible.
However, other non-Bell independent companies created a “Dial” system. For this, the mobile subscriber could direct-dial the desired local number. This system was developed not because it was an improvement over the operator-assisted procedure – it was just a cost-cutting way to eliminate the operator middleman. Here’s the key detail: “Long distance calls were diverted to a regular switchboard operator for toll ticketing. The Dial configuration had no provision for mobile automatic identification, and subscribers were charged a flat monthly rate for local non-toll calls. Calls were generally limited by a timer at the central office.” Because Columbo would have found records of a landline call from the beach house, there would likewise have been records of the call if it was made from a car phone in that area (remember, the premise has the “hitman” calling police at 9:23, very soon after the watch worn by Harry “stopped” at 9:20). And, if the car phone call was made locally, then – just like for the landline at Hayward’s house – there was no record of where or when the call was made.
That’s no doubt more detail than anyone cares to know, but I wanted to clarify that if the car phone wasn’t operator-assisted, then the same rules of logging calls for landlines applied to direct-dial carphones too. In other words, it wouldn’t have appreciably changed the plot specifics. I suppose Hayward could still suggest that the hitman called from a car phone well after leaving the beach house area, but Columbo could easily wonder why a hitman would be flamboyant enough to have such expensive equipment in his car.
Car phones were popular on detective showe clear back in the ’50s. Richard Diamond had one (the very young Mary Tyler Moore played his operator for a while). So did Peter Gunn. In the ’70s, contemporary with Columbo, Frank Cannon seemed to use his car phone in virtually every episode.
I do not mind the filler as you say especially Columbia struggling to answer his dentist about mafiosa and the tailor. I never noticed Miss Johnson’s sweater design til reading this and how clever!
“filler”? While he’s at the dentist?
The dentist was played by Mario Gallo, a childhood and life long friend of Peter Falk’s. He was also in the movie A Woman Under the Influence with Mr. Falk.
the scene of Columbo in the dentist chair may be filler but it’s still funny as hell and therefore necessary (at least to me)…
Question — is this episode (surprisingly) the one in which Lt. Columbo appears earlier than any other? Or is (and I refuse to re-watch it to find out) it the case that (because it’s set at his nephew’s wedding) the retch-inducing “No Time To D..” (I can’t even finish typing its title without vomiting in my mouth) can make that claim?
In Troubled Waters and Make Me a Perfect Murder, Columbo appears in the opening credits. He’s in No Time to Die very early, too, but not as early as those two I think.
Has anyone noticed that when Columbo interviews Linda Sterling (Hayward’s mistress) her sweater is CHOCK FULL OF SCARLETT LETTER A’s (for “Adultery”). I can’t be the first to have noticed this, can I? In my cursory scan of the posts here, and googling, I’ve missed other mentions of it. That HAD to be a sweater custom-made for this show. Who would wear something with A’s like that all over her body? Especially when neither her given name and surname start with A? A very telling clue, I’d say — good job director and costuming — that Columbo knows of her involvement with Heywood and that it’s a key part of the crime being investigated. Once again, an amazing little thing, often only perceived subconsciously, that the 1970’s-era production staff gave us viewers and that the 1990’s losers had no clue about, when it came to what Columbo was all about.
Perhaps, or maybe a sweater with “A”‘s all over it was just a fashionable item in 1973? This isn’t like Gotham City, where the Riddler has “?”s all over his suit.
We noticed the As here especially because another episode we watched recently was Requiem For A Falling Star, with Anne Baxter, whose sweater had a line of As across the middle of it, too. At least her real name starts with an A, but not her character name. So maybe it was just a strange 70s trend! Was trying to paste an image of the sweater here but I guess that’s not allowed.
I had begun to go wild writing about mistresses in Europe, such as Vaclav Havel, vs in America (deceased producer Jerrry Weintraub and loyal husband to singer Jane Morgan) but realized I was being very self indulgent about my own Hollywood interests. Fact is no one really likes the idea of a man having a younger mistress in today’s modern society, anywhere in Western culture. This outing makes me think of these things; because the two principals appear to have a salvageable marriage. All that aside, Jackie Cooper is excellent, and this episode is every bit as solid as Columbophile and the fans find it to be. To digress, I wish Ida Lupino had been offered as great a part as Jackie snagged in this episode.
Yes to Ida Lupino having a starring role. She’d have been awesome. Would have been nice to see her direct an episode, too, given her success on the big screen.
By the way, as I posted that I thought Oscar Finch was a Democrat, it is only fair that I post that I think Nelson Heyward was a Republican, with an early 1970’s law and order platform.
I just watched “Candidate For Crime’ all the way through for the first time, on DVD (I had seen only parts of the episode before). I really enjoyed it a lot. My favorite aspect was Jackie Cooper’s
masterful portrayal of a stereotypical politician, with all his sweet-talking, phony statements to everyone within earshot. Wannabe Senator Hayward outwardly seems like a stand up guy, but his smiles and backslapping hides a philandering, power hungry, unfaithful wretch with no morals. I think that Jackie Cooper’s portrayal is right up there with Jack Cassidy, Robert Culp, and the other classic Columbo villains. Joanne Linville’s portayal is also very underrated in my opinion. I felt genuinely sorry for her as the spurned wife who cannot win her husband’s love nor compete with the lust her husband has for her younger secretary. The longer run time of this episode didn’t bother me. I especially enjoyed Columba’s long scene with Chadwick (marvelously played by Vito Scotti). And the reveal at the end was extremely satisfying. I think everyone can smile when a crooked politician gets busted.
Thanks NB, much appreciated. I think we can believe Columbo when he says that the police have tried out various scenarios at the crime scene with actual cars, so he might well have played the part of the right passenger hitman himself. He’s waiting for Hayward to suggest the possibility of two assassins, and the fact that it never occurs to him to do so indicates that he knows there was only one.
I am a big fan of Candidate for Crime. I appreciate that there is some filler and it is drawn out in places but I still find it very re-watchable. Jackie Cooper has to be one of my favourite villains and that gotcha is marvellous.