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Episode review: Columbo Candidate for Crime

Candidate for Crime opening titles

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…

Columbo Candidate for Crime cast

Dramatis personae

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, Dean Hargrove and 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.

Candidate 13

Linda Johnson: bra free since 1973

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.

Candidate for Crime Nelson Hayward

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.

Columbo Candidate for Crime Vicky Hayward

Vicky Hayward – another braless wonder. What’s going on?

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.

Columbo Candidate for Crime

The art world’s loss was LAPD’s gain…

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.


“What did he pay for these shoes…?”

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?

Candidate for Crime ending

No one in this photo is wearing a bra…

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

Vito Candidate 2

Oh Vito, I LOVE YOU!

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.

Candidate 20

A fun scene, but it does nothing to progress the plot

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.

Nelson Hayward Candidate for Crime

Will Nelson be able to remain ‘His Own Man’ in jail…? Don’t bet on it!

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.

Columbo Candidate for Crime Harry Stone Linda Johnson

Who will Nelson choose? Livid orangutan Harry, or braless temptress Linda?

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.

Candidate for Crime Vicky Hayward

Vicky Hayward: sad, sensitive and sinfully mistreated

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.

“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.

Candidate 9

Vernon was soon transferred from the LAPD to the Keystone Cops, where he excelled

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.

Candidate for Crime Nelson Hayward

I’ll get you next time, Gadget…

PSIf 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!

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.

Candidate for Crime Katey Sagal

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.

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Double Shock
  3. Murder by the Book
  4. Death Lends a Hand
  5. A Stitch in Crime
  6. Lady in Waiting
  7. Any Old Port in a Storm
  8. Prescription: Murder
  9. The Most Crucial Game
  10. Etude in Black
  11. Candidate for Crime
  12. Greenhouse Jungle
  13. Requiem for a Falling Star
  14. Blueprint for Murder
  15. Ransom for a Dead Man
  16. Dead Weight
  17. The Most Dangerous Match
  18. Lovely but Lethal
  19. Short Fuse
  20. 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…

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Columbo Candidate for Crime

“What episode is he reviewing next?” “I don’t know, I wasn’t listening.”

How did you like this article?

108 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Candidate for Crime

  1. I just finished watching this on my DVR from Sundays nights broadcast on METV in the Los Angeles area. Both the Dentist scene and the scene with the Traffic cops was cut out to add more commercials, which of course I fast forwarded thru. I’m old enough to remember that the late 60’s and early 70’s were very braless.

    • Same thing here in Oklahoma for the MeTV December 21 showing, no dentist scene, no traffic cops scene. And from what I remember, these Sunday night episodes used to run 90 minutes, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm. Now, they’re not only cutting scenes for more commercials, but they’re padding them to run a full two hours! Thank God for DVRs.

  2. “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?”

    That didn’t bother me so much. Hayward could have meant that he felt strange about going through with delivery of the jacket/not cancelling the order after Harry was killed rather than about placing the original order.

  3. Just watching this episode on 5USA. At the start, Harry Stone says “I’m expecting a bulletin any minute”. Given what happens to him soon after, was this a clever pun by the writer?

  4. Lucillle Meredith’s first appearance was in this episode as Lucy (at the victory party, she regrets that the male officer didn’t frisk her). She was also in “Swan Song” as the seamstress/fabric expert. Both times, I thought she sounded a bit like Eileen Heckart.

  5. Oops, I forgot to allow JavaScripts, so I don’t think my comment posted. Apologies if I am mistaken and this posts twice.

    Although this isn’t fair to him, I can’t see Jackie Cooper without thinking of either Perry White from the 1980s “Superman” movies, or seeing a mental image of his rodeo clown makeup from his episode of “Murder, She Wrote” (“Death Stalks the Big Top”). I need to watch this episode again so I can associate him with it.

    Wasn’t “Harry Stone” the name of the judge on “Night Court”?

    • My brother saw Superman: The Movie and recognised Perry White as being played by the same actor as Nelson Hayward here. I think Candidate for Crime was made in 1973, and the first Superman movie began filming in 1976, so Jackie Cooper does look and sound exactly the same. This is no insult to him, as both characters are “take charge” kind of guys. Just don’t call him “Sugar”.

    • I’m old, so I remember Jackie Cooper from the 1950s in a comedy series called “The People’s Choice” in which he played an aide to a mayor (and there was also the immortal “thinking” bassett house, Cleo). Jackie also later starred in “Hennessey.”

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  7. About the supposed “inconsistent use of phone records“: Yes, this has come up before, but this episode explains why (an explanation some of us also have mentioned). It’s a question of local calls versus toll calls. At the time, you could make an unlimited number of local calls for a flat fee, while toll calls were charged by the minute. Consequently, the phone company only kept a record of toll calls, not local calls. Hence: “The call to the police came in downtown. From your beach house, that’s a toll call. I checked the telephone company. No record of a call.” Implicit in this is that a call from his main home was a local call, not a toll call, for which there would be no record.

    • Yes, I think a lot of US TV shows at the time (including other episodes of “Columbo”) have somebody ask if they can make a call, assuring the person that pays the bill that it’s a “local call”. The other convention on TV is that all telephones in the USA have the area code “555” to prevent viewers from calling a real number.

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  9. Padding issues, yes. But one of my biggest complaints is the motivation for the murder. Guy could have just fired his manager or just even ignored his advice. He might not have won but he wouldn’t have been sent up for murder. Honestly in the beginning he just acted annoyed that the manager was trying to rule his life. That murder had to take planning since he didn’t tell him about the party on purpose and got the new jacket ahead of time.

    • A number of Columbo’s killers have pretty weak motives for murder. You just have to accept that they’re psychopaths. He also had to have planned the switch in advance, as it doesn’t seem like something he’d come up with on the spur of the moment. He had to have planned how to get to the beach house in time. Also, didn’t he call Linda and tell her he was coming to see her? Why didn’t she question him about not showing up?

      • Nelson is not necessarily a psychopath, and he has a good motive: Harry Stone knows where all the bodies are buried, because he buried them for him. I assume he is talking figuratively and not literally, but Harry could ruin Nelson’s political ambitions if he was fired. It’s a form of blackmail. As Nelson says “You don’t give me any choice”. We cannot condone Nelson’s actions, but he does at least give Harry a final chance to stay out of his private life.

  10. The dirty-tricks campaign guy was called STONE? I can’t help thinking that’s no coincidence. If I’m clear about when this aired, scriptwriters would have been in a position to name characters after lesser-known players in the Nixon’s campaign trickery.

  11. Candidate for crime bores my pants off except for the closing 10 minutes where Hayward fakes his assassination, this would do well to make my overall top 20.

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  13. Oh my, something else just occurred to me. As this was supposedly a mob hit because Heyward was going after organized crime, why assume there was only one murderer. There could have been one guy driving with the gunman in the passenger seat. The car could have been positioned for the headlights to illuminate the garage with the guy from the passenger seat getting out to fire at the proper angle for the ballistics. At least Heyward should have raised this issue. My, and I loved this episode and now I have all these quibbles with the plotting. Still, I love Columbo and the reaction to Heyward not being relieved was a sharp insight.

    • Just watching this episode, and it has struck me before that, this being in the US, the car could have pulled up on the left of the garage and a passenger on the right could have shot Harry from the right of the garage. You’re right NB, Nelson Hayward should have raised the issue, but he was probably so taken aback at Columbo’s immediate rebuttal that it didn’t occur to him until later. (He knows that the killer acted alone). Maybe this is deliberate, as it does demonstrate that Harry Stone did all his thinking for him. Columbo doesn’t raise the issue, because he knows that Hayward did it and acted alone. He wants to see Hayward’s reaction.

      • Chris Adams–I think you hit on it. It is a dog which didn’t bark situation. If Hayward actually believed it was a mob hit, he would have brought up that a guy in the passenger seat could have done the shooting. That he didn’t reveals to Columbo that he believes, or knows, there was only one assassin. The subtle writing went over my head until I read your insight.

        • 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.

          (Sorry, I hit “Comments” earlier, instead of “Reply”).

  14. Overall, I like this one a lot, but then again like all of them. Jackie Cooper hit all the right notes as a murderer. Considering what has happened since, his philandering pol certainly seems prescient. My quibble with this episode would be, as I said, Columbo focusing so much on the lack of light. If the murderer had a flashlight, he could have parked the car out on the street where it wouldn’t block traffic and used the flashlight to see the victim. Or so it seems to me, or am I missing something?

    • But then wouldn’t the murderer have to have known that the streetlight was broken? That is, unless he kept a flashlight in his car all the time.

  15. Just re-watched this. What struck me is why it never occurred to Heyward to rebut Columbo about the lack of light by pointing out that the murderer might have been carrying a flashlight. (this occurs to me as I recall potential victims hiding in the dark in murder stories and ducking the light from a world be killer’s flashlight)

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  18. I have to agree with columbophile , i find the scene in nelson Hayward’s office far too long and drawn and drawn out and that scene where the cops do a roadside check on columbos car is just unnecessary, bit dull unlike negative reactions scene where they were enjoyable and all the other long drawn out scenes mentioned , in truth im not madly in love with this episode I really only enjoy it from the point nelson starts faking his assassination .

    • Okay yes you’re right that the scenes involving the car check and the repairs to Columbo’s car we’re very long. But remember if he hadn’t been stopped by the police for his car check he would not have been prompted to go to the repair shop and he would not have gotten the clue that the repair shop was closed.

        • The episode shown on MeTV last cut out the police stop (and the dentist scene) so I was wondering why he was driving a tow truck!

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  20. Honestly, I think this episode has the two most attractive women in one Columbo episode. Both Tisha Sterling and Joanne Linville are gorgeous. I didn’t mind the padding – I like to see Columbo just being Columbo sometimes. And I really enjoyed watching Columbo as he picked up on the obvious relationship between Hayward and Johnson, and also how he was so relaxed when making sure they noted when Hayward was alone in the room at the end. This is one of my favorites. My only one complaint is I would have liked to have seed more of Ken Swofford playing Harry Stone but not much you can do when he’s the victim in a Columbo episode. He really brought it in his one real scene.

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  23. yes a bit long and drawn out some silly time wasting scenes overloaded with politicians and big shots ,however the last 10 -15 minutes are pure gold , very enjoyable , but candidate for crime wouldn’t ever make my top 10 , might just sneak into my top 20 just about.

  24. Referring to the draft of Hayward’s speech early on, Stone says something like, “Gillis did a great job on it, and I’ve improved it.” Which I assume is a funny little jab at Jackson Gillis.

  25. That overlong scene in Hayward’s office does have a nice dynamic in that it’s the moment Columbo’s attention sets on Hayward, and it’s more open in showing the wheels turning than usual.

    At first, the Lt seems to be interested in simply airing his thoughts about the murder– he doesn’t agree with the theory at HQ, and this idea of it not being mistaken identity needs to be fleshed out. But Hayward’s lack of relief at not being the target is so strange, Columbo mentions it twice.

    Then he starts running around, wrapping up a talk that’s actually just getting started, and you can see him stalling while he gets his mind around the idea of Hayward being the killer– so that his next questions are about his problems with Hayward. Who obviously doesn’t get what just happened, and attempts to blow off the question about the engine, the most obvious proof the crime scene was set up, smiling it away like a hack politician.

    A pathetically weak answer like that– he might as well stamp “guilty” on his forehead– which the Lt does when he pops in to announce he’s been “assigned to the campaign” (I think he might be making that part up).

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  31. this is a columbo i like and i dont like inm parts its good but there is a lot of silly time wasting here and there also it is spoiled by too much political tripe , id prefer a more conventional murder and motive , cant recall too many funny scenes , however the ending is quite good , but i dont [put candidate for crime anywhere near my top 10

  32. One of the few episodes that I really don’t like. The whole thing’s just a mess. And the gotcha moment? What exactly did Columbo do that was so brilliant? He saw that Hayward was lying about using the phone, so he went into the room and looked around? That’s it? And all of the other scenes are so disjointed from each other and the ending that it makes it hard to even enjoy them in and of themselves. It’s all just so slipshod. I’m surprised this episode even got made.

    • Spoiler Alert!

      What’s brilliant is that Columbo solves an attempted murder three hours before it’s been committed.

      Instead of using the phone, Hayward fired a bullet into the wall with a silenced gun. After he leaves, Columbo goes into his room, looks around, and sees the bullet hole hidden behind a chair. He digs the bullet out of the wall, sends it to ballistics and gets confirmation that it was fired from the same weapon that killed Harry Stone.

      Three hours later, Hayward uses a firecracker to make it seem that the bullet had only just been fired by an unseen assailant and tells Columbo to dig it out of the wall. Columbo tells him he has already done that and you’re under arrest sir.

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  35. Speaking of cars, I believe I’ve seen Jaguar XKE E Types in three different Columbo episodes.. Been wondering if there is some product placement going on.

    Seeing E Types in TV shows and films (such as the one Robert Culp drives in Bob& Carol & Ted & Alice)always bugs me a bit. Could have bought a used one (convertible) back in 75 for $3500. (Did a lot of yard work and snow/ice removal in junior high and high school.) Instead, I ended up using that money towards my undergrad education at . . . . Columbia.

  36. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my kids to Columbo and they love it as much as I do. Not long after seeing this episode, they saw Jackie Cooper in something else and said, “Look! It’s ‘His Own Man’! “. Lol!

  37. While there is padding in this one as all the longer ones, I would like to speak to the defense of two scenes, one at the campaign headquarters and the one at his house. The campaign headquarters scene is my all-time-absolute-favorite Columbo getting-under-the-skin of the killer scene. As he prattles on, you can hear the tumblers in Jackie Cooper’s mind start clanging together, saying “I haven’t TIME for this $hit!!”. Columbo NEVER let’s go! He keeps going on and on and Nelson Hayward is held helpless to him. When Columbo goes out to get the jacket you can see he’s ready to explode. Then he sits down, thankful for the rest, then Columbo is back in! What’s worse for him is that he can see that Columbo has put together the pieces and knows none of this happened by accident, that the man who killed his campaign manager meant to kill him.

    The scene at the house, Hayward has thrown off pretense, he knows Columbo is gunning for him, and Columbo knows he knows. When Columbo traps him by the time of the shooting, you can see they both know that Haywood has run out of time, that Columbo is closing in. The anxiety by his wife (who btw played a sexy Romulan Commander on Star Trek) is palpable.

    That’s it. Thanks for all this great Columbo dialog. It’s great checking for stuff here!

    • I forgot to add this. Jackie Cooper’s performance was a tour-de-force. As a scheming, underhanded politician, he was brilliant. He projected something different for the press, for his wife, for his mistress, and for the police. I wish he could have come back like Cassidy or Culp to do another, in my opinion he’s in my top 5 Columbo villians.

    • The story had to establish that Hayward knows that Columbo has him squarely in his sights. Hayward’s final gambit is a risky one (sneaking a gun past police security and all). It’s a desperation move, and requires a desperate man to make it credible.

  38. Just came home after seeing 30th Anniversary Screening of “The Princess Bride” on big screen. Peter Falk, as usual, is perfect. Every time I see him, my heart melts. I know I associate him with my youth and so on…but it always seems to me there is something about him that makes me feel…as if I knew him personally. Just wishful thinking!

    • I was in my 20’s when I first saw “The Princess Bride” but I dearly love it too. Plus, it is the most different role he’s had and perhaps his best; vulnerable, an old man past his physical prime, not a dynamic man but played with a beauty of heart and a twinkle in his eye. Great memory, Susan.

    • Oddly enough, as much as I love Peter Falk, I haven’t had much luck enjoying his movies!

      At least not when I was younger, anyway. I might have to retry some of them now that I’m much more of a “Columbo” fan.

      But at the time, I did not enjoy “Murder by Death,” “The Brinks Job,” “The Princess Bride,” “Vibes,” “Roommates,” or “Corky Romano.”

      I see that he was in the wrestling movie “…All the Marbles,” which I have on tape. I may have to rewatch that soon, just for the Peter Falk content. I also like the idea of him playing himself as a stylish trenchcoated angel in “Wings of Desire,” which I have yet to see, but want to.

      Maybe a good future article would be the filmography of Peter Falk as viewed through the lens of how Columbo-esque (Columboid?) the characters are! 🙂

        • I think that The Great Race was the inspiration for Wacky Races, with the characters played by Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk becoming Dick Dastardly and Muttley. A few years later, another Muttley like character appeared on TV called Mumbley, a cartoon dog detective in a raincoat . . .

      • Wings of Desire is a legitimately great movie, though it is mostly driven by Bruno Ganz, not Falk. Still the interaction between Falk and Ganz is terrific.

        I strongly recommend “The In-Laws” with Falk and Alan Arkin.

        I have to say, though, I’ve never met _anybody_ who doesn’t like “The Princess Bride”. I’m concerned. 😉

      • In 1978, Peter Falk starred in Neil Simon’s enjoyable film noir spoof
        “The Cheap Detective”, doing his very good Bogart impression (as seen in “Murder by Death”). And in true Columbo tradition there is also a bevy of beautiful ladies, most notably Ann-Margret as “Jezebel Dezire”.

      • Have you seen “Pocketful of Miracles”? He’s hilarious playing one of Glenn Ford’s hoods–named Joy Boy.

  39. I remember being part of the now legendary #ColumboTV tweetalong to this episode when all the talk was about the lack of bras on display in this episode! Great to recall that now. I agree that this was a great episode trying to get out, but the running time spoils it. I actually find several scenes to be rather a bore. What a shame!

    PS – the reference to Vernon ‘lolloping in’ to Nelson’s hotel suite made me roar with laughter! He really is a clod!

  40. Yes a little too much padding, especially the traffic cop scene (though no worse than the interminable TV kitchen scene in Double Shock with Martin Landau) but on the other hand there is the immortal line of dialogue between the garage attendant observing Columbo’s scruffy dress:-

    “Are you undercover?”
    “No sir, I’m just underpaid.”

    • Yes, that is a very good line. I tried to work it in to the write up, but was running long on words.

      I can’t compare the traffic cop scene with the cookery scene from Double Shock, simple because the latter is one of the BEST EVER TV MOMENTS (in my opinion), which is so funny and charming, and does ultimately help Columbo get some useful info for his case. The traffic cop scene sees him given directions? Be still, my beating heart…

      • that was the funniest scene also where columbo says to Hayward I went to see your tailor this afternoon and Hayward replies well he does like a challenge.

  41. For all your talk of padding, the tailor scene is exactly that. It took the longest route possible to reach the end, when in other episodes he had done that more directly. I agree that the dentist scene is un-needed and the security detail was lax.
    The initial crime scene investigation is actually not too long, as he discovers clues at every point. He has to go to other officers to get info on the crime scene, which makes sense, they all wouldn’t be standing right there by him. The car repair scene is a bit of a stretch but the search for the check book just took the place of the usual scene of him looking for a pencil.
    The home interrogation featured Columbo’s usual hemming and hawing, trying to draw him out, yet also featured a rare show of emotion when Hayward block the coat angle with the cigarette burn and other wear damage. I suppose you could cut this down to a 75 minute episode, but it would take away nuances and hurt the story

    • I remember being part of the now legendary #ColumboTV tweetalong to this episode when all the talk was about the lack of bras on display in this episode! Great to recall that now. I agree that this was a great episode trying to get out, but the running time spoils it. I actually find several scenes to be rather a bore. What a shame!

      PS – the reference to Vernon ‘lolloping in’ to Nelson’s hotel suite made me roar with laughter! He really is a clod!

    • I liken the tailor scene to the photo album scene with Mary Wickes in Suitable for Framing. In both examples, the info could’ve been arrived at more directly, but both were such a hoot and the pay-offs were decent enough, so I’m happy to live with them. The dentist scene and car repair scene are unsuccessful attempts to me because they achieve little and are only moderately funny.

  42. Candidate for crime is one of my favorite episodes and I watch it all the time but there is one thing that bothers me about the episode. When columbo is pulled over by the traffic cops I ABSOLUTELY do not believe for a minute that those cops would’ve cited columbo for the minor repairs on his car once those cops found out that that he was a lieutenant with the LAPD. Columbo would’ve introduced himself, shown his badge and he’d be on his merry way, ESPECIALLY if he was currently working on the case heading somewhere which he was. They would not question him or ask him anything. And if they did have the nerve to go through with it that would’ve been the end of them. Hello desk job. That is really not believable. I have a cop friend who does street patrol and he would never ticket anyone in that position. Other then that I love the episode….

    • Absolutely. In Columbo’s first scene in “Death Lends a Hand,” a motorcycle cop stops Columbo’s Peugeot for a faulty directional signal and ends up giving Columbo a police escort.

  43. I love this episode, one of my favourite.
    The suspense it builds minute after minute is amazing, and the first time i saw it in my life on italian television years ago, they aired it in two parts in two days, the first 40 minutes the first day and the rest the next day (it was evening) so to me it created even more suspense.
    Jackie Cooper is an amazing villian, with a good psychology study, but i admit it would have been nice to explore a little his relantionship with linda, or maybe after all he only wanted to get rid of the campaign manager who was becaming too powerful, and that knows too many secrets, thinking that he didn’t need him anymore ?
    The ending is one of my favourite, so dramatic, and that chilling words, so simple, but at the same time so definitives, just the end for Hayward, no more tricks, no hope at all.
    Joanne Linville plays a complex charachter, her cries at the end are moving.
    And that music from my favourite compositor, the little pause in it and then “you are under arrest” the ending music plays again, wonderful !
    Personally i like longer episodes, i enjoy so much Columbo, that for me episodes are never longer enough lol !

  44. “Candidate” is an excellent episode. While I agree with all of your points, this time around I don’t see the length as a setback. The story actually moves along pretty quickly IMO. To the question of what makes Linda so alluring, look at her 🙂 Seriously, he’s out of love with Vicki, Linda is young, beautiful, and devoted to the cause. It’s an easy explanation. Yeah, the car inspection scene could have been skipped (one of the officers in the scene would later be the janitor at Milo Janus’ gym), and Columbo could have just asked the tailor when Heyward ordered the new jacket rather than go through the whole charade, but it doesn’t detract. I’m glad you gave kudos to Joanne Linville. There’s a reason why she appeared in seemingly every TV show of the era, she’s that good.

  45. Candidate for Crime is an excellent episode and Jackie Cooper was perfect for that role. Perhaps the story would be even more intense if a 90-minute TV chapter instead of two hours, yet the build up to solving the seemingly perfect murder proves to be thoroughly entertaining. Great to see Katey Sagal so young and a superb directorial effort by her father, who seemed to have a penchant for episodes of Columbo in which the discovery of a bullet did in the villain.

  46. Speaking of Keystone Cops, how about the detective who answers the Deputy Commissioner’s question, “Have we been able to establish the exact time of the death?” with: “Yeah, that looks like 9:20 p.m. The broken watch on the wrist of the deceased would fix the time.” Don’t these people watch TV? Don’t they know that a “broken watch on the wrist of the deceased” establishes only one thing: that the killer reset the watch in order to concoct a false alibi. Just once I’d like to hear a TV cop answer the Deputy Commissioner’s question with: “No, but it certainly wasn’t 9:20 p.m., the time on the broken watch on the wrist of the deceased. One thing’s for sure, Commissioner. Whoever killed this man has an alibi for 9:20 p.m.”

    At least here, they added one original touch. They made Hayward deal with the fact that Stone wore an unbreakable watch. And I do like how Columbo deals with the broken watch gambit in this episode (“It just bothered me because his watch doesn’t match with his clothes. … See, it’s a skinny little thing. It’s easy to break. Don’t mix with the shoes.”). But even so, the gambit itself has gotten so tiresome. It’s so cliche that not only is it hard to believe that any policeman would accept a broken watch at face value; it’s hard even to believe that a killer ever would expect this gambit to succeed. Aside from its overuse, there’s also the huge risk that someone will discover the body before 9:20 p.m. Notably, in “Candidate for Crime,” how Stone’s body was discovered is never mentioned.

    So while I agree with your review, Columbophile, I just had to add that every time I see a killer resetting and smashing a wristwatch as the principal basis for his alibi, I cringe. We’re supposed to believe that Hayward planned this crime for at least 10 days (when he ordered the replacement camel hair jacket). He had time to come up with a cleverer alibi than a broken watch (see “Prescription: Murder,” “Murder by the Book,” “Double Exposure,” “Playback,” “Fade in to Murder”).

    Just one more thing: Link and Levinson clearly had a stable of favorite supporting actors, and Ken Swofford (Harry Stone) was among them. Two years after “Candidate,” L&L cast Swofford as the Walter Winchell-like columnist Frank Flannigan in “Ellery Queen.” A great character well played.

    • “… a broken watch at face value.” Nice.
      My qualm with the broken-watch ploy is that it’s implied that the watch dies on impact. More realistic is that the watch would tick to ever slower increments before ceasing to run.

    • Nelson’s body is discovered because Heyward himself telephones the police just after 9:20 pm. This is an important plot point because Heyward forgot that the car engine would have cooled by that time. (But Lt. Columbo didn’t!)

      As to the deputy commissioner, I refer you to my comments after the blog review of “Any Old Port In A Storm” about legendary Pittsburgh radio personality, Rege Cordic. After casting him in two successive Columbo’s, Levison and Link apparently abandoned Cordic completely. Don’t know why after such “vivid” performances. Cordic went on to make his living primarily as a voice actor in cartoons and commercials.

    • That explains why Ken Swofford was on “Murder, She Wrote” so many times! Both as different characters each time when meeting Jessica Fletcher, and as a recurring character, a policeman who is a foil for Dennis Stanton in his episodes.

    • Another thing about that smashed watch. Columbia would have most likely doubted that the watch face smashed so easily after the guy was shot and fell to the floor of the garage. After all, Jackie Cooper’s character had to slam it down on the concrete a couple of times to even get it to break. Yeah, the smashed watch indicating time of death is a pretty overused device.

      • True, but this episode was made almost 50 year ago, when the smashed watch routine had not been used so much. And the twist here is that it is not the victim’s own watch. The fact that it doesn’t match the rugged construction of his clothes and shoes is more of a clue than whether it actually stopped at the time of the murder.

  47. Hi

    I am new to this blog and I haven’t had a chance to look through the archives in full but I have a suggestion for future stories. I am really into the cars that appear on the series. I particularly like the American made cars of the 70s. I like the Eldorado Robert Culp drove on Death lends a hand and all the Lincolns. I remember there was one episode where Columbo was referring to a compact car it was either a Chevy Nova William Shatner borrowed or the Chevy Chevelle that Nora Chandler borrowed. It interesting that by today’s standards those are pretty big cars not considered compacts.

    The other thing I find interesting are the locations that show up on different episodes. Like the house Jack Cassidy opened his mail in was the same one Robert Culp bugged the phone on the most crucial game. There are many others.

    I really enjoy reading the blog and looking at the pictures.

    Thank you Jim

    Sent from my iPad


    • Hi JF, welcome and thanks for your comment! I don’t think I know enough about cars myself to do justice to this, but there’s certainly mileage in focussing on the locations, particularly some of the iconic external locations that Columbo’s rich and famous opponents lived in. Good idea!

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