If I had a dollar for every time I’ve screamed to anyone within earshot “I LOVE SUITABLE FOR FRAMING” then, gee whizz, I’d be the richest man in the loony bin!
But when an episode of TV is as good as Suitable for Framing, choosing only 5 magical moments is a seriously tough assignment. I’ve thought long and hard in order to chronicle my personal episode highlights here. What are yours?
5. The explosive start
The genial charm of a friendly-looking old bodger playing Chopin on a grand piano gives way to gun fire and shrieking music in one of the series’ most arresting starts.
The velvet-tux wearing Dale Kingston pulls the trigger to end his uncle’s life within the episode’s first 60 seconds, making it the show’s quickest killing by a distance. He then goes on what can only be described as TV’s gentlest rampage, tipping over chairs, flinging cushions and struggling to get books off a shelf in order to paint a picture of the house being robbed.
The scene is masterfully constructed and perfectly scored. A chilling strings crescendo accentuates the stunning crime as the camera jumps between the faces on the paintings on the walls. A spiralling, manic piano solo then takes over as Kingston trashes the joint. It’s shock and awe TV at its 70s’ best.
4. You snooze you win
Oh, he’s a sly one alright! Columbo artfully engineers a way to gain access to Kingston’s apartment under the pretence that he’s going to pop around while Dale is out ‘just to borrow some books’ about art to help him in his case.
Kingston plays along as he smugly wants to prove to the Lieutenant that he has nothing to hide. Little does he suspect that when he does have something to hide (the stolen Degas’ pastels that he committed murder for), Columbo will be lying in wait.
Thus when Kingston enters his home late at night, fresh from slaying accomplice Tracey, he finds Columbo ‘asleep’ in an easy chair. The detective insists that he accidentally dropped off and has no idea of the time, but we know him too well to buy that.
Columbo’s stunt pays off handsomely, though, as he’s able to get his mitts on the stolen pastels in Kingston’s art folder before the angry critic can stop him. And that, of course, is his means of snaring Kingston at episode’s end.
3. The feisty nude
Columbo gets an unwanted eyeful of a nude blonde bombshell when he pays a visit to hungover artist Sam Franklin to check up on Kingston’s whereabouts the night before.
It’s a cracking scene due to its rich humour. The Lieutenant’s bashful nature and low embarrassment threshold is a theme the series will return to time and again, but its genesis is right here. Amid the distraction of trying not to cop an eyeful, Columbo gathers valuable information for his case and seems to have made an instant fan in the form of the nude model, who greets him warmly and whose eyes longingly follow him out. Look out Mrs Columbo!
This scene also provides a real-life Columbo mystery in that no one in the world seems to know who the uncredited actress who played the model is. If you definitively know who this mystery blonde is, please let me know so we can put this decades-old puzzle to bed!
“Amid the distraction of trying not to cop an eyeful, Columbo gathers valuable information for his case.”
2. Dale at the art show
Episode writer Jackson Gillis was clearly poking some fun at the art scene of the time here, as Kingston unleashes all his critical skills at the art exhibition of ‘that hack’ Sam Franklin to establish his alibi in AMAZING style.
Dale’s wisecracks and japes about the specific exhibits and art more widely have his tanked-up, shallow entourage enrapt and roaring with laughter. And big Dale ably exhibits his mammoth ego by laughing louder and longer than anyone else as he throws back the Champagne with gay abandon.
All props to Ross Martin, who is fabulously loathsome throughout this scene, which I can (and do) happily watch over and over again.
1. The gloved hand reveal
A moment so marvellous it’s hard not to roar with approval, the wordless revelation that seals Kingston’s fate is a work of art in its own right.
It’s such a clever conclusion and is arrived at so startlingly – nicely mirroring the opening scene – that there’s nothing Kingston can say in his defence. Watch closely and you can see his lip quiver in panic. It’s so satisfying for the viewer!
It tops my list of the best Columbo ‘gotcha’ moments. But beyond that, I personally rate this as the single greatest TV moment of all time. Quite a claim, I know, but I stand by it – and I suspect I always will.
“The wordless revelation that seals Kingston’s fate is a work of art in its own right.”
There we have it – a list of TV moments so strong that I couldn’t even find room for Mary Wickes’ hilarious cameo as Tracey’s busybody landlady, which would have been a shoo-in inclusion in virtually any other episode. No wonder that Framing ranks so highly in my personal Columbo top 10.
Need a reminder of just how good the episode is? Then read my full review here.
Is your favourite moment here? Let me know in the comments section below. And thanks, as always, for reading. You… are… WONDERFUL!
THE SCENE WITH MARY WICKES AND BUDGIE IS PERFECTION
Wasn’t the nude model also at the party?
An episode so rich in wonderful scenes. Love your top five. Yes the scene with Columbo and the landlady would make virtually any other episodes top 5 scenes easily, so funny.
There are two additional best moments from “Suitable for Framing,” and they come back-to-back.
Let’s call the first one, “You’ve got me all wrong,” from one of Columbo’s lines in the scene that takes place in the TV studio where Dale Kingston receives a call from his accomplice, Tracy O’Connor, and then Columbo interrupts that call. Here, you have great interplay between Columbo and Kingston, as Columbo incrementally turns up the heat to expose inconsistencies in Kingston’s alibi and actions.
Although Columbo never says anything directly accusatory. Kingston hears the subtext all too clearly and his cool confidence gradually evaporates. Finally, just as Kingston tries to hastily escape, Columbo draws him in to deliver yet another zinger, preceded by his trademark “Just one more thing. . .” Kingston then loses his cool and responds angrily by taking out the key to his apartment and boldly holding it up to Columbo telling him that he has nothing to hide and that Columbo can check anything he wants. Kingston does this in such a way that the average person would feel uncomfortable accepting the key. But Columbo is, of course, no average person by any stretch and though he initially declines a few times, playing along with Kingston, he ultimately surprises Kingston by taking the key from his hand. Kingson’s response is hilarious, with his stunned expression and his outstretched arm and his empty hand temporarily frozen in space.
Jackson Gillis’s writing shines here throughout and the acting by Ross Martin and Peter Falk in this scene is a joy to watch.
Another great moment in the episode immediately follows this scene. Let’s call this one, “I haven’t touched a thing.” Here, Kingston meets with Tracy at a remote road near a canyon. What makes the scene special for me is that Kingston and Tracy show what their relationship has really been about. We learn how Kingston lured Tracy into becoming his accomplice. We confirm that Kingson was just temporarily using Tracy and that he cares about nothing but himself and his desire to possess the art collection.
And we learn that Tracy foolishly wanted to believe that she had art talent that Kingston respected, but that she also had doubts about that: “Sometimes, I think my talent isn’t what you like best about me,” she says.
Kingston answers her: “Well, it’s a combination of things, my dear.”
What makes this scene special is that both Kingston and Tracy wear gloves from the beginning through the end. Thus, they “touch” each other as though they are “close,” but they are really worlds apart. The gloves symbolize that theirs is a dead, lifeless relationship; soon to be literally dead. The gloves were a wonderful touch by Gillis.
Although there was a rational reason to wear them so as “not to touch a thing,” they never took them off even after Tracy delivered the Degas pastels to Kingston.
Though the viewer might not realize it when watching the episode, this particular gloves scene, unconsciously, is what helps to make the final “Gloved Hand” scene so powerful.
Nicely done–I agree. Yes, the scene with Dale and Tracy where they’re both wearing gloves helps to make the final scene so powerful and the gloves were a wonderful touch!
Ah–“5. The explosive start” is a very memorable moment, and the series’ most arresting start, and quickest killing too. We didn’t think of it when guessing which moments would make your best 5. We guessed the other 4 correctly; we thought maybe when Columbo learns Kingston knew about the will might be one of the 5. As always, thanks for an interesting read–love all things Columbo.
I’m excited to hear folk try to predict my favourite moments! I do like the will revelation, but I always thought it made it seem more likely to have driven Dale to kill his uncle than less, as he seems to think.
Yes we love to predict them as well as what you’ll say in your episode reviews. Love your site, Columbophile–you’ve brought us a lot of enjoyment.
Not sure it counts as a “moment” but I’ve always loved the twist with the will and how Dale wasn’t going to inherit anything. Added another interesting wrinkle to the entire mystery.
I didn’t doubt that the hand glove reveal would make the number one spot!
The other scenes you mentioned are great indeed.