While the New Year is typically a time for looking forward, I always take this opportunity to reflect back on the year that was and remember the Columbo stars we said bon voyage to in the previous 12 months.
With every year that passes, the pool of Columbo supporting stars gradually diminishes, and 2017 was no different. Several significant figures who played a great part in our enjoyment of the 70s’ series sadly passed away. They are much missed and this article is a tribute to those talented individuals.
Martin Landau – died 16 July, aged age 89
The passing of the much-loved and respected Martin Landau was met with great sadness in mid-2017, following his death from ‘unexpected complications’ following a short stay in hospital.
A great talent and a fine man, Landau scored a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1995 for his touching portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. He was 66 at the time and had been a Best Supporting Actor nominee twice before.
“Landau wrote himself into Columbo folklore thanks to his role in the legendary ad libbed cookery scene from Double Shock.”
Landau famously turned down the role of Spock in Star Trek, instead opting for Mission Impossible in which he appeared as Rollin Hand in 76 episodes between 1966-1969. Ironically, Leonard Nimoy would replace him in the show following Star Trek’s cancellation and the two would then both star in separate episodes of Columbo.
Playing the dual role of murderous twins Norman and Dexter Paris in Double Shock, the season finale of Columbo‘s second season in 1972, Landau wrote himself into Columbo folklore thanks to his role in the legendary ad libbed cookery scene, which is always worth revisiting.
Jonathan Demme – died 26 April 2017, aged 73
The director of such blockbuster motion pictures as Silence of the Lambs, Married to the Mob and Philadelphia rubbed shoulders with the great and good of Hollywood over a 45-year career in TV, film and documentary making.
He already had a number of film directing credits under his belt when he took the hot seat for Murder Under Glass from Columbo‘s 7th season in 1978.
Demme died in New York in April due to complications from esophageal cancer and heart disease.
Lola Albright – died 23 March, aged 92
Lola played Clare Daley, the unsympathetic victim to William Shatner’s Ward Fowler, in popular Columbo Season 6 outing Fade in to Murder in 1976. She also graced dozens of films and TV shows from the 1940s to the mid-1980s.
After suffering a bad fall in 2014, Lola’s health declined and she died of natural causes at her home in California in the spring of 2017.
Don Gordon – died 24 April, aged 90
A great mate of Steve McQueen’s, Don Gordon appeared alongside his legendary cohort in Bullit, Papillon and The Towering Inferno, as well as in many TV shows and movies from the late 1940s into the 1990s.
He appeared as the likeable and somewhat reformed ex-con Alvin Deschler, who was used, abused and slain by Dick Van Dyke’s dastardly Paul Galesko in Negative Reaction from Columbo’s 4th season.
Jared Martin – died 24 May, aged 75
Jared Martin has the distinct honour of playing the single-most undeserving victim in Columbo history, his Harry Alexander character being an entirely innocent pawn in Dr Barry Mayfield’s fiendish scheming in A Stitch in Crime from 1973.
Better known for his role as Dusty Farlow in Dallas, Martin also starred in a wide variety of popular TV shows including LA Law, Knight Rider, War of the Worlds, The Fantastic Journey, Shaft and Magnum PI. He died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Philadelphia at the age of 75.
Richard Anderson – died 31 August, aged 91
The versatile actor was best known as Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman TV series of the 1970s, but he was also no stranger to the big screen, having graced movies as diverse as Stanley Kubrick’s Paths to Glory (1957) and Long, Hot Summer alongside Paul Newman a year later.
Columbo fans know him better as Bryce Chadwick, the domineering, oppressive brother of Beth from 1971’s Lady in Waiting – one of the series’ least-mourned victims.
Francine York – died 6 January, aged 80
A former model turned actress, Francine York was often cast as a sexy siren type with notable roles in the movie It’s Only Money and in TV shows such as Batman, Petrocelli and Days of Our Lives.
Columbo fans know her as the officious Sergeant Leftkowitz from 1975’s Forgotten Lady. She was the one haranguing the Lieutenant after noticing he hadn’t completed his pistol range test for 10 years!
Francine died of cancer in January of this year. She had been working on her autobiography at the time.
Thanks to Columbo superfan Stuart Robertson who passed this info on to me
“We must appreciate the Columbo stars still with us and remember the telling contribution made by the departed.”
As always when I write an article of this sort, we must remember to appreciate the remaining Columbo stars still with us and cherish the telling contribution made by the departed, who played such an important role in the enduring success of the show.
Thanks so much for reading, and may 2018 be a vintage year for you and yours.