The calibre of Columbo guest stars is the gift that keeps on giving to eagle-eyed viewers. Beyond the high-profile killers, the show was awash with household names or up-and-coming future stars who surprise and delight by their very presence.
If that idea floats your boat, I commit far more energy to chronicling the many star names who held moderate, small or even ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-them’ roles right here.
“Many a Columbo fan takes delight in sharing the news that Scott popped up in an episode of their favourite detective show.”
Today, however, I focus on just one of those and unpack the idea that no less a luminary than George C. Scott had an uncredited role as a TV studio technician in 1978’s Make Me a Perfect Murder.
On paper it makes sense. At the age of 50, Scott had mellowed somewhat from the fiery figure of his earlier career and he appeared to have found his true love in Perfect Murder leading lady Trish Van Devere, whom he married in 1972. The two starred in a number of films together. It’s certainly plausible that Scott might have had an ‘Easter Egg’ cameo in Columbo in support of his wife.
However, concept and reality are two different things. Many a Columbo fan takes delight in sharing the news that the esteemed thespian popped up in an episode of their favourite detective show. And maybe he was there somewhere. But the guy most people think is Scott ain’t him at all.
Consider the evidence below. One of these men is George C. Scott. The other is the uncredited TV technician from Make Me a Perfect Murder. The images were taken only months apart from each other. Under no circumstances are these the same man. Scott is clearly older and more weathered. His face and frame are heavier and his hairline isn’t receding to the same extent. But the biggest giveaway is the nose. Scott’s boxer’s nose was one of his trademarks. The delicate schnozz of the Columbo tech is a world away.
So how did this rumour come about? Well, Scott is referenced as being part of the Perfect Murder cast in a number of credible places – notably on IMDB. Other sites (including Aveleyman and Radioactive Studios) go a step further by crediting Scott by name but including a photo of the above right fella alongside it.
It’s only natural, then, that well-read Columbo fans seeing this fact referenced in multiple locations take it as gospel. I even casually included the info and technician’s image on this very site until some respected movie buffs approached me (ever so politely) to let me know that it 1,000,000% wasn’t Scott. And they were right. I’d always thought that if it was Scott, he must’ve been pretty ill at the time as he looked so frail compared to the stocky fella we know and love, but I went along with it because of the numerous references elsewhere. More fool me!
Tellingly, Scott wasn’t referenced as having any sort of Columbo cameo in Mark Dawidziak’s 1989 masterpiece The Columbo Phile. The book was full of interesting snippets and star recollections. I’m sure Scott appearing would have warranted a passing mention if nothing more given his high profile.
More damningly, however, Trish Van Devere herself has even scotched the rumour via Facebook in a response to a fan query in 2017. The message is below. Shall we consider this case closed?
After a little research (i.e. going beyond Google page 1), it turns out that the uncredited technician was actually played by John Furlong, a bit-part actor with dozens of film and TV credits including shows such as The Rockford Files, Dallas and Murder, She Wrote. He even starred alongside fellow Columbo alum Lee Grant in schlock horror The Swarm in 1978.
It just goes to show that you can’t always believe what you read online, eh folks? And with that thought firmly in mind, I’m just off to finish my next blog post about the thrilling news that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been cast as Columbo in the imminent series reboot! Fancy…
Now we’ve solved the George C. Scott mystery, can you help solve the mystery of the unidentified nude model from Suitable for Framing?