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?
While we’re on the subject of unbilled actors, IMDB lists Dorian Harewood as the cop who peeks through Columbo’s window after the opening crash, it absolutely does not look like him to me. His extensive list of credits also feature no unbilled roles whatsoever.
The guy who people were mistaking for George C Scott is also in the ‘A Stitch in Crime’ episode. About 26 minutes in at the party at Dr Mayfields (Leonard Nimoys) house, a man is talking with a woman as Leonard Nimoy approaches. He says “I should have been an orthodontist” – it’s the exact same dude that plays the TV technician in ‘Make Me a Perfect Murder’ – just a few years younger.
Don’t the scenes with Valerie Kirk seem to suggest a romantic relationship between the two? Like Kay Freestone can at least try to captivate everyone. Take those massages to the defeated writer in the first scenes.
Who is the “shy” exotic dancer in Identity Crisis? Columbo is smart to deduce that she’s shy. He can see it in her dance. He stares at her,and she giggles,and when he keeps looking, she looks away into her shoulder, and so on and so forth. When he’s finally leaving she knows it, and finally admits she knows the effect she’s had on him. So long fella!
The dancer in Try and Catch Me is also awesome. She got credited.
That just goes to show you what a good actor George was that he could merely put on a pair of glasses to partially disguise his face and nobody notices him or in your case believes it’s him. He would’ve loved that. And the fact that the role was uncredited means he really didn’t want anyone to notice him.
I looked for your review of this episode, Make Me A Perfect Murder, to make a comment but haven’t seen it, so I’ll put it here. This is one of my favourite episodes.
However, there doesn’t seem to be much relevance of the scenes with the star “Valerie Kirk” and the plot. The two scenes were long and if they were edited out, it would make no real difference to the story. Putting them in just so that Kay Freestone’s show “The Professional” could be aired in its place when Valerie Kirk couldn’t perform live, seems a stretch.
It’s interesting that Freestone is one of the few culprits (if the only one) who says she will fight her case and maybe even win.
Thank heavens you were joking about A.S. playing the Lieutenant!
Valerie Kirk annoys me, but I think there is relevance in those scenes. They show that Kay Freestone lets her private matters/friendships guide her professional decisions (keeping unreliable performers in programs, selecting movies to air) at least to a certain extent. If you remember, her boss and her lover-colleague did not promote her or give her positions equal to theirs because they reckoned she relied on her instinct and emotions at work. The Valerie Kirk scenes prove that they were actually right. Funny, this also annoys me because it shows how a beaituful, talented and hard-working woman is used by her colleagues – especially her lover. He thought he might buy her body with an expensive car and just cheat her in professional terms by taking the new position in secrecy. I cannot sympathize with Kay because she’s a murderer anyway, but I feel no sympathy for the victim, either.
I see the point about the Kirk scenes being related to the bosses not promoting her. She’s the sole woman in that man’s world, trying to achieve higher in her career, meeting brick walls wherever she turns. Patrick O’Neal’s character does voice his disapproval of her decisions in the scene in the limousine and that’s the conversation in which he brings up airing The Professional in place of Valerie Kirk’s no-show.
The Kirk scenes may be useful but the Kirk character distracted from the message they were trying to convey about Freestone, Kirk seemed an overwhelming figure in the scenes, I think.
Good synopsis. I find myself more and more drawn to this episode and thought it was merely good to perhaps the best of the last seasons. She’s in the orbit of two smarmy men, her lover who decides to have one more twist before getting rid of her, and “Mr. Flannigan” who makes more hunches than she does, and makes a comment about “jumping behind a dead man’s desk” while on his way to a party. Trish Van Devere’s performance to me is a tour de force; it draws me in every time I watch it. Any woman in her position you would root for; instead she is so cold, makes so many mistakes that you wander from sympathy to disgust to tension, especially when she’s desperately trying to retrieve the gun. It’s a great episode, can’t wait to have to review this one.
Any then there’s the mystery of the “Woman” in “Murder by the Book” listed in the screen credits as “Marcia Wallace” (whom IMDb identifies as the late Marcia Wallace, who played Carol on “The Bob Newhart Show”). For the longest time, I assumed it was a different “Marcia Wallace,” because the only unnamed woman with a speaking part in MBTB, and thus someone likely to receive a screen credit, is Ken Franklin’s theater date — who clearly is not Bob Newhart’s Marcia Wallace. But his date now appears to be Anitra Ford (who received no screen credit). So who and where was “Marcia Wallace”?
I went back to Steven Bochco’s original script for MBTB. Franklin’s theater date is not listed as “Woman,” but “Beautiful Willowy Thing” or “BWT.” The script also lists a “Woman.” She is the woman standing by the shore, following the discovery of Lily LaSanka’s body, as Franklin walks by carrying a fishing rod. She speaks once in the script; she tells her husband, “Let’s stay here for a while. We can always go to the zoo this afternoon.” No such line appears in the finished episode. However, at that point in the script, Franklin does walk in front of a woman and man standing together. We only see the woman from the rear. Her hair is different than Wallace wore on the Newhart show, but it could be the same Marcia Wallace.
Marcia Wallace is ‘credit only’ in Murder By The Book but speaks to Columbo at the inquest in Lady in Waiting.
I hope you are kidding about a reboot with A.S. in it. I won’t watch it.
I am kidding.
phew……altho i see that there *is* talk of a reboot. I still can’t envision Columbo without the beloved Lt!
I’d like to see it finally put to rest that it is NOT Robert Sorrells (perhaps most famous for his “Twilight Zone” role as the robot baseball player Casey) who plays the CIA operative at the Train Town park in “Identity Crisis”. To me, that’s character actor Bill Fletcher whom I’ve seen in other shows like “Ironside” and “Alias Smith & Jones”.
The French blog Alligatographe pegs actor Milt Kogan as the ‘Dubbing Chief’ in this episode, he did two later COLUMBOs, “Columbo Goes to the Guillotine” and “Grand Deceptions.” Having seen Kogan in five episodes of BARNEY MILLER I don’t believe that the technician is him, Kogan was very tall, balding, and wore a mustache on that show. Perfect Murder still looks like a perfect mystery, though hardly as perfect as the naked blonde in “Suitable for Framing.”
I saw that, too. Definitely not Milt, although he was in this episode in a different role.