Arguably the highest-profile case of his entire career, Columbo’s take-down of beloved former silver screen icon Nora Chandler would have been jaw-dropping news the world over.Yet despite that, Requiem for a Falling Star is one of Columbo‘s lesser lights. While perfectly enjoyable by the standards of most TV ever made, the majority of fans rate this as merely an average episode of the greatest detective show of all time. Still, with Jackson Gillis earning another writing credit and a stellar cast headlined by Oscar-winning actress Anne Baxter, there are still highlights galore to be had. Just what are the highest highs? Here are my thoughts…
“While perfectly enjoyable by the standards of most TV ever made, the majority of fans rate Requiem as merely an average episode of Columbo.”
5. The playful farewellYouthful studio boss Fallon pokes some playful fun at Columbo (and Peter Falk) in a nice exchange between the two men midway through the episode as the detective digs for dirt on why Nora refuses to sell her property on the lot. It’s a subject that has long exasperated Fallon, and he lets Columbo in on his frustrations. “Actors, Lieutenant. Take my advice avoid actors. They’ll kill you.” Given Falk’s own well-publicised run-ins with Universal execs during Columbo‘s first season, this is a fun little in-joke that has everyone smiling. The Lieutenant thanks Fallon, claiming he’ll be sure to tell his boss about his hospitality. It’s only then that Fallon reveals he is the boss. Columbo mumbles an apology, having assumed someone as young as Fallon couldn’t be the top man. “It’s all right. I would never typecast you as a detective, either,” Fallon playfully responds as he takes his leave.
4. Columbo feels the burn!For the most part, Lieutenant Columbo enjoys reasonably cordial relations with those he comes into contact with during the course of his investigations. There are always exceptions (Milo Janus, Paul Gerard, for example), but there’s usually a grudging respect, if not overt friendliness towards the crumpled detective. It’s therefore a bit of a shock when Columbo is given a real down-dressing by Nora’s gentleman friend, Frank Simmons. After savaging the odious Jerry Parks for generally being an absolute grub, Simmons turns his attentions to Columbo, who has been indulging in his usual meandering methods. “Lieutenant, as for you, you have an obtuse manner which some people find ingratiating,” Simmons chides, face as straight as a curtain rail. “I do not.” It’s as frank an assessment as Columbo ever receives, with no hint of friendliness or playfulness to take the edge off it. In short, Columbo FEELS THE BURN, albeit not as badly as blown-up victim Jean did earlier in the episode…
3. The frenemies meetThe love/hate (or more accurately, hate/hate) relationship between Nora Chandler and slimy gossip columnist Jerry Parks is the gift that keeps on giving in Requiem. From their first meeting at Nora’s home it’s obvious the two can’t stand each other, but the gloves are really off when the pair make a secret rendezvous near a favourite eatery. Parks essentially accuses Nora of wanting him dead, and wants cash to keep his mouth shut about this, and other dirt he has on her. Nora counter claims that Parks was using victim Jean for her money after owing a fortune to his ex-wives. A snooping Columbo, of course, catches them in the act and the two have to slip back into pally mode to avoid rousing his suspicions further. With ‘friends’ like these, who needs enemies, right? It’s a classic example of the shallowness and skullduggery I have no problem believing is rife in celebrity circles. Nora’s octagonal shades are simply the icing on the cake!
2. The star-struck detectiveColumbo is no stranger to high society types and household names, for the most part taking celebrity encounters in his stride. Sure he might request an autograph for Mrs Columbo, but he tends to avoid fanboy gawping to investigate cases on a professional footing. That poise goes right out of the window when he meets Nora Chandler, though. Columbo is star-struck, looking like he might even pass out at one stage with the giddy thrill of it all. “I’ve been in love with you all my life,” he bashfully concedes. The Lieutenant even rings home to try and get Nora chatting to the other love of his life, only to find that Mrs Columbo is out shopping, leaving Columbo and Nora mystifying his brother-in-law George instead. Columbo is known for playing mind games with his quarry, and doing what he can to disarm them and make them underestimate him. There may be a hint of that here, but one senses he really is just a massive fan of hers, making their first meeting an absolutely charming encounter.
1. Edith’s golden cameoNumero uno just has to be costume design LEGEND Edith Head’s cameo as herself. Fitting for an episode that features such luscious fashions throughout, Edith comes up with a new tie for Columbo to help Nora spruce up his shabby appearance, while all the while her array of Oscars are clearly visible on the desk behind. Deliciously, one of these Oscars was won in 1951 for her costume work on All About Eve – a film for which Anne Baxter won a Best Actress nomination. It’s a delightful Easter Egg of a scene, made even better by the fact that Peter Falk would present Head with a further Oscar the following year for her work on The Sting. Could it be that Falk was given this award to present because of Head’s Columbo appearance? I rather hope so…
So that’s your lot, gang – unless, of course, you have a hankering for a more in-depth analysis of the episode which you can conveniently find right here! As always, I’d be delighted to hear your views on the episode and if your personal highlight isn’t here, please let me know what it is in the comments section below.
“It’s a delightful Easter Egg of a scene, made even better by the fact that Peter Falk would present Head with a further Oscar the following year.”
My favorite moment is when Columbo pulls up to Nora’s “cottage” the first time he meets her, and shows how genuinely star-stuck he is about meeting the famous movie star. After he gets out of his car, we see him brushing the dust off his pants and coat to make himself more presentable and then we are treated to some wonderful pantomime at the front door. With his back to the camera he rings the doorbell and then proceeds to apparently straighten his tie, check his zipper, and smooth his hair back. Then he turns to almost face the camera and he checks his fingernails. I don’t know if these few seconds were ad-libbed by Falk or if it was in the script, but either way Falk played it brilliantly.
I suspect there was some ad-libbing by Falk, as you suggest. And you’re right, he does it very nicely!
I would have the interplay with the entry gate on my top 5.
It’s the 1st “I have another car. my wife drives it. Of course it’s nothing special, just for transportation”
Also, the clue he gets from watching the old Nora film on tv after getting the tip From George is a great light bulb moment.
This is a fine episode! The exchanges between Nora Chandler and Jerry Parks are among the funniest. They’re great actors, among the best of the series.
Funny exchange between Columbo and Nora after she gives him the new tie:
Columbo: “I’ve got an anniversary coming up next week…I wonder if I can have that back [pointing to his old tie]…and save this [pointing to new tie around his neck] for a special occasion.”
Nora: “Sure. Why don’t you get your wife to take you on a shopping tour for your anniversary?”
So Columbo doesn’t view the upcoming anniversary as a special occasion. 🙂 This episode has a lot of good comedy in the dialogue…sometimes if you blink you can miss it. 🙂 🙂
“You couldn’t get bus fair for what’s in there”-Great one liner by Nora to Parks. Also the look on Nora’s face at the end when Columbo turns on the lights.
To be fair, “You couldn’t get bus fare for what’s in there.”
Love those moments, too.
And after they’re caught talking with each other by a confused Columbo, “You just don’t understand show business.”
As I’ve stated in my comments on various posts on the blog, I LOVE this episode. Beautiful and expressive Anne Baxter as Nora is my favorite villainess. Her wardrobe is divine and this episode is delicious from beginning to end.
I laugh uproariously when she tries to run over Jerry. That scene is def not up to the usual production values. The car obviously misses him. What was she trying to run over, his toe?
And she either promised or delivered something Ajax won’t wash off to her Studio boss since he wasn’t concerned about a few million dollars.
That said, she is very cold to kill her somewhat loyal assistant. Jean was played by Pippa Scott. Catch Pippa as a Captain on a Gomer Pyle episode when he persuades her to be more ladylike.
I looked up Pippa Scott, and I see that she was in two episodes of my favorite show, Perry Mason, the most memorable being The Case of the Bigamous Spouse, in which she plays a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. I am familiar with the cited episode of Gomer Pyle, USMC, Captain Ironpants, and in hindsight, considering the character of Gomer Pyle, starting on The Andy Griffith Show, it is not surprising to have found out that Jim Nabors was a homosexual.
Why, because he was friendly, even tempered and pleasant?
Yes, overly so, sickeningly sweet, like one who lives primarily by their emotions, not reason, explaining his simple-mindedness.
Thanks for this website! I’m a fan of the old show and I really enjoy the deep dive you take on these episodes. It’s the mark of a true expert.
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Thanks Craig! Glad you’re enjoying the site.
All your posts are a much-anticipated and much-appreciated pleasure.
My girlfriend and I play a game of sorts by trying to guess the “five best” before reading your piece, but we guess what we’d think would be your five best, not ours. We most often get four out five and enjoy the one (or two) you include that come to us a surprise.
How many did you get this time?
A par-for-the course four out of five. What’s funny is that the one we missed – Nora and Jerry arguing at The Sportman’s Lodge – was one I declared WOULDN’T be included. We thought you might include the final sequence where she scampers to the fountain and then reveals her back story surrounding her husband’s disappearance. Some episodes have so many possibilities for inclusion in the top five that it’s a challenge to narrow the field. This one was the opposite.
Great five best moments, Columbophile! We guessed almost all of them correctly. We thought maybe one would be Columbo learning from his brother-in-law that Nora’s film is on television, which he turns on while waiting for Nora to finish getting ready. Seeing her impersonating someone in the film helps him realize she impersonated her husband years before when he was already dead.
Ah yes, the Columbo lightbulb moment! I considered it, but it seemed ultimately to be a very big stretch for him to connect one with the other, so it was left on the cutting room floor.
I’m delighted to hear you make a game of this! There won’t be such a big gap until the next one.
Just love these posts–please keep them coming. They are all great (the episodes) and your columns about them Cheers Pat
My favorite is is at the end when Columbo says “Fountain” and Nora’s eyes grow in panic. She knows the jig is up.
Jamie Farr calls Columbo at Nora Chandler’s house.
Actually, Columbo calls Farr.
Farr, well really Corporal Klinger.
This is GREAT!!!! 🙂
While not a top contender for me either, I truly enjoy this episode each time it airs…for all the reasons you mentioned & for Anne Baxter’s elegant, semi-sympathetic performance. My husband knocked on her door as a delivery boy as a teenager, & has his own star-struck moment with her.:-)