BFFs John Cassavetes and Peter Falk teamed up to devastating effect in fan favourite episode Etude in Black in 1972.
And the wonderful news is that Etude is the latest episode to be made available in full to keen viewers via the official Columbo YouTube channel. So grab your conductor’s baton and get ready for fun with Falk, Cassavetes and support cast of stars that includes James McEachin, Blythe Danner and Myrna Loy – PLUS DOG’S DEBUT!
- Let’s compare notes! Read my full episode review here!
- Love Etude? Vote for it in the Columbo fans’ favourite episode poll
- Access the catalog of full Columbo episodes here
- Visit the Columbo YouTube channel here
Aside from the main antagonist being absolutely despicable, it struck me just how unlikable the victim is.
Jennifer is dating Paul, but switches him with “someone important”, hinting that fame, wealth or success is more important to her. Then upon Paul pleading with her, she takes him back, but only in-between seeing Alex.
Meanwhile she is pressuring Alex to go public about their relationship, supporting the previous claim as her motive for switching lover, although she retains the former lover, whose infatuation is so deep that he accepted being the other guy.
Hard to love her, is it not?
Completely agree, both murderer and victim were narcissistic and selfish. Great episode though, and wish Cassavetes could have done one more episode with his good friend Peter Falk.
Can’t believe no one has mentioned the great Myrna Loy, one half of the greatest whodunit duo’s to ever grace the screen with William Powell. The Thinman movie series amongst many that they did together. If you are not familiar with these great classics, do yourself a favor and check them out.
So funny to see the japanese Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid (Pat MORRITA)
John Cassavettes should have done his homework on what orchestra conductors really do on stage. (I was in the high school band.)
Alex picking up the carnation from the crime scene in front of Columbo is one of the stupidest mistakes a killer in the whole Columbo series does.
Does anyone know who the orchestra is in Etude in Black playing the Beethoven, I want to know who the conductor is and what year it was played, it’s the storm ‘scene’ from Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony No 6. Many thanks.
The orchestra featured in “Etude in Black” was likely the Los Angles Philharmonic, as this was the orchestra that played most prominently at the Hollywood Bowl during the early 1970s. At that time, the LA Philharmonic’s conductor was Zubin Mehta, but a guest conductor may have led the Orchestra for Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. The LA Philharmonic did some unusual and innovative programs even back then. For example, one concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1970s featured the LA Philharmonic playing alongside the rock band Deep Purple.
Great episode, but for the love of God, why didn’t they hire someone to consult on the music? Cassavetes looks like a drunken stork waving that oversized baton around without even the lightest hint it has anything to do with piece being heard or any sync with the downbeat . And Tchaikovsky is pronounced “Chai-kov-ski”, not “Chai-cow-ski”.
This is one of my favourites purely down to the brilliant ending, which is easily the best of any
Note, significantly not the ‘gotcha’ and those criticising it have a point
But the last few minutes with Falk, Cassavetes and Danner is simply just great TV and amazed it wasn’t in the Top 100. Danner hardly says anything, but her increasing look of disgust, despair and sadness (which of course started when she realised it was strange how he could recite Welles’s phone number) was arguably the best acting in the entire series
And I know Benedict comes across as an arrogant show off, but I believe he truly loved his wife and simply wanted to prevent her from pain, i.e. it actually WASN’T the money. Hence, why as soon as she quite rightly hung him out to dry, he gave in
So their touching last scene and his words to her, to bring a tear to the eye
But I’m a sucker for Columbo when it’s a great emotional drama. Interestingly it’s similar in tone to ‘Make Me a Perfect Murder’ and these are the only two episodes where the killers act more or less purely because of the love they have for their lover. Unsurprisingly, they’re both in my Top 10
Any fans of the sitcom CHEERS on this blog? “ETUDE IN BLACK’s” director, Nicholas Colasanto played “Coach” on the first three seasons of that sitcom, whose acting career got a boost from Martin Scorsese, who encountered Colasanto while Scorsese was working his way up in Hollywood, then cast him to play a mid-level “don” in RAGING BULL — the one who insists Jake LaMotta take a dive (throw a boxing match) first, before and in exchange for a shot at the title. Scorsese did this every now and then. While shooting the video for Michael Jackson’s BAD, Scorsese thought that Jackson’s short, stocky road manager Frank DiLeo looked and sounded like the character of Tudi in GOODFELLAS, or what Scorsese’s image and sound of what the character was, then cast him. Unlike Colasanto, DiLea was a total amateur or newbie who had never acted before.
Yes, Cheers was one of the great sitcoms with several Columbo ties besides Mr. Colasanto. Regular Norm (George Wendt) murderer in “Strange Bedfellows”, and Guest star James Read murderer in “Uneasy Lies the Crown”. Also Gretchen Corbett (Exercise in Fatality) guest starred in an episode of Cheers.
This episode aired just a few days before Blythe Danner gave birth. She’s clearly not pregnant in the episode. So when was it filmed?
It would have been filmed a couple of months before airing at least, although for this one they had to shoot some extra scenes a few weeks later to bump up the running time. You can see she’s pregnant in a couple of shots (while playing tennis) and she’s hiding her belly in others (handbag in front of her while sitting at the Hollywood Bowl).
I guess there is some time between shooting and airing. Besides, in some shots she DOES look pregnant, in others, her belly is hidden.
Arguably the best acted of all the Columbo episodes.
But you couldn’t go wrong with the three leads
Danner has always been a mesmerising actor, in her brilliant understated way. And the other two are also masters of their craft.
Love the ‘gotcha’ not because of its genius, after all it could be argued against, but because our weary murderer has to rely on a wife who’s sadly worked out what her husband is really like. That poignant moment, when he whispers his love for her – is very moving. Suddenly, you’ve got sympathy for a killer, who really is as cold and selfish as any of the others.
What was the music that was playing whilst alex conducted on the night of the murder?
If memory serves the concert begins (bizarrely) right in the middle of Beethoven’s seventh and there is later on a Mozart symphony – #40 or 41. Also the piece that the mistress dies while playing is Chopin’s etude in Ab major — lots of black keys there too! Funny that they didn’t use his etude in Gb major which is also nicknamed the ‘black key’ etude.
The Mozart piece is the end of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, not one of the symphonies. Played rather too slowly, I think.
It was Beethoven’s 6th symphony part # 4
It takes about 30 seconds before the part really starts. Its not the volume. It is definitely Beethoven’s Symphony #6 part #4
Thanks 🙂 A truly great piece of music.
The correct term is “movement” not “part”. So 4th Movement or Movement 4, not Part #4
Does anyone know the music that Alex was conducting to on the night of the murder? Would love to listen to it on spotify.
One thing that really bothered me throughout this episode is the unrealistic way that John Cassavettes portrayed a musical conductor.
As a music major, I was constantly aware of his lack of sense of tempo. He never moved his hands with the correct timing of the music and, his overly dramatic “directing”, made him look like a swordsman, aggressively attacking his musicians.
Of all the Columbo villians, he had the most disagreeable disposition I can remember. And, he probably disregarded the women in his life more than any other Columbo villain.
But, I’m not surprised because I’ve have heard, more than once, that he was sort of an egomaniac as an actor and, difficult to deal with, in real life.
Me too, but I’ve always assumed it was because the music was laid in after the scene was shot. Meaning, he was “conducting” without music.
I also agree about the swordsman thing – lots of slashing and stabbing the air! My guess here is, Cassavettes was really trying to put forth “the tortured artist” thing.
I remember seeing John Cassavettes in an appearance on a talk show. OMG – so, so cringe-y. …and I really like Cassavettes’ work, but geeeeez – not a guy I’d ever want to hang out with – even if he were buying the beer!
Did it brother anyone else that he killed that her pet bird?
Shows what an absolutely uncaring git he was.
Yeah, he deserved to be
sentence to death in the gas chamber since that’s kinda the way he murdered the girlfriend and her bird!
A solid and classic Columbo, probably would rate somewhere in the 20’s of all the episodes for me, and for this fantastic series that’s darn good. This episode has the typical beautiful mansion and gorgeous cars that are common for this series and are one of the many things that make it so appealing.
One thing I like about Etude is the inexplicable appearance of long-time character actor Henry Beckman at the murder scene. He’s a kind of burned-out old guy that the Lt’s using for exposition about the victim– and it’s like, ok, is he the coroner or a neighbor, or a figment of Columbo’s imagination, or what? He doesn’t have a name or title, he’s just there. He’s not even in the credits. Why doesn’t the Lt set up the scene with the cigar-chomping Sargent, instead? Who is this guy?! My guess, a friend of Mr Falk’s that was hanging around the set. Nothing wrong with that. I’m a big fan of Beckman.
I think Etude in Black is of the true classic columbo style and while it is a very memorable episode and rates very highly among fans and other Blogs generally , ( some people put it in there top 10 ) I actually am not a big fan of it , I find it a tad tedious and I think that the final clue is IE the carnation re appearing/ missing makes for a top 10 ( as columbophile has already pointed out if you visit previous post ( murderers who would never done time post ) Etude in black is slightly overrated in my opinion , However its defineltley much more in the top half of the 70s than the bottom the top and always worth watching.
Just saw this episode and it is one of my favorites. I love your blog!
One of my all-time favorite examples of Columbo disregarding things like chain of custody and protecting evidence. Not only is he toting the keyboard around, he actually strikes a couple of keys. Good times.
Haha yes, there’s probably an article for ‘biggest violations committed by Columbo’ e.g. using the murder weapon to crack open an egg (Stitch in Crime) or unwinding a keyboard ribbon with a destroyed letter on it (Now you See Him),
Cassavetes was a good foil for Columbo. The friends worked so well together. Etude in Black remains a top episode of the series.
I heard that John and Peter were good friends.
Yes, very good friends and drinking buddies by all accounts.
You should include a link somewhere on this site to the YouTube address for “Mikey and Nicky”, the greatest film ever made!