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Suitable for Framing’s nude model identified at last!

Columbo Suitable for Framing nude model

WORLD EXCLUSIVE!

SAINTS BE PRAISED! The nigh-on 50-year-old Columbo mystery surrounding the identity of the nude model from Suitable for Framing is at an end!

The beguiling blonde, playing a character known only as ‘Kris’, was uncredited despite featuring in one of the episode’s most popular scenes with the bashful Lieutenant pointedly refusing to look at her as she sat in the buff to be painted by crotchety, hung-over artist Sam Franklin.

The character’s feisty nature, allied with her good looks, have made her identity a hot topic of conversation between Columbo fans for years, even leading me to make an appeal for information on the actress on this blog five years ago. And despite dozens of valid suggestions, it’s only this week that I can say with certainty that the actress in question is Katherine Darc.

Suitable for Framing model
I do so hope Ms Darc owns this original Sam Franklin piece

Ms Darc (her stage name) appears to have had a very limited screen career, with just seven acting credits to her name on IMDB between 1968-73. This does not, of course, include her two uncredited Columbo appearances, for as well as Suitable for Framing, Ms Darc also appeared briefly in Lady in Waiting as an assistant helping Beth Chadwick with her dress shopping. It also fails to include her appearance alongside Elvis Presley in 1969 western movie Charro.

Her most significant role seems to have been in 1970 Mission: Impossible episode The Innocent, in which she appears in several scenes as a bewigged hippy-type named Judy. Interestingly, she was playing opposite future Columbo guest stars Leonard Nimoy and Lesley Ann Warren. You can view the episode here.

How the identity was revealed

As I’d hoped, the global Columbo audience came up trumps at last to pinpoint the identity of Suitable for Framing’s mystery model. My thanks to Karen-Lee Lamb, who met Katherine Darc at a Thanksgiving dinner in 2019 and was able to confirm her Columbo participation. A genuine 1970s Columbo poster will be sent to Karen to make good on my promise to provide a prize to the person who could definitively ID the lady in question.

Thanks also to Braulio Santos, who pointed me towards the MI episode and sent me some screen caps so I could compare them against the Suitable for Framing and Lady in Waiting blonde and provide further evidence that this was, indeed, the correct actress.

The final piece of confirmation was received this week from David Koenig, an author and historian, who was able to reveal that Ms Darc was named in Columbo production notes for Lady in Waiting and Suitable for Framing. It means this half-a-century-old mystery has finally and officially been put to bed! WOOHOO!

Columbo Katherine Darc
Top: Katherine Darc in Mission Impossible; and below, in Lady in Waiting and Suitable for Framing

What we know about Katherine Darc

There is very little information out there on Ms Darc’s life or career, although I have been informed that she was born in 1948, which would have made her approximately 23 years old when she appeared in Columbo – a few years younger than I had guessed.

Her first day on the set of Columbo was on July 6, 1971, when her scenes with Susan Clark and Leslie Nielsen in Lady in Waiting were filmed. She then returned some three weeks later to shoot the scenes for Suitable for Framing that immortalised her in the eyes of Columbo fans.

Columbo Lady in Waiting Katherine Darc
Katherine with Susan Clark in 1971’s Lady in Waiting

According to Karen-Lee Lamb, Ms Darc (whose real first name is Kristin) lives in Southern California and runs her own business, selling and trading oil and silver contracts. Very sadly, Karen also reported that Ms Darc had a stroke earlier this year, although she is recovering.

I’m sure I speak on behalf of you all when I say that the thoughts and best wishes of Columbo fans everywhere are with her, and that we are all hoping she makes as full a recovery as possible. Despite having only small parts to play in the Columbo pantheon, Ms Darc illuminated the screen in every scene she was in.


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Framing model

Finding the identity of the Columbo mystery model? I’ll drink to that…

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31 thoughts on “Suitable for Framing’s nude model identified at last!

  1. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Ms Darc!

    I’m confused by the reference to “South California.” Is that another name for the Baja California region of Mexico? Or do you mean Southern California?

     
  2. Dear Columbophile, do you know how production records were kept those days? I’ve always assumed even the smaller players would have been registered by companies. Thank you for the wonderful post.

     
    • Hugo, the studio would have had to make some sort of accounting record to make sure the extras got paid, but the official daily Production Report (such as the one cited in Columbophile’s fine article) listed only the actors who were cast in advance and given specific call times. This usually included everyone with a speaking role, but also those with non-speaking roles if they had already been assigned, such as for Peter Falk’s favorite stand-ins or if the director wanted to use a relative in a certain part.

       
    • Good question. I’ve always found it interesting that Marcia Wallace (later famous for “The Bob Newhart Show,” but then fairly unknown) received screen credit as “Woman” in “Murder by the Book,” even though all of her lines were edited out of the episode (leaving only two stray shots of the back of her head) — while Anitra Ford, who played Ken Franklin’s theater date (a character the script officially called “BWT” for “Beautiful Willowy Thing”), who has several lines in the final episode, received no screen credit.

       
    • Happened and I believe still happens a lot

      None more so than our favourite Mike Lammy, who appeared in no less than 25 Columbo episodes (correct me if I’ve got the number wrong, anyone) all uncredited

       
  3. Honestly, I never really wondered who she was but certainly a great sense of relief was felt once I heard the mystery was solved! Kudos everyone 👏 🙏 Ms Darc 🙏

     
  4. Katherine has a bit more substantial role in “The Innocent”, but not by a whole lot. She does deliver her most prominent M:I line – “That’s not mine! I’m no hype!” – with the same conviction to the role used to flirt with Columbo in “Framing”.

    As a rabid Mission:Impossible devotee, I’ll add that for me, “The Innocent” ranks in the entire series’ Top 10 episodes. Like Columbo, Mission was a difficult show to write for, having a clearly established successful “formula” that was not easy to master, and the same plotting issues that sometimes get discussed on this blog would surely get similar treatment on a hypothetical M:I blog. But “The Innocent” twists and tweaks the standard M:I formula with total success (unlike, say, “Last Salute”). A “new”, outside writer pitched the “Innocent” story to play around with the template; that writer was Marc Norman, who would years later go on to win the 1998 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Shakespeare in Love.

    So Darc can lay claim to having contributions in slam-dunk Top 10 episodes for 2 classic series….not an easy feat!

     
  5. Well solved and how nice that the actress in question was able to confirm it.However, to prevent us all from falling into the big black hole that would inevitably follow (no more searching, no more speculating), here’s another mystery for you: who played the female police officer in the same episode…???

     
  6. This is unrelated to the article topic but I wanted to share this with you immediately on the off-chance you hadn’t already encountered it. I just discovered the existence of a zany spoof of 1970s TV detectives called “Murder Can Hurt You” (1980). Among the characters is Lt. Palumbo, a parody of Columbo played by Burt Young.

    Also parodied were Ironside (“Ironbottom” played by Victor Buono), Starsky & Hutch (“Studsky” & “Hatch,” Jamie Farr & John Byner), Baretta (“Lambretta,” Tony Danza), Kojack (“Nojack,” Gavin MacLeod), McCloud (“MacSkye,” Buck Owens), Pepper Anderson (“Salty Sanderson,” Connie Stevens), and Mrs. Columbo (“Mrs. Palumbo,” Liz Torres). (Coincidentally “Mrs. Palumbo” was also a name used in a “Murder, She Wrote” episode, but for a different type of character.)

    Best of all, someone uploaded the movie to YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVkwAocgbQg According to the uploader it’s hard to find because Peter Falk was not amused by the homage and sued Aaron Spelling. I’m glad it didn’t stop Falk and Young from being friends and costarring in “All the Marbles” the following year and of course the “Columbo” episode “Undercover.”

     
    • I was always under the impression that Murder Can Hurt You was an attempt to ride the coattails of Murder By Death (which, ironically, Peter Falk starred in).

       
  7. I’m watching this right now and just thought I’d jump on here to check if the mystery has been solved. It has. Today. Congrats to all

     
  8. So Lady in Waiting was filmed before Suitable for Framing. It appears the transmission order for Series 1 was completely different than the filming order, with the first two and last two episodes also shown In a different order than filming.

     

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