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.
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!
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.
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.