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The "Other Columbos"

"Dirty Harry" -- the role that made Clint Eastwood a superstar for action movies(after the spaghetti Westerns made him a star for Westerns) went into pre-production as a vehicle for: Frank Sinatra.

"Have Gun Will Travel" -- the hit TV Western that made Richard Boone a household name -- and rich -- was first offered to Randolph Scott, who passed an offered the script to his friend Boone(John Wayne, James Arness ...same thing with Gunsmoke.)

And somebody else got offered Columbo first -- Bing Crosby.

Had Crosby taken the role, given that he died in 1977, there would have been no 80's/90's Columbo, and no final season in the 70's.

Weird: Crosby was offered the role for the 70's series AFTER Falk had played the detective in the first TV movie(Prescription Murder.)


But BEFORE Falk took the role of Columbo for the 1968 Prescription Murder, two other actors had played Columbo:

Thomas Mitchell -- durable character actor who is in GWTW, Stagecoach, and Uncle Billy in Its A Wonderful Life. Mitchell played Columbo on Broadway in 1959 or so in Prescription Murder(with Joseph Cotton in for Gene Barry.) Mitchell died in the early sixties, well before a TV movie was contemplated. Trivia: Look at the movie "Pocketful of Miracles" in 1961. Peter Falk and Thomas Mitchell are co-stars. Pete's a gangster, Tom's a judge. There are scenes with both Columbos standing side by side.

Bert Freed -- Prescription Murder was first adapted for TV in the early sixties. Bert Freed -- a heavy set, heavy lidded guy -- played Columbo. Asked years later if he remembered playing Columbo, Freed answered: "No. Do you have any idea how many cops I played in TV and movies?"


AND: "The Other Columbos Who Never Were": When Peter Falk was itching to be a movie star and fighting for more pay as Columbo (it was a one-man show, if he quit, the whole thing collapsed), NBC and Universal briefly hatched a plot: have Falk only play Columbo 1/3 of the season -- with OTHER actors as Columbo the rest of the season. I believe Art Carney was one idea.

Never happened. Good.

After Thomas Mitchell and Bert Freed abandoned the role, Peter Falk was the only Columbo to ever have. Or need. Falk made the role his and his alone.


Oh, I thought you were talking about the TV shows that mimic Columbo.

This comes to mind:

A really good show with nice atmosphere and good actor - it was a bit difficult to understand at times, though, as they use such difficult japanese in it, and I wasn't that good yet.

Worth a watch in any case, especially if you like Columbo. At times it does feel a bit 'blasphemous' or annoying, other times it seems like such blatant copy, but it can be entertaining, and the japanese culture that shines through creates some interesting twists in the formula.


Is it sub-titled in English?


Thomas Mitchell -- durable character actor who is ... Uncle Billy in Its A Wonderful Life. Mitchell played Columbo on Broadway in 1959 or so in Prescription Murder

I don't recall ever seeing Mitchell in anything except "Wonderful Life," but that one performance is enough to make me wish I could have seen him as Columbo! It would have been especially interesting to compare his "Prescription Murder" with Falk's.