Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star (1973)

Peter Falk and Anne Baxter in Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star (1973)

The Gossip Detective

Once great actress Nora Chandler (Anne Baxter) finds herself having to deal with gossip columnist Jerry Sparks (Mel Ferrer) who knows all her secrets and just happens to be dating Nora's secretary, Jean (Pippa Scott). Out of desperation Nora blows up Jerry's car but unwittingly kills Jean who had been driving it at the time. It leads to Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) to start his investigation which is hard as he is one of Nora's biggest fans and quickly discovers everyone has secrets in the entertainment industry.

Most episodes of "Columbo" started with a murder and a clearly defined motive and then we would watch as the cigar chomping detective went about his business in that absent minded sort of way. But "Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star" deviates a little from that formula as we don't get a clear motive and we don't see the murderer in action, just get informed of it instead. And it is in some ways a master stroke because with the story involving a gossip columnist who is a collector of secrets allows "Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star" to play on a series of revelations and twists.

Mel Ferrer in Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star (1973)

But of course an episode of "Columbo" can't deviate too far from the formula and so we have Peter Falk delivering a quintessential performance as Columbo, being mildly comical in his knowing way of conducting his investigation. But with "Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star" setting up Columbo as a fan of Nora it adds another layer of amusement to things as he turns on the whole being a fan side to his character.

And of course with "Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star" not straying from the formula we have the guest stars and Anne Baxter with Mel Ferrer turn on some 1950s/60s style theatrics. The over the top performances of two people involved in the entertainment industry is as entertaining as anything in this episode. Although you have to say that Peter Falk is so good at what he does you end up taking it for granted how good he is at playing Columbo and bringing in subtle changes as he interacts with the other actors.

What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: Requiem for a Falling Star" is an entertaining minor deviation on the routine "Columbo" formula, switching things enough to keep the audience on their toes but still keeping the essence of "Columbo" clear to see.