Columbo: Season 2, Episode 1

Étude in Black (17 Sep. 1972)

TV Episode  |  Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,350 users  
Reviews: 23 user | 5 critic

An amoral conductor murders the gifted pianist with whom he is having an affair. Lt. Columbo is on the case.


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Title: Étude in Black (17 Sep 1972)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Paul Rifkin
Janice Benedict
Jenifer Welles
Lizzy Fielding
Billy Jones
The House Boy
Sam (scenes deleted)
Michael Fox ...
Dawn Frame ...
Charles Macaulay ...
Wallace Chadwell ...
TV Director


Music conductor Alex Benedict has an affair with a pianist. When the pianist threatens to reveal their affair to Benedict's wife, whose wealthy mother owns the company on which Benedict's career is dependent, Benedict decides to permanently silence his mistress. He arranges for her death to look like a suicide by kitchen stove gas asphyxiation. Lieutenant Columbo, a cunning detective in a rumpled raincoat, doesn't believe the pianist took her own life and suspects that Benedict was responsible for her death. He pesters Benedict with constant questions as he searches for clues to place Benedict at the murder scene. Written by Kevin McCorry <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 September 1972 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


The jazz club in "Etude In Black" reappeared later as the basement of the wax museum in Columbo: Dagger of the Mind (1972). See more »


Alex Benedict has long hair, in the Maestro tradition: curling over his ears, covering his neck, flipping up in back and generally flying around in disarray. But there is a memorable (and largely irrelevant) scene where Columbo visits Alex Benedict's home, and ends up asking about how much he pays in taxes, how big the house is, etc. In this scene, John Cassavetes' hair is visibly shorter than before or afterwards - trimmed farther up on his ears, neatly poufed all around, and shaved in back to expose his neck. The likely explanation is a bit of "Columbo" history: this scene was probably part of the extra footage added after the network ordered director Cassavetes to lengthen the episode, from 90 minutes to 2 hours, and Cassavetes apparently got a haircut before the additional scene was shot. See more »


Lieutenant Columbo: I never got to ask you last night what I wanted to ask ya.
Alex Benedict: Go ahead.
Lieutenant Columbo: Terrific place. Terrific.
Alex Benedict: Thank you. We like it.
See more »


References A New Leaf (1971) See more »


Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
See more »

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User Reviews

The Columbo episode that made me a fan
13 March 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Etude in Black is one of my favourite Columbo episodes, it was one of my first ones as well and the one that officially made me a fan. I agree it is not note-perfect, the scene with Myrna Loy and the fogies is very badly played and one or two of the clues were a little too obvious too early especially the carnation at the scene of the crime(which the mystery revolves around) and while I loved the chemistry between Columbo and Benedict I personally would've liked more mind games between the two perhaps.

However, when it comes to the production values Etude in Black is one of the most visually beautiful and interesting of the Columbo episodes with skilled camera shots and lighting. The music is a sheer delight, and part of the reason why this episode holds a special place in my heart. The premise is a clever one, and the story is very well constructed with some fun scenes. Here Columbo is delightful, he does get increasingly irritating throughout Etude in Black but deliberately so. There is also a razor-sharp script, satisfying chemistry between Columbo and Benedict and good direction.

The acting on the whole is great. Peter Falk is exceptional once again, particularly in the monologue which cleverly expresses Columbo's disbelief at how anybody would kill themselves. I also liked the scene(s) with his new dog, which thankfully were appropriately awkward(fitting Columbo's character) and low-key. Blythe Danner is divine as Janice, she looks lovely and acts very convincingly, Myrna Loy has a smaller role and is merely okay. John Cassevetes however is brilliant, very sexy and deliciously stone-cold as well. His way of conducting is the only part of his performance that rings false(not only was it an odd way of conducting but some of it was out of time as well), but his voice, mannerisms, interaction with Columbo and delivery more than compensated, he is both dark and wacky in the ending which wraps things up well.

All in all, a fine episode and while not perfect it is a personal favourite. 8.5/10 Bethany Cox

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