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 1,373 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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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?


While leading a rehearsal of Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik", John Cassavetes tells the orchestra "Remember: quasi una fantasia". That particular musical direction does not appear anywhere in this piece. It is famously associated with Beethoven's "Moonlight" piano sonata. Apparently the writers just wanted the character to spout some complicated-sounding music jargon. See more »


The position of the carnation dropped under the piano is first shown to the left of the piano leg, then under the piano not near the piano leg, then finally behind the piano leg. See more »


Janice Benedict: How well did you know her, Alex?
Alex Benedict: Oh, you know.
Janice Benedict: I don't know.
Alex Benedict: Now what is that supposed to mean?
Janice Benedict: You know her phone number by heart.
Alex Benedict: I know a lot of telephone numbers of people I work with by heart.
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References A New Leaf (1971) See more »


6th Symphony, 4th Movement
Composed by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

Just a few nerdy comments...
15 August 2005 | by (London) – See all my reviews

My first 'Columbo'. Rather enjoyed it. Great format, and Peter Falk's character extremely good...wonderfully quirky, he can take his place next to Poirot, Miss Marple, and also the likes of Marlowe and Rick Diamond. I can see why this series has such a following.

As a professional musician, I HAVE to say a few things. First of all, a conductor who merely produces these pedestrian performances of the most basic examples of the repertoire (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Strauss Waltzes, Beethoven...) is never going to have a house like that or fame like that or cars like that, much less be called a genius. And the conducting that the actor does is so bad as to be laughable. No orchestra would take him seriously.

There are several little things too, such as his rehearsal of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (why rehearse it when they've just performed it for TV? Any orchestral musician would be able to play it in his or her sleep anyway...). His instructions to the ensemble are downright nonsensical, and when Columbo asks Blythe Danner what 'quasi fantasia' means, she says it's 'Latin'. It's Italian, as are the vast majority of musical instructions.

And finally, no two great musicians would EVER have the following interchange: "Play something." "What should I play?" "Chopin". Music is their job and passion, they know it well. Something far more specific would be asked for, and offered!

I know. I should get out more...

37 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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