Columbo (1971–2003)
16 user 4 critic

Candidate for Crime 

Senatorial candidate Nelson Hayward murders his domineering campaign manager, staging it to appear that Hayward himself was the intended victim of a mob hit gone wrong.



(teleplay by) (as Irving Pearlberg), (teleplay by) | 5 more credits »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Vickie Hayward
Linda Johnson
Harry Stone
Sgt. Vernon
Jay Varela ...
Sgt. Rojas
Deputy Commissioner
Dr. Perenchio
Jude Farese ...
Highway Patrolman
TV Anchor Man
Angelo Grisanti ...
1st Detective


Nelson Hayward is running for the senate as a man tough on crime. His dictatorial campaign manager, Harry Stone, orders the candidate dump his mistress, backing up his demand with threats to expose the politician's shady past. Stone little guesses that his own publicity-minded lie about anonymous killers threatening the politician's life will lead Hayward to murder him and blame it on the invented assailants. Hayward sets up a tricky alibi for himself around a surprise birthday party for his wife. No one suspects the clever deception except that annoyingly observant Italian-American cop in the rumpled raincoat - the redoubtable Lt. Columbo. Written by J. Spurlin / revised by statmanjeff

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Release Date:

4 November 1973 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Katey Sagal, who plays a secretary at the campaign headquarters, is the daughter of this episode's director, Boris Sagal. See more »


When the senator walks down the stairs with his PR team, he has make-up protection paper around his neck. The paper is crumpled. Miss Johnson calls him over, and in the next scene he removes the paper, which is now straight. See more »


Lt. Columbo: Murder's always depressin', but you get over it.
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Referenced in Columbo: Publish or Perish (1974) See more »


This Old Man
Traditional children's song hummed by Jackie Cooper before TV commercial.
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User Reviews

Strong plot and good acting make for a satisfying entry in the series (spoilers)
9 May 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Nelson Hayward is running for the US Senate with a personally demanding campaign being driven by his domineering and demanding campaign manager Harry Stone. When Stone demands Hayward get rid of his mistress and stay in his unhappy marriage, he feels he is going too far and decides to bring it to an end. Asking Stone to drive his car to make his police protection think he has gone one way while he actually heads to a surprise party for his wife, Hayward kills him, making it look like a professional killer had mistaken Stone for him. The media jumps on the story and politically it gets top priority, until they realise that it is Stone – meaning that the Deputy Commissioner wants to concentrate on protecting Hayward, leaving Columbo with the job of locating the contract killer who did the job.

As with many TV film series (such as Perry Mason), if you like one or two of them then you'll pretty much like them all. This entry in the Columbo series pretty much follows the usual formula – we know the killer and the "perfect" plan but then watch Columbo follow his hunch and gradually starts to pick holes in the story he is told before eventually finding enough to prove his suspicions. Saying this is not a spoiler – it is simply what happens in all the films. With this strict adherence to formula it is usually down to several factors whether or not the Columbo film stands out or if it is just average. With this film the potential is all there: political shenanigans, a good plot and a nice dynamic of power/humility between the two men in the story. The script has Columbo drawing the suspects out in such a manner that they betray themselves with a manner that makes the characters think he is just being insensitive; pick of the lines – "is that what first attracted you to him", Columbo asks Hayward's secret lover, her face falls until he concludes "as a candidate" – great writing and it is enjoyable and engaging watch him pick away at the stories.

Falk is as good as ever, playing it oh so down-at-heel and unassuming, coming across as bumbling but having a reason behind even the most innocuous statement. As always, a lot depends on the suspect – in terms of both material and performances. With Cooper, both elements are strong; his character has a good tension with Falk that makes it all the more satisfying to see him slip up as he goes. His performance is well pitched and I found him a good match for Falk throughout and he stood out as one of the stronger Columbo cameos that I've seen. Sterling is pretty simple but Linville is convincing as an insecure and needy wife. Swofford is amusingly boisterous as the victim of the piece and, like many of the Columbo series, actors make repeat performances – in this case it was the guy playing the Deputy Commissioner, a step up from his role in Any Old Port in a Storm.

Overall this is an enjoyable entry in the Columbo series that will please fans as well as the casual viewer. The plot is good and the manner in which Columbo goes at it is very satisfying; the writing helps, developing the story as well as showing good in the dialogue. Falk is as good as always and Cooper is just as strong. Could have perhaps made more of the political pressure that would have been on Columbo, or scored more points at the expense of the political system in the US but the film runs to formula and is enjoyably satisfying throughout.

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