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A Season 2 Columbo story that is primarily notable for it's success in
straying slightly from the hitherto successful Columbo formula by
installing a plot with twists relating to both motive and murder
Anne Baxter gives a captivating, well-judged performance as a movie star in decline who realises that the blossoming relationship of her secretary and a persistent journalist could uncover her darkest secrets. Her deep-rooted desperation and selfish protectiveness are intriguingly conveyed in a story that is never quite what it seems: the viewer is not armed with all of the incriminating facts from the outset, so although it is not a who-dunnit, it is successfully sustained as a why-did-she-do-it.
Mel Ferrer also gives a decent performance as the journalist and his scenes with Baxter are consistently powerfully staged and purposefully developed.
There is a priceless scene too involving a cameo from real-life costume designer Edith Head, who gives Columbo a lavish tie from her rather vast wardrobe.
One other noteworthy and enjoyable sequence is when Columbo confronts the murderess near the end with the things that bothered him...
The script-writer Jackson Gillis expertly keeps things going at a startlingly frantic pace, and although the coincidence which helps Columbo solve the case is too coincidental, the strength in the plot, script and performances are too be admired, making this a little gem for the Columbo archives.
The Columbo DVD box sets are allowing me to savor these old episodes
without commercials and with the ability to watch parts over again to
see how clues are planted. As another comment also stated, this episode
may not be the most cleverly plotted or most exciting, BUT it has the
great Anne Baxter as a fading star who was married to a now-deceased
studio head and is now pitted against a sleazy tell-all biographer,
played by another great, Mel Ferrer. Baxter's assistant is having an
affair with Ferrer. The assistant winds up dead, but switched cars with
Ferrer at the last minute. So was Ferrer or the assistant the intended
target? Columbo doesn't miss a beat as he investigates, and as in the
best Columbo episodes every seemingly throw-away remark or observation
later takes on great significance. And it's always fun to see the
Columbo character star-struck around celebrities, asking the celebrity
to call his brother-in-law on the phone and the like.
In addition to seeing Columbo "crack" the case, the viewer doesn't really understand the motivation for the crime until the final scene, which adds another level of excitement. With a supporting cast including Kevin McCarthy and Frank Converse, this is an episode you should definitely check out. Baxter and Ferrer bring such class to the show. And Falk is always perfect in this role...
I have a special fondness for this particular Columbo episode, though
I'm not sure why. It is very good, but there have been other Columbos
that have moved a little faster. This one has a few interesting twists
to the plot, but what is most enjoyable is the presence of Anne Baxter
as a movie star, Nora Chandler, from Hollywood's golden age who now
stars in a TV series. Kind of like Loretta Young, but with an entirely
different persona. Mel Ferrer guest stars also, as does the lovely
Pippa Scott. Scott plays Baxter's secretary, and Ferrer is a gossip
columnist who seems to have some real dirt on Nora. He's also courting
Scott, which Baxter is tremendously unhappy about. Nora is also getting
some pressure from the studio. Nora has a cottage on the grounds with a
fountain in the back - her late husband, Al, actually ran the studio.
The present bosses want to sell off parts of the land, but Nora won't
Falk and Baxter are funny together. He's initially starstruck - though I can't really agree with one poster on this board who thinks he wasn't onto her. He calls his brother-in-law George and has Nora say hello to him, and there is another cute scene with Edith Head.
It's a fascinating story, made special by Baxter and her chemistry with Falk.
Frankly, when considering a "Columbo" plot revolving around a faded
actress, the 1975 "Forgotten Lady," with Janet Leigh, is far more
memorable than this exploration of 70s TV movie-making. The plot seems
to borrow bits from various Hollywood sources, such as Shirley Temple
and her bungalow at 20th Century Fox in the 30s, etc.
I always enjoy Anne Baxter's performances, but this comes across as a bit over-the-top. Granted, the script requires that she intentionally overact for Columbo, but at times, her supposed "natural" scenes are also a bit camp/vamp.
Even when this first aired in January, 1973, I knew who Edith Head was, and got a kick seeing her cameo.
Director Quine was also at the helm of my least-favorite episode, the one shown prior to this,"Dagger of the Mind." Both exhibit unnecessary scenery chewing, and stray from the formula that usually makes any "Columbo" episode a television classic.
This otherwise average Columbo episode is redeemed by the charismatic performance of the great Anne Baxter. She's incredibly beautiful and steals every scene she's in. Her deliciously campy take on a Norma Desmond-esque movie queen is a pure delight. She even has a Desmond-like, eminently noirish name of Nora Chandler. Anyway Nora is being blackmailed and of course resorts to murder. Baxter and Peter Falk have a nice, edgy chemistry. Their back-and-forth is remarkable even by Columbo standards of detective and suspect. Whether she planned it or not Miss Baxter manages to upstage Peter Falk in every scene they're in together. Nice movie business backdrop, including a cameo by Edith Head. Old pros Kevin McCarthy and Mel Ferrer add support, though the Frank Converse character seems unnecessary. Richard Quine's direction keeps things moving along.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
- As you may, or may not, know, giving away the killer's identity in a
Columbo movie is not a spoiler. You discover who the killer is ten
minutes into the movie. In this episode, an aging star (Anne Baxter)
feels like she's in a desperate situation. Her secretary for 18 years
is leaving her to marry a reporter who has dirt on her. She's afraid
that the secretary may reveal even more about her personal life. She
does the only thing she can come up with to get out of the situation.
She goes to the reporter's house and pours gasoline in the garage. Just
as his car enter, she strikes a match and . . . well you get the
- I've seen a lot of Columbo's movies and this one has its strong points and its weak points. I really enjoyed the mystery in this one. There's really more to it than initially meets the eye. I found the story to be very engaging. It's definitely one of the deeper Columbo movies I've seen so far. In most of these movies, Columbo spots the killer right off the bat and hounds them until they crack. Because of the complexities of the case, Columbo picks the wrong suspect. It's a nice change of pace.
- The weak points - Columbo himself. In a lot of these movies, you'll see Columbo gush over a suspect, but it's usually to get information. Here, he seems genuinely star-struck by Anne Baxter. That's not Columbo! He's always under control and using everything to his advantage. Usually, every little movement he makes, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is all part of his grand scheme to catch the killer. Not here. We get to see Columbo act like a fool and for no real reason whatever.
Requiem for a Falling Star I thought was a generally solid entry in one of my favourite shows of all time, but I don't consider it one of the better ones. It is another change of formula sort of episode, where Columbo for a while picks the wrong person, and it is mostly successful. I do have to agree though that Falk is made to act a little too obtuse here, and it really doesn't feel like him. While it is compellingly paced a vast majority of the time, I did feel some of the middle of the episode dragged, and the coincidence that helps Columbo I also agree is too much of a coincidence. However it is strikingly filmed, with an atmospheric music score, sharp writing that is at its best in the scenes between Columbo and Baxter and an interesting story where there is much more to it as it initially seems to be. Peter Falk is consistently wonderful as Columbo and Requiem for a Falling Star is no exception, Anne Baxter captivates as the edgy murderess, Mel Ferrer is wonderfully sleazy and under-appreciated Kevin McCarthy is good value. There is also a priceless cameo from Edith Head. All in all, quite good but not one of my favourites. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Anne Baxter stars as a once famous film actress named Nora Chandler who is being blackmailed by a gossip writer named Jerry Parks(played by Mel Ferrer) that she wants to get rid of, but in a seemingly tragic accident, kills her assistant Jean Davis(played by Pippa Scott) instead, though Lt. Columbo(Peter Falk) isn't so convinced that it was a mistaken hit, but suspects an incident from her past as a bigger motive, which pains him as he is a fan of Chandler's films, though of course Columbo must always get his man...or woman. Kevin McCarthy guest stars. Interesting plot which contains some amusing on-set in-jokes about Hollywood.
Peter Falk as the ever persistent Lt. Columbo has a real conflict of
interest. Pippa Scott the secretary of big screen star Anne Baxter is
killed in a staged automobile wreck after she met sleazy tabloid
columnist Mel Ferrer to offer up some proof on her boss. Ferrer is a
real bottom feeder, even stooping to some shtupping with Scott to get a
real bit of gossip about Baxter. The woman really has something to
Columbo has two big problems with this case, first it looks like the target might have been Mel Ferrer who has a phone book list of enemies who'd like to do him in. Secondly the motive for Baxter doing the deed isn't obvious. Columbo will have to literally dig up the truth to clinch his case.
Kevin McCarthy and Frank Converse round out the list of guest stars in this episode. Baxter is both a sympathetic yet an egotistical suspect, not an easy thing to pull off yet she does it. Her fans will be especially impressed with this episode.
REQUIEM FOR A FALLING STAR is one of the more efficient Columbo
episodes I've seen. The short running time means that the plot is very
fast paced and the viewer has barely been introduced to the main cast
members before the murder plot is set in action. Overall this is a
professional-looking production with slick photography and a fine
little script that gets to the heart of the characters involved while
offering up more than a few surprises as the running time progresses.
The notable thing about REQUIEM FOR A FALLING STAR is the exemplary cast of former Hollywood stars, all of whom acquit themselves in the professional way you'd imagine. Anne Baxter is the guest villain and brings a level of authenticity to the proceedings as well as a slight sadness which Peter Falk trades on very well. This is one of those episodes where he's slightly in awe of the murderer so their scenes are quite sweet and special. Further support comes from an acidic Mel Ferrer and a brash Kevin McCarthy, while real-life fashion designer Edith Head has a cameo playing herself. It's good stuff and a classic episode for the show.
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