Columbo: Season 3, Episode 7

Swan Song (3 Mar. 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 1,039 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 5 critic

A gospel singer wants to be rid of his zealous wife. But a murder made to look like an airplane accident does not fool the wily Lt. Columbo.



(teleplay), (story), 2 more credits »
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Title: Swan Song (03 Mar 1974)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Tommy Brown
Edna Basket Brown
Roland Pangborn
J.J. Stringer
Bill McKinney ...
Luke Basket
Mr. Grindell
Janit Baldwin ...
The Colonel
Lucille Meredith ...
Jean the seamstress
Don Mantooth ...
Phil (as Donald Mantooth)
Jefferson Kibbee ...
Bonnie Van Dyke ...
Maryann Cobb
Douglas Dirkson ...
Jeff the airport mechanic (as Doug Dirkson)


A popular folk singer's plane has crashed. Two passengers have died, and one has escaped with minor injuries. Was it really an accident? How could it not have been? Or, was it really a nearly perfect murder? Columbo is called in to find out. Written by Cindy

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

3 March 1974 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Tommy Brown (Johnny Cash) spikes the coffee with drugs hidden in his guitar case. This actually happened to Cash in real life and was arrested while going through customs. See more »


Columbo says that a thermos is "metal inside glass". In fact, thermoses are invariably glass inside metal; they wouldn't work the other way around. See more »


Lady: Lieutenant Columbo. Are you with the Army?
Lt. Columbo: Los Angeles Police Department.
Lady: Oh. Have we done something?
Lt. Columbo: No, ma'am. Not that I know of, no. I'm just here - I'm just part of an investigation.
Lady: Well, of what? Are you with the Vice Squad? I don't remember having a good time.
See more »


Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
Written by Kris Kristofferson
Performed by Johnny Cash
See more »

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User Reviews

A Haunting And Very American Tragedy
29 January 2006 | by (Troy, NY) – See all my reviews

Rich, sexy, haunting and ultimately quite tragic, this classic COLUMBO episode combines a stark and surprisingly powerful performance by country superstar Johnny Cash with an even more sensational star turn by screen legend Ida Lupino.

Tommy Brown is a weak, shiftless country music singer, lured into the Christian crusade by his strong-willed, majestic wife Edna. Even though his talent and charisma are what make the Lost Soul Crusade such a breakout success, Edna keeps all the money to realize her dream of building the great tabernacle. Tommy can't even afford his own car! So one night he sets up an ingenious plan to kill Edna (and her sweet, pretty young assistant) and leave himself in control of the music fortune that should rightfully be his.

What makes this crime story a classic is not really the clues or the mystery, but the way each character is so richly full and rounded. Tommy Brown is not really an evil man. At the beginning he makes a very good case that Edna should share some of the money he earns with his music. He's weak, but he's not just a nobody. He really does have a special talent and he feels very strongly that the American dream should be his. Money, fame, and success are not worth killing for -- but when a man has a special talent and has to watch his money go out of his hands, to build someone else's dream, it's not fair.

Edna Brown is equally fascinating. Even though she's a very attractive older woman, it's obvious she has no use for Tommy in her bed. She's truly a woman of God, with courage and vision and an unselfish dream. Her tragedy is that she really is too strong to understand human weakness. Using blackmail and scare tactics to keep her sinful husband in line somehow doesn't make her quite so repulsive as you would expect. She really is like a majestic and queenly figure. At the same time, watch the way she treats her assistant, Mary Ann. This is a very pretty, shy young girl Tommy seduced and ruined. It would be so easy for Edna to make the young girl's life miserable, screeching at her and picking at her for giving in to her sinful desires. But if you watch closely, it becomes obvious that Edna looks after Mary Ann just like a mother. The two of them are devoted to each other. And when Tommy makes his fateful decision, you really feel for all three people -- trapped in an American tragedy of greed, guilt, and spiritual ambition gone wrong.

Even as a ten year old boy, I was hypnotized by this story. It struck me as being far above the usual television drama. And now, thirty years later, having gone to school and read books like ABSALOM, ABSALOM and An American Tragedy, my opinion of this very special COLUMBO episode is even higher. This is not only great television, it is truly a work of art!

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