A faded dance star of film and stage murders her husband and makes it look like a suicide; Lt. Columbo doubts her seemingly perfect alibi.

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(as Bill Driskill), (created by) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
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Grace Wheeler Willis
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Raymond
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Dr. Henry Willis
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Ned Diamond
Linda Gaye Scott ...
Alma (as Linda Scott)
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Dr. Westrum
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Sgt. Leftkowitz
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Dr. Lansberg
Jerome Guardino ...
Harris
Danny Wells ...
Bookstore Clerk
Harvey Gold ...
Coroner
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Storyline

Grace Wheeler Willis was a star, a very famous star. Every night in her house she sees one of her old movies. When she decides to set up a new show and her husband refuses to finance it, Grace coldly kills him, staging a suicide. Lt. Columbo is not deceived from her performance. But at the end, the murderer will escape her sentence, or perhaps not. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia

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14 September 1975 (USA)  »

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(Technicolor)

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Columbo asserts that the movie Walking My Baby Back Home (1953) is one hour and 45 minutes long. In fact, the actual running time for the movie is one hour and 35 minutes. See more »

Goofs

The silver tray that the butler brings up to Dr. Willis, has a glass of milk and a blue and white dish with a pill in it. When Grace empties her pill into his milk, the dish is missing from the tray in several consecutive shots. And when her husband takes his sleeping pill a few minutes later, the blue and white dish has reappeared on the tray. See more »

Quotes

Columbo: Listen, uh, you don't mind if I pump your hand, do ya? You're the fellow that was in all those musicals. Wait'll I tell my wife. You were always her favorite. She dragged me to every musical you were ever in.
Ned Diamond: I'm sorry you had to be dragged.
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Connections

References Scarface (1932) See more »

Soundtracks

Speak Low
(uncredited)
Music by Kurt Weill
Lyrics by Ogden Nash
Performed by Janet Leigh and John Payne
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User Reviews

 
"Sunset Boulevard" reverberates through this top-notch "Columbo" outing with a splendid star performance
20 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Grace Wheeler Willis (Janet Leigh), of the dance team Diamond and Wheeler, is enjoying time in the spotlight again, thanks to a new compilation film that includes clips from her old Hollywood movies. This inspires her to revive her successful stage musical, with her old partner Ned Diamond (John Payne) directing. But her rich husband (Sam Jaffe) refuses to finance the production, inspiring her to murder him—and make it look like a suicide. Who could think she shot him? The butler (Maurice Evans) knows she was in the screening room the entire time, watching her classic film, "Walking My Baby Back Home." But when our rumpled, redoubtable Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) arrives on the scene, he quickly learns one of his favorite film stars is a murderess.

The best characters in this series seem to have lives that extend beyond the confines of their heavily plotted stories. That's certainly true of Grace Wheeler Willis, a monstrous woman who is given enormous pathos by Janet Leigh. She lives in the past, has difficulty distinguishing her life from that of her film characters, and is pathetically eager to be a star again. At the end we learn other things about her that I won't reveal. This episode, unlike most of the others, raises interesting moral issues. Here's a "Columbo" to watch and debate with your friends.

The supporting cast is typically fine. I especially liked Maurice Evans and Linda Gaye Scott, as the married butler and maid, who seem to have an untold story of their own. He is much older than she. John Payne is affecting as Grace's old dance partner, who has always been in love with her.

"Walking My Baby Back Home" is a real 1953 musical that really starred Janet Leigh; real clips from the movie are used. With its echoes of "Sunset Boulevard," this episode is a treat for fans of "Columbo," of Janet Leigh, and of movies in general. (The current DVD set of "Columbo" includes episodes of the godawful "Mrs. Columbo" as bonus features. Raise your hand if you would have preferred "Walking My Baby Back Home.")

Don't expect perfection. As usual, we have extraneous comic scenes, this time featuring rigid superiors who demand that Columbo visit the firing range to test his competence with a gun. He dislikes guns; we dislike these scenes about him disliking guns. There's also the usual dreary business with his dog; this time it gets ice cream on its face. Adorable.

Harvey Hart is a competent director and gets some nice effects. He makes the most of the movie's most memorable image: Leigh in a skintight, black bodysuit prowling through the house and jumping out the window. But with this script, and with this star, giving this performance, we wish Steven Spielberg could have directed, with Billy Goldenberg writing the music. You may be able to convince me that other episodes had better scripts, but no "Columbo" looks and sounds as good as their "Murder by the Book."


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