Columbo (1971–2003)
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Old Fashioned Murder 

The spinster head of a family-run museum murders her brother when he threatens to dissolve the financially strapped institution.



(teleplay by), (story by) (as Lawrence Vail) | 2 more credits »

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Episode complete credited cast:
Ruth Lytton
Janie Brandt
Edward Lytton
Mrs. Brandt
Peter S. Feibleman ...
Milton Shaeffer
Jon Miller ...
Sgt. Miller
Jess Osuna ...
Dr. Tim Shaeffer
Anthony Holland ...
Lucy Saroyan ...
Gary Krawford ...
Watch Salesman
Eloise Hardt ...
cathy - Maid
2nd Detective
Giles Douglas ...


The Lytton family owns a museum. Siblings Ruth and Edward (curator and trustee, respectively) have devoted their lives to it, but with things not going so well, Edward has decided to sell it. Ruth doesn't agree and plans otherwise (the old-fashioned way). She has a niece, Janie, whom she loves more than her mother does, who has hired Milton Schaeffer, a petty thief and inveterate gambler (and the brother of her (Janie's) lover), as their new security guard. With a subsequent double-homicide on hand utilizing these details, Columbo delves into the family's personal history to help unravel spinster Ruth's ruthless scheme. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia / with additional information by statmanjeff

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Plot Keywords:

museum | trustee | curator | murder | death | See All (64) »


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Release Date:

28 November 1976 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The mansion that the Lyttons live in is the same one that Bruce Wayne lived in on the Batman TV series. See more »


The cup of "tea" that Ruth hands Columbo is obviously empty. There is a rear shot of Columbo tilting the cup back to "drink" and you can see the entire inside of the cup is empty and dry. See more »


Mrs. Brandt: I'll have you disbarred for this - whatever the Hell that word is.
Columbo: Yes, ma'm. "Fired" I think is the word you want.
See more »


This Old Man
English folk children's counting song.
Whistled by Peter Falk
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User Reviews

More nay than yea
12 May 2014 | by See all my reviews

It seems that Columbo fans are pretty evenly and clearly divided in their opinions of this episode, with some ranking it among the best and others among the worst. Without taking pleasure in joining the naysayers, I really must.

It's one of those leaden-footed episodes in which the writing and acting seem to grope for the qualities that usually add up to success in a Columbo piece -- and to grope halfheartedly, at that. The bellwether is the dialog given to Falk himself, which shows a fossilized second-hand understanding of Columboese. The other actors, too, seem to be reciting generic lines and loathing themselves for it. The usual sidelights -- the highly individualized young partner, the comical misadventures in the course of the investigation, and so on -- fall flat in slow motion.

Tim O'Connor, who was a competent actor, must have been badly directed here. He speaks in a clipped half-British accent that's probably intended to suggest a refined fussbudget but only suggests the hazy notions of characterization found in amateur theatricals. It also clashes with the accents of the other members of the character's family, each of which is unique. Joyce Van Patten speaks in a whiny all-American twang (hold the culture war, folks, I'm from a whiny part of the US myself). Jeannie Berlin sounds thoroughly street-smart. Celeste Holm, who comes closest to sounding as if she might be related to O'Connor's character, nails Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. Indeed, Holm's deliberately silly performance is the best thing about this inadvertently silly episode.

There is a temptation to call "Old Fashioned Murder" soap opera, with its dim atmosphere and its emotionally drowning central character (and with O'Connor in the cast), but that would be a slight to a genre that is often well done in its way. This is just a casual swing through soap opera territory.

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