Columbo (1971–2003)
28 user 8 critic

Étude in Black 

A ruthless conductor murders the gifted pianist with whom he is having an affair. Lt. Columbo is on the case.


Nicholas Colasanto, John Cassavetes (uncredited) | 1 more credit »


Steven Bochco (teleplay by), Richard Levinson (story by) | 3 more credits »

On Disc

at Amazon




Episode complete credited cast:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
John Cassavetes ... Alex Benedict
James Olson ... Paul Rifkin
Blythe Danner ... Janice Benedict
Anjanette Comer ... Jenifer Welles
Myrna Loy ... Lizzy Fielding
James McEachin ... Billy Jones
Don Knight ... Mike Alexander
Pat Morita ... The House Boy
Michael Pataki ... Sam (scenes deleted)
Michael Fox ... Dr. Benson
Dawn Frame Dawn Frame ... Audrey
Charles Macaulay Charles Macaulay ... Durkee
George Gaynes ... Everett
Wallace Chadwell Wallace Chadwell ... TV Director


Music conductor Alex Benedict has an affair with a pianist. When the pianist threatens to reveal their affair to Benedict's wife, whose wealthy mother owns the company on which Benedict's career is dependent, Benedict decides to permanently silence his mistress. He arranges for her death to look like a suicide by kitchen stove gas asphyxiation. Lieutenant Columbo, a cunning detective in a rumpled raincoat, doesn't believe the pianist took her own life and suspects that Benedict was responsible for her death. He pesters Benedict with constant questions as he searches for clues to place Benedict at the murder scene. Written by Kevin McCorry <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

17 September 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Etude i sort See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


During the rehearsal in the garden, the conductor tells the orchestra to play an "up bow" on the 4th beat of measure 29, and then he specifically points at the second violin section. Looking into the score, the second violins have a break written in the notes at that point. It's only the first violins who actually play. He also instructs them to make a crescendo on the down bow but it wouldn't make any sense to divide the first violin bowing into two bows at that time. See more »


Janice Benedict's hair, at the end, just before she accompanies Columbo and Alex into the screening room to watch the incriminating video, is swept up in a bun behind her head. When she enters the room (it's a continuous scene, leaving no opportunity for Janice to change hair styles), her hair is down in a long ponytail. See more »


Alex Benedict: Now, you're always imagining that I'm... I'm... leaping into beds all over town. I've never done that.
Janice Benedict: Oh, Alex, don't. I know you.
Alex Benedict: Why do all these people feel that they know me?
See more »

Alternate Versions

This two-hour TV movie was also prepared in a 90-minute version which played on Canadian television, and is reputed to be the superior of the two cuts. See more »


References A New Leaf (1971) See more »


Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
See more »

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User Reviews

The keys to the mystery are too obvious
9 March 2005 | by bensonmum2See all my reviews

  • Renowned symphony conductor Alex Benedict (John Cassavetes) has a problem - the pianist with whom he's having an affair threatens to go public if he doesn't leave his wife. This would ruin his career, so he decides to kill her. He arranges the murder to look like suicide. Should the police become suspicious, he has a ready alibi covering him for the time of the murder. What Benedict doesn't count on though is a lieutenant named Columbo.

  • As a general rule, I am a fan of the Columbo movies. But unfortunately, this is not one of the best. The key and fun to watching Columbo is trying to figure out what clues he will use to trap the killer. In Etude in Black, the key to the murder (a flower) is made painfully obvious to the viewer. Add the obvious flower with the even more obvious change in mileage on Benedict's car and I'm surprised it took Columbo more than 15 minutes to solve this murder.

  • Much of the movie is obviously padded to fill a longer fun time on television. But, it's one of these scenes that is my favorite. I get a real kick out of seeing this poor slob Columbo who makes $11,000 a year discussing property taxes with a man who makes millions. Very entertaining.

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