Columbo (1971–2003)
33 user 7 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 »




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 ... Framl - 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 »

Did You Know?


The jazz club reappeared later as the basement of the wax museum in Columbo: Dagger of the Mind (1972). See more »


Suicide by exposure to even large amounts of gas would have been nearly impossible. In the 1970s,.the U.S. had long converted from the carbon monoxide laden coal gas commonly used decades earlier; natural gas contains just trace amounts of carbon monoxide unlikely to cause death, barring an explosion. See more »


Lieutenant Columbo: Listen, I really appreciate your taking the time to chat with me like this. You know, this is a lonely business, and it's nice just to have someone that ya... well, just air out your thoughts with.
Alex Benedict: You know, it's shocking... SHOCKING when you think about suicide, the word. Now, see, I can understand how she might have killed herself, but what possible reason for someone to kill her?
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 Citizen Kane (1941) See more »


Etudes, Op. 25
Written by Frédéric Chopin
Performer by Anjanette Comer
The title of this episode is derived from the name of this piece.
See more »

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.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 33 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






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 »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed