Faded movie actress Nora Chandler is being blackmailed by a gossip columnist, Jerry Parks. Parks is also romancing Chandler's secretary, who knows all the great star's secrets. Chandler in desperation blows up the columnist's car - but it turns out her secretary was the one driving. Lt. Columbo, one of Nora's biggest fans, is on the case.Written by
One of Hollywood's greatest costume designer, Edith Head, and long time friend of Anne Baxter made her full wardrobe and also makes a guest appearance. Edith Head's designer office is shown during the episode. On the desk are displayed her real seven Academy awards. She had yet to win her 8th award and last one, for the movie The Sting (1973). Making her the most nominated woman (35 nominations) and also the most honored woman, with eight Oscars, all for Costume Design. See more »
Exterior shots of Nora Chandler's bungalow, shot on the Universal back lot show the front door with brass colored hardware knobs. The Interior set front door hardware is dark brown in color and does not match. The brick wall right outside the front door of the bungalow is closer on the interior set and much farther from the front doors on the exterior shots. See more »
Actors, Lieutenant. Take my advice - avoid actors. They'll kill ya.
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Columbo is too slow to suspect the killer in this otherwise entertaining entry
With one subtle change in the script this might have been one of the great "Columbo" episodes. Richard Quine, who also wrote the weak "Dagger of the Mind," does a superior job this time. But he still misses a trick.
Faded movie actress Nora Chandler (Anne Baxter) is being blackmailed by a gossip columnist, Jerry Parks (Mel Ferrer). Parks is also romancing Chandler's secretary (Pippa Scott) who knows all the great star's secrets. Chandler in desperation blows up the columnist's car – but it turns out her secretary was the one driving.
The plot is entertaining and has at least two satisfying surprises. But as in "Dagger," Quine does not know how to treat our favorite detective. This time he commits the tactical blunder of making Columbo a genuine fan of Chandler. When we first see him, he's standing at her door, checking his nails, making a futile effort to unrumple himself. Once he's inside, he gushes over the star and even calls his brother-in-law from her house and asks her to say hello to him. The Columbo we know and love can be gauche, but he's not an idiot. It's painful watching him behave so obtusely with someone he admires and genuinely believes has just suffered a great shock.
And that's the problem. For the first time, his intuition fails him when it comes to spotting the killer. In fact, he seems much more suspicious of the gossip columnist than of her. And when he finally does suspect her, he can hardly allow himself to believe it. This is very un-Columbo-like. Usually when he gushes over someone, it's to get the suspect to lower his (or her) defenses. Think of his crafty obsequiousness to Jack Cassidy in "Murder by the Book." This would have been a far more entertaining episode if Columbo *pretended* to be a big fan.
Still, this is enjoyable enough, especially for movie buffs. Anne Baxter is everyone's favorite manipulative bitch from "All About Eve," and she does a fine job playing a homicidal variation here. There are a lot of old movie stars' photos in the columnist's office (I spotted Jean Harlow, W.C. Fields, Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, just to name a few). And we even get to see Baxter play a second murderess in a movie-within-a-movie. Then there's a cameo for legendary costume designer Edith Head. Good stuff, but it could have been much better.
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