Columbo (1971–2003)
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Last Salute to the Commodore 

Charlie Clay runs the ship building business of his father-in-law, Commodore Swanson, who turns up murdered; Lt. Columbo is on the case.


Patrick McGoohan


Jackson Gillis, Richard Levinson (created by) | 1 more credit »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
Robert Vaughn ... Charles 'Charlie' Clay
Wilfrid Hyde-White ... Kittering, Esq.
John Dehner ... Commodore Otis Swanson
Dennis Dugan ... Sergeant Theodore "Mac" Albinsky
Diane Baker ... Joanna Clay
Bruce Kirby ... Sergeant George Kramer
Joshua Bryant ... Wayne Taylor
Susan Foster Susan Foster ... Lisa King
Fred Draper ... Swanny Swanson
Rod McCary ... Coast Guard Officer
John Finnegan ... Guard (as J. P. Finnegan)
Joseph Roman Joseph Roman ... Shop Foreman
Hanna Hertelendy Hanna Hertelendy ... Woman
Jerry Crews Jerry Crews ... Watchman


Charlie Clay runs a ship-building business owned by his father-in-law, Commodore Otis Swanson, who is not happy with his profiteering son-in-law's shady dealings. Nor is he pleased with any of the people closest to him, including his alcoholic daughter Joanna Clay, his elderly nephew Swanny Swanson or his lawyer Kittering. Soon the Commodore is murdered, and Charlie Clay covers it up by impersonating the Commodore, taking the corpse out on the man's yawl at night and throwing the body overboard. Lt. Columbo investigates this case with the help of a veteran sergeant and a 29-year-old novice. The rumpled, redoubtable detective knows Clay covered up the crime, but his assumption that Clay committed the crime may prove premature. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

2 March 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der alte Mann und der Tod See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The dialogue between Sgt. Kramer and Lt. Columbo over smoking (Kramer: "Thought you were gonna quit;" Columbo: "Not yet. No, not yet, Sergeant. Not yet") as Columbo figuratively rides off into the sunset (actually, rowing himself away toward a yacht club), is almost certainly a clever response directly aimed toward intense fan curiosity at the end of season five over Peter Falk returning to play Columbo in subsequent years. See more »


When Charles Clay drives away from Otis Swanson's house his car has wire wheels, but when he pulls up to the guard shack it has hub caps. See more »


Lisa King: Love isn't just... one age or another.
See more »


Featured in Big Daddy (1999) See more »


This Old Man
Traditional English children's song/nursery rhyme.
On soundtrack in several variations at end as Columbo rows away
See more »

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User Reviews

A contender for my least favourite Columbo episode
25 February 2011 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

I do say this with a heavy heart, because I have been a fan of Columbo for a long time. Last Salute to the Commodore had the ingredients for a good episode, starting with the fact that Patrick McGoohan who is a fine actor and capable director directed it.

Last Salute to the Commodore does have its good points. The photography, costumes and locations are striking, Columbo humming the unofficial theme song was a treat and Diane Baker while slightly overdoing it at times is at least enjoyable. And McGoohan's direction at least gives the episode some style.

However, as others have said, Last Salute to the Commodore departs from the usual formula, the audience here don't know who the murderer is until the last fifteen minutes or so and the prime suspect bites the dust. Initially I had no problem with that, though that decision kind of subtracted from the fun due to the lack of any memorable scenes and dialogue from Columbo and the culprit. That said, apart from me being okay with the change initially and the change with the prime suspect is interesting and does work, the change concerning the murderer not being revealed until the last fifteen or so minutes is a change that doesn't work. There are far too many drawn out scenes, the whole story takes far too long to get going while the final solution was both disappointing and uninteresting.

The idea of the story was good, it's just that on screen the whole plot is uninteresting and lacking any spark on the whole, and it's not just the drawn out scenes and the disappointing conclusion. The pace really spoils it, I usually don't mind slow-paced films and TV episodes but when the plot and writing are not that good I found it a chore to watch to be honest. The writing was poor mostly, it lacked the wit and sparkle a Columbo episode usually does, it lacked intelligence and some of it felt as though the actors felt uncomfortable delivering it. Mind you, it did have some moments of infectious humour, the sailing jokes were quite fun, but it wasn't enough. Also maybe I am not right, but did anyone else feel the episode was too long, an hour-and-three-quarters instead of about eighty minutes?

Baker aside, the acting is not so good. There have been a few disappointing Columbo entries(Dead Weight, Murder with Too Many Notes, one with William Shatner) but they do have some decent scenes or a good cast to elevate. Here, Peter Falk isn't bad as such, but the way Columbo is written shocked me in a bad way. Here Columbo seems to be going to caricature and the constant sending-up of himself got tired fast unfortunately. The usually good Robert Vaughn seems bored and disconnected too, while Joshua Bryant overdoes it dreadfully. Even the music was a disappointment, here it is often obtrusive and took me out of the setting.

Overall, I love Columbo but this didn't work. 4/10 Bethany Cox

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