10 great Peter Falk television roles before Columbo
Before slipping on the tan rain coat, the famous television detective played thugs, thieves, murderers and gamblers. Dig into the best of his delicious early work.
Today marks what would have been the 88th birthday of Peter Falk. The actor will forever be inextricably linked to his role as Columbo. In the minds of many, Falk is Columbo, and vice versa. Of course, he appeared on screens for years both before and after slipping on the tan raincoat. The New York born performer was even known to do a little song and dance, as seen in the classic Rat Pack vehicle, Robin and the 7 Hoods.
Again a hood, Falk tries to bribe Eliot Ness and then frame him for shooting a man. Still hard to believe he would end up an iconic good guy at this point.
Perhaps in his most unlikely role, Falk is a Che Guevara / Fidel Castro type revolutionary named Ramos Clemente in some vague Central American land who becomes paranoid thanks to a magic mirror.
By now, we've seen Falk as a gambler, thief and thug, but his most sinister role came in 1962, midway through the first season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In a tale that is very Flannery O'Connor–ish, Falk is a cab-driving preacher who murders two women. The weather reveals his evil deeds. Catch The Alfred Hitchcock Hour weeknights at 3AM | 2C on MeTV.
"The Gus Morgan Story"
By this time, 1963, Falk had recently been twice nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy (and nabbed one of the latter). As the title character, Falk is a railroad man looking to tunnel through a mountain no matter what the cost. He plays opposite rock & roll singer Tommy Sands. It doesn't seem like such a villainous role, but the darkness creeps in this captivating morality conundrum. Stranded in a snow storm, Gus must make a terrible choice between two lives. Hard to imagine that eight years later, he would be asking, "Just one more thing…" to characters much like this. Wagon Train rolls on MeTV every Saturday at 11AM | 10C.