Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Hero, Peter Falk

Although I am extremely sore and hurting from my surgery (which went well...details will be posted at this blog, in a week or two), and even though I promised I would NOT be back in the Blogosphere for at least three weeks, I am posting now, just six days into my "blog-fast", because I am simply broken-hearted to learn that the much beloved Peter Falk has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and Dementia. 

Mr. Falk is 81 years old this year. This news is particularly poignant, as only a few months ago, Peter Falk was featured with other "mature" actors for the cover of Screen Actor magazine, (which I receive as a proud Screen Actors' Guild member).Falk is a huge supporter of the unions, and has cheerfully walked the picket lines alongside the lesser-known working (and also the unemployed) actors.

Kids, let me tell you a few more wonderful tidbits about Mr. Falk: 
As a child, he was often teased about his glass eye. He was a good student, and often the teachers would trust him to watch over the other students. Always the practical joker, young Peter would remove his glass eye, place it on a nearby desk, and tell the other children "You better be good, 'cause I've got my eye on you..."

He later became quite a prolific artist (as a painter of nudes). He stumbled into painting while filming a movie in New York City, over fifty years ago. He wandered past a classroom, and peered in, to see a "Life Drawing" class in session, complete with a nude model for the students to figure-draw.

"What kind of class is that?" he asked. When he was told, he signed up for a class the next day.
His paintings of women--often redheads(his wife, and if you pay attention--you'll notice in television series he's best known for-- nearly all his female co-stars, are redheads)--are delicate, finely drawn, and sensual.

His colleague, John Cassavettes, cast him in a couple of his independent films. The two were life-long friends, and in 1989, when John Cassavettes died, Falk grieved tremendously, and offered comfort to Cassavettes' widow, the lovely, richly talented Gena Rowlands.

The roles Falk would try on in his long career would vary from criminals to cops--and one very special cop, in particular--that of Lt. Columbo in the series simply titled, "Columbo".
Director Rob Reiner would later cast Falk as the endearing grandfather in "The Princess Bride",and his performance will leave you smiling!

In terms of Columbo, I am the ultimate aficionado. I can tell you, for example, that Peter Falk, long before either of the following directors had ever been heard of, hired them to direct him in the Columbo television series.

Who are they?

Jonathon (later directed Academy-Award-winning film, "Silence of the Lambs")Demme, who directed the Columbo episode, "Murder Under Glass". Steven (later directed Academy-Award-winning film, "Schindler's List")Spielberg, who directed "Murder by the Book". Those two episodes were my all-time favorites, even though I never realized who they were directed by, until a few years ago, when I got the DVD collection!

Many years ago, I watched The Tonight Show, as Johnny Carson asked Falk about his success, and him being seen "only" as Lt. Columbo. He replied he enjoyed the role very much. Falk then added that he had gone to the African Rainforest, to be in a remote place, a place where he could never be recognized. He was purchasing fruit in a small market, and several native people came up to him, crying, "Columbo, Columbo!". It seems the local relief agencies had entertained the tribes with American television, and he was much beloved by the tribesmen, who found his character a good, and wise man. "I knew then that I had 'arrived' ", he joked. Always humble, Falk said "I am honored to get to play Lt. Columbo; he's a fascinating guy." And so are you, Mr. Falk. So are you.

Peace, kids.


Collin Kelley said...

I was also sad to hear about this and was going to put something on my blog as well. I just bought "A Woman Under the Influence" and, of course, Falk stars in one of the other greatest films ever made, Wim Wenders
"Wings of Desire."

Lisa Allender said...

OMG! I completely forgot about Wings of Desire! Definitely, post something(maybe a clip?) on that, please for me, Coll?

DeadMule said...

Lisa, Not happy about the subject matter, but I am happy to see you made it through surgery. I'll continue to pray for you. Helen

Anonymous said...

Well, if you can post that must mean you're not feeling too bad (I hope).

I feel so bad about Peter Falk. What a great man. I loved him in Columbo but also in 'The Great Race' as Jack Lemmon's sidekick. This is so sad.

Lisa Allender said...

Helen of Deadmule, and Windows Toward The World:
THANK YOU! I'm having good days and bad days, but I'll heal, soon.
Selma of Selma in the City:Hi! I've never seen "The Great Race". Have to put it on my list of "To-See's"

Lydia said...

It put me into a slump when I read the news about Peter Falk, but your post about him brought smiles and admiration. Thank you.

Pris said...

I adore that man. This news about his illness is really upsetting. Our icons are fading.

Lisa Allender said...

Lydia: Hi--thank you for saying my li'l essay on Falk helped you smile!
Pris: Hi--I agree, we are indeed losing so many icons....