Editorial: A Raincoat in Sunny LA

Peter Falk in ”Columbo” | NBC


The Editorial: thoughts, short stories
or essays about the world of cinema

Who wears a raincoat in sunny LA all the time? Columbo, that’s who. Why? Just instinct.

His crumpled raincoat, his cheap cigar, his rusty car, his humble manner. Elements that shaped up the image of one of the most distinctive, recognizable and beloved film characters of all time. Peter Falk’s disheveled and disarming, enormously engaging and quirky lieutenant Columbo lives on popular culture in a way that few television and movie characters ever manage – I sometimes find myself opening the cigar case resembling Columbo box set and rewatching an episode, and I still find it delightfully unexpected, ingenious and believable. When talking about what drew him to the role of Columbo, Peter Falk said it was the opposite traits of the character, an average-Joe hero. A regular, next door guy, who is at the same time the most brilliant detective on the globe. The actor himself was an ordinary guy, he confessed, and maybe that’s why portraying the ordinary side of Columbo came easily to him. But he was also a great actor (his performances in John Cassavetes’ intense indie dramas further reinforced it), and that’s why the character endures.

As for Columbo’s distinctive look (no other film character has been associated to such personae-defining extent with a piece of clothing as lieutenant Columbo is with his beaten-up trench coat), it was created by Falk raiding his own wardrobe: “How does the raincoat fit into all of this? What I remember vividly is just a few days before shooting the first episode; Columbo’s wardrobe was laid on a huge bed… there was nothing distinctive. Nothing to remember… I don’t know why the raincoat in my upstairs closet popped into my mind. Just instinct.”

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