Category Archives: great race

Peter Falk 1927-2011

Award-winning and prolific actor, Peter Falk, of screen and stage, passed away yesterday in Beverly Hills, after being treated for Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. He was 83.

Falk was most closely identified as the television detective Columbo, which he played for decades, but he had a lengthy career on television and in film for years before then.

He holds a fond place in my heart as he appears in my favorite movie of all time – The Great Race. As Max, he was the comic stooge to Jack Lemmon’s Professor Fate, prompting such wonderful lines as “The Great Leslie escaped with a chicken?” and “Push the button, Max.”

Falk was nominated for multiple Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes and even won a few. His other memorable movie roles include those in Murder, Inc., Pocketful of Miracles, The In-Laws, Robin and the Seven Hoods, The Brinks Job, The Princess Bride and Wings of Desire.

For all that, it still comes back to Columbo, which despite what might be thought was not actually even a TV series. It was part of NBC’s “Sunday Mystery Movie,” which alternated originally with “McCloud” and MacMillan and Wife” in the two-hour time slot every Sunday night. Peter Falk wore the dirty raincoat and asked suspects “just one more thing” in one form or another for over thirty years.

We have lost one of the great ones. Peter Falk, we’ll miss you.

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Tony Curtis 1925-2010

This is a bad week for Hollywood, we are losing all the good ones. Yesterday we lost director Arthur Penn, and this morning the news comes that also last night actor Tony Curtis passed away. His daughter Jamie Lee Curtis confirmed his passing from cardiac arrest after several medical maladies this past year. He was 85.

Tony Curtis starred in my favorite film of all time, The Great Race. It was a fave when I was a kid, and remains to this day. I watch it every time it airs from start to finish, nearly three hours. It’s got adventure, romance, music, history, satire and comedy. Throw in the fight between good and evil and race cars, and it just can’t be beat. And in the center of it all, as the dashing hero radiating charisma, is Tony Curtis. That’s the kind of guy he was, the epitome of the leading man, even when he was playing a parody of one.

Curtis was great in everything he was in. Whether he was in drag as in Some Like It Hot, getting an Oscar nod in The Defiant Ones, or being the best thing in the completely dreadful telemovie Tarzan in Manhattan, he was always marvelous. He was the undisputed star of so many movies, including Houdini, Operation Petticoat, Boeing Boeing and Spartacus.

Born Bernie Schwartz in Hells Kitchen, he came to Hollywood in the late 1940s and became an almost instant star. He was married to Janet Leigh and romantically linked to Marilyn Monroe. He also played regular roles on television on shows like “The Persuaders” and “Vega$,” and on this the fiftieth anniversary of “The Flintstones,” he might be remembered for his guest appearance as Stony Curtis. The last time I saw him on television was on “The Graham Norton Show” a year or so ago. He didn’t look well, but he still rocked the house with his stories of old Hollywood.

This is indeed a sad day. We have lost one of the legends of Hollywood.

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