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Peter Falk Owes his Career to a Prosthetic Eye

For many years, Peter Falk worked as a Management Analyst for the Connecticut State Budget Bureau, before attempting to secure a place with the CIA. However, after his CIA plans failed to materialize, Falk decided to go back to a college interest: acting. He struggled for many years before finally hitting it big with the 1956 Broadway adaptation of The Iceman Cometh. Though Peter got a decent amount of work through the rest of the 50s, his agent continuously told him not to expect too much work because of his artificial eye. At the age of three, Falk was detected with a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma and thus, surgeons had to remove his right eye.

However, Falk persisted in his efforts, and in 1958, he got cast as Abe Reles in Murder Inc., a role that won him his first Oscar. What followed was a decade of successful films and TV roles. However, Falk’s most successful collaboration happened during the 1970s when he befriended filmmaker John Cassavetes and together, the two made one hit film after the other, leading to the launching of the independent film movement. Peter Falk was an actor par excellence and a brilliant artist whose legacy cannot be summed up in just a few words. In this video, we tell you some interesting facts about the actor, including why we say Peter Falk owes his career to his prosthetic eye.  

Peter Falk Owes His Career to a Prosthetic Eye

Doctors had to remove Falk’s right eye when he was three because of a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma. Thus, Falk had to wear an artificial eye for many years. However, Peter Falk owes his career to his prosthetic eye.

By the 1950s, Falk had become a popular name on Broadway and was getting a decent amount of work. However, he still longed for a role in films and therefore, kept auditioning for various parts. Falk’s agent, however, kept telling the actor that it would be nearly impossible for him to find work due to his prosthetic eye. Falk, thankfully, did not listen to his agent. His repeated efforts won him small parts in different films, and in the 1960s, he bagged the role of Abe Reles in the American gangster film Murder, Inc.

The film won Falk his first Academy nomination and cemented his place in the film industry. However, not many people know that it was the prosthetic eye that got Falk the part. Abe Reles changed Falk’s life and career. The man owes everything to the role and therefore, it is not very surprising that when he offers to play the same role a second time for the TV series, The Witness, he accepts the offer readily.

Peter Falk Did His First Play at the Age of 12

Falk became interested in acting at an early age. When he is just 12, during the summer camp, he decides to participate in the production of The Pirates of Penzance, and his performance was highly appreciated by everyone who saw the play. Falk’s counselor at the time was Ross Martin, the actor who would go on to play Artemus Gordon in The Wild Wild West. Ross believed in the young Falk and his talents and after Falk became the acting legend that he was, the two collaborated on two films: The Great Race and Columbo.

Eva Le Gallienne Was the First Person to Tell Falk He Could Become a Professional Actor

Peter Falk enjoyed doing community theatre and was taking life one day at a time. One fine day, he lied and made his way into an acting class for professional actors by Eva Le Gallienne, the legendary artist who found the Civic Repertory Theatre. At the end of the class, Falk confessed to Eva that he wasn’t a professional actor and had had no formal training in acting. She surprises and tells Falk that in her opinion, he was talented enough to be a professional actor. These words of appreciation are all that Falk needed to pursue acting as a career choice — he quit his job and shifted to Greenwich Village to pursue acting full-time.

He Was the First Actor to Be Nominated for Both an Oscar and Emmy in the Same Year

1961 was an important year for Peter Falk. That year, the actor did not only win the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Abe Reles in Murder, Inc., Falk’s first Oscar but also received an Emmy nomination for his performance in ABC’s The Law and Mr. Jones. Falk is the first actor that receives nomination for both Oscar and Emmy in the same year. What’s more surprising is that he repeated this double nomination in 1962 with Academy nominations for Pocketful of Miracles and The Price of Tomatoes and an Emmy nomination for an episode of The Dick Powell Theatre.

Are you enjoying these facts about Peter Falk? Are you a fan of the actor? If yes, we bet you will enjoy hearing all the interesting facts that we will share in a short while about one of his most iconic roles, Lieutenant Columbo. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you are enjoying this video, do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel and press the bell icon to stay updated about all our latest videos.

He Never Shied Away from Playing the Negative Characters

One of the reasons why Peter Falk became such a legendary actor is that he did not confine himself to doing a certain kind of role. At a time when actors tried their best to steer clear of negative roles, Falk played the villain several times. In the episode titled The Mirror of Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone, Falk played a Castro-type revolutionary. Then in Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the actor played a gangster scared of death, and in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, he played a homicidal evangelist.

The Trials of O’Brien Was His First Television Series as a Leading Man

By the early 1960s, Peter Falk had succeeded in establishing himself as one of the most talented actors of the time. However, he’s still receiving the offer of supportive roles in films and television shows. All of that changed in 1965 with The Trials of O’Brien, a 22-episode-long television series in which Falk played a sordid lawyer. The show guest-starred many famous actors including Milton Berle, Robert Blake, Gene Hackman, Roger Moore, Angela Lansbury, Tony Roberts, and Martin Sheen.

He Wasn’t the Original Choice for Columbo

Through the 60s and 70s, Peter Falk did many television shows. However, his most iconic role continues to be Lt. Columbo from the TV series Columbo. Lt. Columbo shows to rumples and absent-minded police detectives but the audiences lived to hear Falk say his trademark catchphrase, Just one more thing. The reason why Columbo becomes so famous is that it changes the way detective stories unravel on television. Columbo followed the inverted detective story format in which the audience knew from the beginning the identity of the perpetrator of a crime. The episodes focus on revealing how each crime commits.

Not many people know that Falk wasn’t the first actor to play the role. In the 1960s, Bert Freed had played the character in The Chevy Mystery Show, and later, Thomas Mitchell had played Lt. Columbo in the stage production Prescription: Murder. When Richard Levinson and William Link decided to adapt the play into a TV series, they first went to Lee J. Cobb and then Bing Crosby for the role of Lt. Columbo. However, after both the actors declined, the role fell in Falk’s lap.

Talking of Columbo here’s another interesting fact about the show: the show’s first non-pilot episode, Murder by the Book, by a very young Steven Spielberg, and Falk is one of the first people to recognize Spielberg’s talent. It says that after working with Spielberg on the first episode of Columbo, Falk told NBC executives that Speilberg is too good for TV.

Lt. Columbo’s First Name Is Frank

Columbo registered a 10-season-long run. However, to this day, not many people know that Lt. Columbo’s first name is Frank. The detective’s name was revealed in the 1971 episode titled Dead Weight. In the episode, the detective flashes his badge and a closeup reveals his first name is Frank. Columbo’s first name and badge show once again in the 1976 episode A Matter of Honor.

Falk Kept Lt Columbo’s Trademark Raincoat with Him

Falk supplied clothes for his character in the show Columbo. Further, he kept his character’s trademark raincoat with him. During one interview, when the interviewer asked Falk if his famous raincoat from the show was available in Smithsonian, the actor said that he kept the raincoat in his wardrobe. Further, those who worked with Falk on the show revealed that the actor often ad-libbed on the show and regularly improvised his lines, which often threw his fellow actors off-balance.

Other than Being a Brilliant Actor, Falk Was Also an Accomplished Painter

Falk was not only a brilliant actor but he was also a brilliant painter. In 2006, the Butler Institute of American Art did an exhibition of his Falk’s paintings. He was so good as a painter that for many years, he took art classes at the Art Students League of New York.

He Published His Autobiography Just One More Thing Two Years Before Being Diagnosed with Dementia

In 2008, Falk’s personal physicians revealed that the actor had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that a series of dental operations had induced his mind and body into a state of dementia. Falk passed away on June 23, 2011, due to complications arising from pneumonia and dementia. He was 83 at the time. In 2014, Falk’s bronze statue places in Falk Miska Street, Budapest, Hungary. The street is named after a 19th-century Hungarian politician who happens to be a relative of the actor. The statue cost close to $63,000 and shows Falk in his Columbo avatar, in a raincoat with a cigar in his hand.

Falk had completed and published his autobiography Just One More Thing: Stories from My Life in 2006. The book is a mandatory read for any Falk fan as well as anyone interested in acting.

As Lieutenant Columbo, Peter Falk was almost perfect. The screen lit up every time he stepped out of his Peugeot 403 convertible, puffing a cigar and wearing his trademark raincoat. In his decades-long career, Falk shared screen space with some of the most talented actors of the time, including Frank Sinatra, Glen Ford, and Bing Crosby, and he stood out in every single scene because he was a brilliant actor. We hope you enjoyed this video on Peter Falk. Are there any other interesting facts you want us to add to this list? If yes, please leave a comment — we love hearing from your guys.

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