Thursday, January 15, 2009
Be Seeing You
Of the many stories about Patrick McGoohan (how he turned down the role of James Bond because he didn't want his daughters seeing him play that sadistic killer from the Ian Fleming novels; how his Danger Man/Secret Agent contract had three clauses -- 1) no kissing; 2) each fight had to be different; and 3) his character must always try to use his brains before resorting to a gun; how he married his wife of 57 years between the matinee and the evening performances of Taming of The Shrew, in which they were both starring) here's one you may not have heard before.
I remember being totally puzzled when Peter Falk won his first or second Emmy for Columbo and made a point of profusely thanking his great friend Patrick McGoohan, without whom he wouldn't be standing there. I thought, "Huh? McGoohan appeared in one episode, and yeah, he directed another one, but did he create the character of Columbo or something?"
I didn’t find out until years later that, yes, in a way, McGoohan did.
The story goes that Falk and McGoohan first met when they ended up sitting next to each other on a coast-to-coast plane ride, during which Falk handed McGoohan a Columbo script he was about to shoot and asked him for his opinion. After reading it, McGoohan told him it was crap. “I think so too,” said Falk. “Let me see what I can do with it,” said McGoohan. So he rewrote it during on the plane ride and handed it back to Falk, who ended up shooting the episode with McGoohan's changes.
After that, Falk would hand every Columbo script he got to McGoohan for polishing, and McGoohan would do an uncredited rewrite. And as a bonus McGoohan got to direct five episodes, write and produce two credited shows, and play the murderer in four.
So when you watch a Columbo episode, especially one from season 2 on? There's a very good chance that, no matter who the murderer is, the script is by McGoohan.