Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lt. Columbo and Anne Francis

Readers who are also Facebook Friends of mine know that I have been on a recent kick of watching old episodes of the "Columbo" TV series that starred Peter Falk.  Last week I watched an episode from 1973 that starred the lovely Anne Francis, upon whom I had a crush in my younger teen years, as did, I suspect, many male teen aged viewers of "Honey West" back in the mid-sixties.  I say this with some conviction because my Facebook post on the topic elicited a huge response.  Okay, so maybe it was only a half dozen or so responses, but still a trend in my book.

Before I proceed, let me post a gratuitous picture of the lovely Miss Francis in her role as private detective Honey West:


Anyway, the response prompted me to dig out an episode from 1972, Season One, of Columbo called "Short Fuse".  This one starred Roddy McDowell, who shamelessly overacted throughout the entire episode, while wearing absolutely preposterous 1970's era hipster fashions.  Miss Francis played his girlfriend who he ended up treating rather shabbily.   James Gregory played the role of Roddy's victim in this one.  William Windom also had a semi-key role, and the "Special Guest Star" was Ida Lupino.

(An aside.  I was also a big reader of Mad Magazine in my teen years, and they once did a satire on some movie that McDowell was in.  In their satire, Mad called him "Roddy McTowell", and ever since,  cannot watch anything that features Roddy McDowell that I don't think of him as "Roddy McTowell".  Make of that what you will.)

The show followed the typical Columbo formula.  We know who did it, the killer underestimates the (seemingly) bumbling Lt. Columbo, and practically spells out what he did for the dim bulb police lieutenant, only to be out-witted brought down in the end.

Anne Francis would have been 41 years old when this one was made.  She looked good, but seemed to be just a bit old for the part that she played. Still, there was just something about that mole below and to the right of her lower lip.

I do enjoy watching these old episodes.  Despite the fashions of the era, they hold up pretty well.  I also can't help but noticing how incredibly cheap looking the sets are or these shows.  Really bad. But the stories are good, the writing can be hokey at times, but for the most part it's not bad, and Falk is terrific in his signature role.  It is also interesting to see how the series provided employment for TV stars whose own series had been canceled (Gene Barry, Leonard Nimoy, Windom) and old movie stars whose primes were long past (Ray Milland, Myrna Loy, Ida Lupino).  All actors really want to do is work, and shows like Columbo provided it for them back in the seventies.

Before closing, how about I throw in another gratuitous cheesecake picture of Anne Francis.  I'm guessing that this photo was circa mid-1950's.

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