The beloved actor passed away peacefully at his Los Angeles home on Thursday (23Jun11).
Falk was born in New York in 1927 and enjoyed a career spanning 50 years.
He broke into the acting industry in 1956 when he landed a role in an off-Broadway production of Moliere’s play Don Juan. That same year, he made his Broadway debut in Diary of a Scoundrel.
He later shifted his focus onto TV and film work, but he was warned early on not to expect too much success due to a glass eye he had implanted at the age of three – after doctors found a malignant tumour in his right eye.
However, he defied Hollywood agents and scored his film debut with a small role in Wind Across the Everglades in 1958. Two years later (60), Falk appeared as gangster Abe Reles in Murder, Inc – the same year he married first wife Alyce Mayo, with whom he has adopted daughters Catherine and Jackie. The movie was a hit with critics and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1961.
Murder, Inc. proved to be Falk’s break-out role, and he would go on to reprise the role again in 1960s TV series The Witness.
Meanwhile, his film career continued to rise with a part in Frank Capra’s 1961 comedy Pocketful of Miracles – another Oscar-nominated role – and parts in director pal John Cassavetes’ movies Husbands (1970) and A Woman Under the Influence (1974).
But it was Falk’s turn as Lieutenant Columbo in the hit TV crime series Columbo that he is best known for. The programme aired on U.S. network NBC between 1971 and 1978, and later moved to ABC, where it was shown from 1989 to 2003. The role won Falk four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.
Falk suffered from deteriorating health towards the end of his life, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
His personal life hit the headlines in January 2009 when his daughter Catherine, a real life private detective, battled Falk’s second wife, actress Shera Danese, to be named conservator of his estate. Catherine claimed her father also had dementia and could no longer care for himself.
Falk is survived by Danese, whom he married in 1977, and his two children.