“Suitable for Framing,” from 1971, directed by Hy Averback.
I was watching the Mitzi Gaynor specials on getTV on Monday night and saw that Ross Martin was one of her guests. Of course that meant that I had to re-watch the Columbo episode in which Mr. Martin plays the villain. That episode is “Suitable for Framing,” a standout among standout episodes from the first season of Columbo. I’ve always said that “Try and Catch Me,” which features Ruth Gordon as our Lieutenant’s foe is my absolute favorite Columbo episode, but in truth there are many I love and could watch repeatedly. “Suitable for Framing” is one of them and I think most Columbo fans agree as this is always listed tops on fan favorite lists.
Brief episode synopsis: A famous art critic, Dale Kingston (Ross Martin), kills his uncle for his valuable collection of paintings. Mr. Kingston tries his best to frame the rich dead man’s ex-wife. But he has to fool Lt. Columbo, which is an impossible task.
Aside from Peter Falk‘s charm and consistently brilliant portrayal of Lt. Columbo, one of the best parts about revisiting “Suitable for Framing” is the wonderful cast of supporting players that make an appearance, many of whom we recognize from classic films or television shows. Among them is Ross Martin (mentioned above) who’s one of the series’ more memorable and snobbish murderers. Then we have Don Ameche, Kim Hunter and the wonderful Mary Wickes in a small but hilarious part as the second murder victim’s landlady. Wickes’ exchange with Columbo is priceless.
“Suitable for Framing” has all typical Columbo elements fans of the show adore, the reasons why we can’t stop coming back for more. The great “Columbo music” fans of the show are spoiled by because the show always features fantastic music that enhances each episode. The Lt., of course, dons his famous rumpled raincoat here and a pretty nifty suit underneath that proves to be delightfully crumpled to sh*t when he takes off the raincoat. His charm increases per wrinkle! While Peter Falk made it a point to stop portraying Lt. Columbo as a smoker, this being an early episode in the series shows Columbo with what was another iconic image, his cigar. In fact, when we first see him on screen he has the cigar in his mouth. And then, of course, Columbo’s extraordinary powers of deduction and knowledge of human behavior and guilt masked by confusion. One of my favorite lines in this episode spoken by the murderer about Columbo is, “In case you haven’t noticed, he’s a very haphazard individual.” His greatest allure and weapon, which never fails to throw the best of villains for a loop. (I am sighing).
“Suitable for Framing” also has one of the best “GOTCHA” scenes ever. No matter how many times you watch this, the Lt. always amuses and awes. Although we know who the murderer is from the opening scene, the murder takes place only seconds into the episode in this case, as is the signature of the unique Columbo series, how the Lt. finally catches the murderer and/or does the final “besting” is endlessly fascinating. This one does not disappoint!