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NBC canceled the three series in 1977. In 1989 ABC offered “Columbo” in a two-hour format usually appearing once or twice a season. The movies continued into the 21st century. “Columbo” appeared in 26 foreign countries and was a particular favorite in France and Iran.

Columbo’s trademark: an ancient raincoat Falk had once bought for himself. After 25 years on television, the coat became so tattered it had to be replaced.

Falk was already an experienced Broadway actor and two-time Oscar nominee when he began playing Columbo. And, long before then, he had demonstrated a bit of Columbo-worthy spunk: at 3, he had one eye removed because of cancer.

Then, when he was starting as an actor in New York, an agent told him, “Of course, you won’t be able to work in movies or TV because of your eye.” And after failing a screen test at Columbia Pictures, he was told by studio boss Harry Cohn that “for the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”

But Falk prevailed, even before “Columbo,” picking up back-to-back Oscar nominations as best supporting actor for the 1960 mob drama “Murder, Inc.” and Frank Capra’s last film, the 1961 comedy-drama “Pocketful of Miracles.”

Paying tribute, actor-comedian Michael McKean said, “Peter Falk’s assault on conventional stardom went like this: You’re not conventionally handsome, you’re missing an eye and you have a speech impediment. Should you become a movie star? Peter’s correct answer: Absolutely.

“I got to hang with him a few times and later worked a day with him on a forgettable TV movie,” McKean went on, calling Falk “a sweet, sharp and funny man with a great soul. Wim Wenders called it correctly in ‘Wings of Desire’: He was an angel if there ever was one on Earth.”

“There is literally nobody you could compare him to. He was a completely unique actor,” said Rob Reiner, who directed Falk in “The Princess Bride.”

“His personality was really what drew people to him. … He had this great sense of humor and this great natural quality nobody could come close to,” Reiner said. Falk’s work with Alan Arkin in “The In-Laws” represents “one of the most brilliant comedy pairings we’ve seen on screen.”

Peter Michael Falk was born in 1927, in New York City and grew up in Ossining, N.Y., where his parents ran a clothing store.

After serving as a cook in the merchant marine and receiving a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University, Falk worked as an efficiency expert for the budget bureau of the state of Connecticut.

He also acted in amateur theater and was encouraged to become a professional by actress-teacher Eva Le Gallienne.

An appearance in “The Iceman Cometh” off-Broadway led to other parts, among them Josef Stalin in Paddy Chayefsky’s 1964 “The Passion of Josef D.” In 1971, Falk scored a hit in Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue,” Tony-nominated for best play.

Falk made his film debut in 1958 with “Wind Across the Everglades” and established himself as a talented character actor with his performance as the vicious killer Abe Reles in “Murder, Inc.”

Among his other movies: “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” “The Great Race,” “Luv,” “Castle Keep,” “The Cheap Detective” and “The Brinks Job.”

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