Show-business history records that the American actor Peter Falk, who has died aged 83, made his stage debut the year before he left high school, presciently cast as a detective. Despite the 17-year-old's fleeting success, he had no thoughts of pursuing acting as a career – if only because tough kids from the Bronx considered it an unsuitable job for a man. Just 24 years later, Falk made his first television appearance as the scruffy detective, Columbo, not only becoming the highest paid actor on television – commanding $500,000 an episode during the 1970s – but also the most famous.
Inevitably the lieutenant dedicated to unravelling the villainy of the wealthy and glamorous dominated his career, although – unlike some actors – he escaped the straitjacket, or in his case shabby raincoat, of typecasting. In addition to stage work,