Columbo (1971–2003)
30 user 7 critic

Étude in Black 

A ruthless conductor murders the gifted pianist with whom he is having an affair. Lt. Columbo is on the case.


Nicholas Colasanto, John Cassavetes (uncredited) | 1 more credit »


Steven Bochco (teleplay by), Richard Levinson (story by) | 3 more credits »




Episode complete credited cast:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
John Cassavetes ... Alex Benedict
James Olson ... Paul Rifkin
Blythe Danner ... Janice Benedict
Anjanette Comer ... Jenifer Welles
Myrna Loy ... Lizzy Fielding
James McEachin ... Billy Jones
Don Knight ... Mike Alexander
Pat Morita ... The House Boy
Michael Pataki ... Sam (scenes deleted)
Michael Fox ... Dr. Benson
Dawn Frame Dawn Frame ... Audrey
Charles Macaulay Charles Macaulay ... Durkee
George Gaynes ... Everett
Wallace Chadwell Wallace Chadwell ... TV Director


Music conductor Alex Benedict has an affair with a pianist. When the pianist threatens to reveal their affair to Benedict's wife, whose wealthy mother owns the company on which Benedict's career is dependent, Benedict decides to permanently silence his mistress. He arranges for her death to look like a suicide by kitchen stove gas asphyxiation. Lieutenant Columbo, a cunning detective in a rumpled raincoat, doesn't believe the pianist took her own life and suspects that Benedict was responsible for her death. He pesters Benedict with constant questions as he searches for clues to place Benedict at the murder scene. Written by Kevin McCorry <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

17 September 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Etude i sort See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The jazz club reappeared later as the basement of the wax museum in Columbo: Dagger of the Mind (1972). See more »


The position of the carnation dropped under the piano is first shown to the left of the piano leg, then under the piano not near the piano leg, then finally behind the piano leg. See more »


Jenifer Welles: Darling, I know you. I know you're not really afraid of hurting Janice. You're just reluctant to lose her mother's backing... and all that money. Don't worry. You're a genius.
Alex Benedict: Yes.
Jenifer Welles: You'll always have everything. You're just a little weak, deep inside, and all you really need is me. And I need you, because I'm the same.
See more »

Alternate Versions

This two-hour TV movie was also prepared in a 90-minute version which played on Canadian television, and is reputed to be the superior of the two cuts. See more »


Featured in Pioneers of Television: Crime Dramas (2011) See more »


Lover Man
Composed by Jimmy Davis
Trumpet played by James Olson with his combo at jazz club.
See more »

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User Reviews

A Columbo adventure that hits the right notes in most places!
23 August 2004 | by leightonphillipsSee all my reviews

A slightly unoriginal plot aside, this is a well-unravelled, holding Columbo story, highlighted by some thoughtfully conceived and executed sequences involving real-life friends Peter Falk and John Cassavetes; a fact which unquestionably amplifies the script's effectiveness.

Ordinarily, the quality of the sequences of banter between detective and villain is a significant yardstick in the overall success of the episode; in this case, despite this characteristic, other scenes could have been expanded to better effect - no motive is really ever discussed and Columbo seems to latch onto the villain with less evident evidence than in some other experiences (the important factors about the pink carnation are not significantly developed until later).

One other slight fault is that there are less pieces of evidence to grab hold of here, but in one respect, the script-writer is very clever in intimating that the carnation is going to play an important part in this story, but the nailing of the villain is perhaps not as straightforward as one might have expected.

Generally, a very pleasing episode, which is not as predictable as one may think.

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