Murder is Bad, but Suicide is Sadder

Episode Card_S01E03 (Ep 3)

Mallory Ortberg (the-toast.net) joins Jon and RJ to discuss “Etude in Black,” which features John Cassavetes as an orchestra conductor who murders his mistress/concert pianist. It’s up to Columbo to unravel how and why the maestro staged the woman’s death as an apparent suicide. Also involved- his long-suffering wife, Blythe Danner; her very, very wealthy mother, Myrna Loy; a precocious neighbor kid; and a drunk, hothead trumpeter.

Also discussed (among other things):

– Mallory’s wonderful essay, The Case For Making Columbo America’s Doctor Who.

– That time Cassavetes, Falk and Ben Gazarra went on The Dick Cavett show in 1970 and were kind of drunk jerks.

14 comments on “Murder is Bad, but Suicide is Sadder

    1. There used to be a longer version that showed the whole thing, where he would repeatedly almost leave the podium. It’s one of those things that keeps disappearing.

  1. Thanks for linking to Mallory’s great essay. Of all her possible future Columbos, the one I will have in my head forever is Danny Trejo. Casting Danny Trejo wouldn’t just upset the social apple cart. It would punch the apple seller in the face and set fire to the orchard.

  2. An interesting exception to Alex being a total jerk is when he asks the security guard, Carlos, about his sick kid. You wouldn’t expect him to care about that.

    These podcasts are great, the only suggestion I would make is to make them much longer. Each episode deserves at least four hours to cover everything.

  3. Hi. Just discovered this podcast via @glinner on Twitter, and I’m going through your episodes in order. Great show!

    I just wanted to say re Etude In Black that one of the things that jumped out at me was Cassavetes’s line “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a nap”! Desperate/lame excuse to get away from Columbo, or what?!

    1. I used to know a musician who always took an afternoon nap before an evening performance, so I wasn’t bothered by that. Speaking of the music, though, I think it’s strange that the concert the night of the murder begins with Beethoven and ends with Mozart — it would always certainly be the other way around. I always thought it was strange that when Alex conducts Beethoven’s Sixth, he begins in the middle of the third movement. And at the end, before the gotcha, he’s rehearsing Eine Kleiner Nachtmusik – a piece those musicians should be able to play in their sleep.

  4. I really enjoyed the podcast but I think you were too easy on the plot. Not only does it hinge on nobody seeing him when he goes between the Hollywood Bowl, the garage, and her house but the thing with the flower is also ridiculous. He could have just dropped his coat and picked up the flower and stuck it in his pocket. That way he’s never wearing it and it’s not suspicious. He had no need to confess. I’m pretty sure there was no physical evidence and there was a decent suspect in hot headed trumpet beatnik what’s his name. Oscar Finch would have gotten him off in a walk! Cassavettes (awesome!!!) does get annoyed with Columbo but he doesn’t go over his head. I wonder if that’s a trope they don’t use until later — telling the brass that Columbo is harassing them. And I think you were collectively wrong on a plot point — she did threaten to go public with their affair. And it’s Eva Gabor, not Zsa Zsa on Green Acres. Keep up the great work!

  5. “geniuses wouldn’t move around that much. They would make subtle movements.” — Any of you guys ever see Bernstein conduct?

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