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'Columbo' star Peter Falk dies at 83

By Brent Lang

"Columbo" star Peter Falk has passed away at the age of 83.

Peter Falk as "Columbo" (©ABC)

Falk died Thursday in his Beverly Hills home, according to a statement released Friday by family friend Larry Larson.

In a court document filed in December 2008, Falk's daughter Catherine Falk said he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Search: More on Peter Falk's career

The gravelly voiced Falk was best known for his portrayal of the trench coat-wearing detective on the long-running TV series "Columbo."

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He received four Emmy awards for his starring role on the series, and his portrayal of the seemingly absent-minded investigator made Falk a television icon. The series ran from 1971 to 1978 on NBC and launched several later television movies that aired on ABC.

He also was a key member of iconoclastic filmmaker John Cassavetes' regular ensemble, starring in such independent film classics as "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974) and "Husbands" (1970). In his collaborations with Cassavetes, Falk often portrayed hard-drinking, blue-collar figures whose brutish exteriors masked bruised egos and surprisingly tender sides.

Preferring smoother-faced and smoother-voiced icons as feature film stars, Hollywood frequently failed to provide Falk with the kind of meaty roles that he enjoyed through his work with Cassavetes. However, he was frequently in demand, usually appearing as the heavy in gangster films such as "Murder Inc." (1960) or the comic foil in big-screen parodies such as "Murder by Death" (1976).

Though his film career began to wane toward the end of the 1970s, Falk did manage to snag two further high-profile roles that helped cement his legacy. His portrayal of the story-telling grandfather in Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride" (1986) helped reintroduce the actor to a mainstream crowd, while his role playing himself in Wim Wenders' fantasy drama "Wings of Desire" (1987) re-established his art-house bona fides.

Falk received two Oscar nominations for his work in "Murder Inc." and Frank Capra's "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961).

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