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Factbox: Key facts about the life and career of Peter Falk

(Reuters) - Actor Peter Falk, best known for this television role as the seemingly absent-minded but shrewd police detective on NBC’s “Columbo” has died at age 83, a representative for his family said on Friday.

Following are some key facts about Falk’s life and his key role as detective Columbo.

-- “Columbo” was one of three rotating elements of the “NBC Sunday Mystery Movie” series in the 1970s, alternating with “McMillan and Wife” and “McCloud,” and was by far the most popular.

-- In 1989, more than a decade after the original program had left prime time, Falk returned with a new series of “Columbo” made-for-TV films for the “ABC Mystery Movie” broadcasts.

-- Columbo’s wife, who the character refers to often as “the missus,” was never seen in the series, and the detective’s own first name was never explicitly revealed.

-- Falk was actually the second choice to play the disheveled police lieutenant, after producers first approached Hollywood crooner and film star Bing Crosby, then 67, who reportedly declined the part because it would have interfered with his golf game.

-- Born in New York City, Falk lost his right eye to cancer at age 3, and wore a glass eye for most of his life. His missing eye kept him out of the armed services during World War II, so he joined the Merchant Marine.

-- His glass eye proved an early stumbling block to his film career. He failed a Columbia Pictures screen test and, studio boss Harry Cohn was said to have told him: “For the same money I can get an actor with two eyes.”

-- Falk got his start in the movies playing a lot of bad-guy roles, earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of gangster Abe Reles in the 1960 “Murder, Inc,” based on the real-life 1930s New York crime organization of that name. The following year, he was nominated again for an Oscar in “Pocketful of Miracles”

-- He was a close friend of filmmaker John Cassavetes, and appeared in several of the director’s movies, including “A Woman Under the Influence” and “Husbands.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Paul Simao

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