The sixty fifth episode of Columbo was titled Ashes to Ashes and was the third episode of the show’s final season. Columbo goes head-to-head with a celebrity undertaker. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the final appearance of a much-loved performer.
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In his final on-screen role, Columbo veteran Patrick McGoohan makes his fourth appearance in the show, playing Eric Prince, a celebrity undertaker who shares the secrets of the dead with a tabloid reporter. When that reporter, Verity Chandler (Rue McClanahan), works out that Prince stole a valuable necklace from a corpse she tells him she intends to report it, a revelation that leads to her immediate death at his hands.
The episode focuses largely on Prince and Columbo‘s interaction (to its benefit), but there are small supporting roles for Sally Kellerman as grieving widow Liz Houston, Ron Masak as fence Eddie Fenelle, Spencer Garrett as Verity’s PA Roger Gambles, Richard Riehle as Sergeant Degarmo, Richard Libertini as Sheikh Yarami, Edie McClurg as another widow – this time one vital to the conclusion of the investigation – and Catherine McGoohan (daughter of Patrick) as Rita, an assistant at the funeral parlour.
Patrick McGoohan, as in two of his three previous performance, doubled up as director, working with a young playwright named Jeffrey Hatcher, who has gone on to create cinema screenplays for films including The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, and Mr. Holmes with Lord of the Rings star, Sir Ian McKellen.
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Ashes to Ashes was released in 1998. It is 88 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal (all remaining episodes are considered ‘Season 10’ in the DVD collection).