Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Faye & Falk are Flirtatious Fun in ‘Columbo’ 1993

Faye Dunaway & Peter Falk, as the socialite suspect & detective, may banter but know that 'It's All in the Game."

This second go-round of the Columbo series had one of its highlights with hi-octane guest star Faye Dunaway in the 1993 episode, “It’s All in the Game.” The plot, while fine-tuned, plays second fiddle to the flirtatious sparring of Dunaway as a L.A. socialite suspected of murder and the ever-dogged Lt. Columbo.
Faye Dunaway plays a socialite with a secret, and her gambler boyfriend is the key.
At 52, Dunaway looks divine in her 'Columbo' guest shot.

Dunaway is Lauren Staten, a vivacious society woman shown throwing a swanky party, when she gets a drop-in by her younger lover, Nick Franco. She urges him to leave, to go play poker, while she plays hostess. It turns out Lauren is in cahoots with another, younger woman, Lisa Martin, who’s also connected to Nick. They have teamed, in a plot to kill him, and make it look like a bungled burglary. All goes as planned until Columbo comes on the scene, and no detail ever escapes his squinting eye.
Peter Falk's Columbo, as rumpled as ever, is hiding his pajama top in this scene!

At first, Lauren is not overly concerned, but soon finds she’s underestimated the detective. She decides to use her feminine wiles on him, to a point, and charm him away. Columbo seems taken by this elegant woman’s attentions. As the story goes on, their respective tricks of the trade heighten, and you wonder if the much heard about Mrs. Columbo has something to worry about!
The society dame and the detective wine and dine each other.

No spoilers are given here, except the title of this episode tells you that Columbo will remain true to the Mrs. And while you are aware that the society dame and the detective are playing each other, you also sense they respect each other’s skills and ultimate motives. While Dunaway’s Lauren Staten and the younger woman’s motives remain ambiguous until the end, you come to realize Staten’s no heartless killer.
Dunaway and Falk at a police station line up; the 'Game' is just about up...

Usually, Columbo’s suspects start off cordial but become increasingly frazzled toward the detective’s increasing visits, designed to keep them off-kilter. Here, Faye’s wealthy woman is intrigued and finds him a worthy adversary, and vice-versa with Columbo. Compliments, gifts, and even kisses are exchanged. While their relationship intensifies, Falk’s detective eventually gets his woman, though the finale is a bit of a departure from most Columbo episodes.
While Claudia Christian and Armando Pucci are fine as Lisa and Nick, it’s Peter Falk and Faye Dunaway all the way.  Falk has his Columbo performance down to a science by now, a little less showy than the early years. Also, Falk wrote this Columbo episode!
Faye Dunaway won her lone Emmy in '94 for her 'Columbo' guest shot.

Faye Dunaway won a well-deserved Emmy for her guest shot on this ’93 Columbo episode. After 1981’s Mommie Dearest, Dunaway played mostly a series of baroque bitches, not unlike Elizabeth Taylor after she starred in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
How often have you ever seen Faye Dunaway look so light-hearted?
What a joy to see Faye in her later years looking fabulous and giving a restrained performance as an empathetic woman. In her scenes with Falk, Faye gets to have fun and be flirtatious, and Dunaway’s enchanting. As the plot unravels, you see Lauren Staten’s sincere motivations, and Dunaway is quite moving in the denouement. Faye’s fashion style here is so timeless; she could step off the screen and be perfectly in vogue nearly 30 years later. It’s a gem of a role, and Faye Dunaway rocks it! Enjoy Faye and Falk create some fine chemistry here.

The LA socialite gets roses from Lt. Columbo. This episode is a bouquet to Faye Dunaway.


  1. Faye Dunaway was the first movie star I ever recognized and followed. Have loved watching her countless times ever since (and even when she or the project is rotten, she's typically at least *interesting* to watch.) This TV-movie is one of her FINEST HOURS as an actress during the later part of her career. Their interplay is spectacular and she looks dazzling through most of it. The story had me guessing for much of the running time, too. Thank you so much for spotlighting it!!!

    1. Hey Poseidon,
      Faye is like old-school stars Crawford and Davis, despite however deplorable the vehicle might be, Dunaway never just walks through the part. Speaking of which, if Dunaway meets Bette and Joan in the hereafter, they might need an intervention! I've been on a Columbo kick during Covid, and this one was as good as I remembered! BTW, NBC's new Peacock streaming is offering all 10 seasons of Columbo for free.
      And yes, I thought of you when I wrote this!
      Cheers, Rick