COLUMBO: -Lady in Waiting- (S01E05, 1971)

(peacock/tubi) The brilliant and multi-faceted Norman Lloyd passed away on May 10th. While he was best known as one of Orson Welles’ Mercury players, as well as Dr. Daniel Auschlander on ST. ELSEWHERE, he also directed one of the first COLUMBO episodes: -Lady in Waiting-.

-Lady in Waiting- centers around heiress Beth Chadwick (Susan Clark), a woman we’re told is homely, and she desperately wants to marry everyman Peter Hamilton (Leslie Nielsen, in his first COLUMBO appearance) but can’t gain the approval of her controlling brother Bryce, the elder heir of the family business. Her solution? Murder.

The show was still finding its footing at this time, but it — like many of the first season episodes — was playfully experimental. In the opening, Beth vividly imagines how the murder will take place through a haze of optical effects as she tears through a box of chocolates in bed. She snaps back to real life and we then see how the murder actually plays out. Lloyd does brilliant work instilling tension through a cacophony of diegetic sound, snappy edits, and post-process zooms.

While it’s not the most memorable COLUMBO episode, it features a surprising character arc for Beth, who comes out of her shell upon killing her brother. It’s a rarity to see a COLUMBO murderer mature after the committing the crime; Beth gains confidence, starts dressing and acting the way she wants, and she knows exactly how she wants to steer the family business. She’s one of the few COLUMBO murderers I sympathize with, and Lloyd did a fantastic job wrangling the episode.

Sadly, no trailer for this ep, but please enjoy this AV Club Random Roles piece between Norman Lloyd and expert interviewer Will Harris.