Information from: The Columbo Phile by Mark Dawidziak
An electric blanket keeps the body
Dale attends the opening of an art gallery exhibit. His young protegee,
art student Tracy O'Connor, stays at the mansion and waits for the
exact moment when the security guard is scheduled to make his check.
After removing the heated blanket, she fires a shot and runs out the
back way. The guard rushes in to find a body that's still warm. Dale,
who is dropping bon mats at the gallery, has the perfect alibi.
When the police start piecing together what happened, several
details bother Lieutenant Columbo. How did the crooks beat the alarm
system? He suspects that they had somebody on the inside. Secondly,
the security officer heard the sound of high-heels running in the
distance. A woman was involved.
Finally, the pattern of the robbery doesn't make any sense. At first,
in the hall entrance, the thieves nabbed paintings of lesser value. In
murder room, during what had to be seconds before the killing, the
crooks suddenly got smart and selected two valuable Degas pastels.
Dale realises that he staged the break-in badly. And he sees that
Columbo won't be easily shaken.
Columbo's theory is that Dale had someone murder his uncle so he
could inherit the art collection. The detective is stunned when lawyer
Frank Simpson reads Matthewst wilt. The art treasures have been left
to the murdered man's sweet but slightly scattered ex-wife, Edna.
Maybe Dale didn't know about the changes, Columbo suggests. Ah,
the art critic knew two weeks before the killing. He has a letter from
his uncle to prove it.
Dale's plan is much more sinister than Columbo suspected. He shot
his uncle and he now intends to frame Edna for the killing. Tracy
threw the murder weapon in Edna's backyard, which is walking
distance from her former husband's mansion. Dale will nail the case
shut by getting the stolen paintings from Tracy and planting them in
Once the paintings have been transferred to his car, Dale picks up a
rock and kills Tracy. Columbo is waiting back at the critic's house. He
dropped by to took at a few art books.
Columbo notices that Dale is carrying a portfolio. He reaches to
took at the paintings inside, but Dale puts him off, claiming fatigue.
The murder weapon is found, and Dale feigns concern for his
vulnerable aunt. Edna couldn't kill anybody, he declares. To Dale's
disgust, Columbo agrees with him. Edna is a very fragile person, the
lieutenant says. He doesn't want to push her too hard. He'd hate to
make another mistake. There wilt be no accusations until the case is
Edna tells Columbo that Randy had tired of the collection. She had
convinced him to leave the paintings to museums and universities. Such
lovely works should belong to the people. That's what Ted to the
change in the with
Dale suggests that Columbo search Edna's house. When he doesn't
find anything, Edna can be scratched off the list of suspects. Columbo
doesn't see any need for it, so Dale convinces Frank Simpson to go
over the policeman's head. He claims it will protect Edna in the event
that the district attorney decides to prosecute the person with the
The police search Edna's house and find the paintings. They
immediately start dusting for fingerprints. Columbo tells Dale that
still the primary suspect. Prove it, Dale demands. We can, Columbo
says, with fingerprints.
That won't do any good at all, Date informs him. His fingerprints
would be all over those paintings.
No, not yours, Columbo says, "mine." He reminds Date about
evening at his home, when he walked in with the portfolio. Columbo
wanted to see the paintings inside. He grabbed for them. He touched
If Edna had stolen the paintings, how did Columbo's fingerprints get
on them? Date screams entrapment. Columbo must have just touched
them now. The detective slowly removes his hands from the pockets
of his raincoat. He's wearing gloves.
The first of several Columbo scripts written by Jackson Gilles,
Suitable for Framing" compares very favourably to "Murder by
Book', and "Death Lends a Hand." These three episodes are the
creme de la creme of the first season.
A crafty writer, Gittis displayed particular cunning when crafting
clever Columbo clues. It was a gift that Falk, Levinson and Link
greatly appreciated and admired.
"Boy, Jackson could come up with some wonderful clues," Bill
exclaimed. "Dick and I had been working on a clue using
We just couldn't get it. We were hitting our heads against the watt.
Jackson came up with the idea of the policeman's fingerprints being
the pivotal clue. He really baited Dick and me out on Suitable for
Framing We were ready to kiss him.
"You see, most mystery writers get the ending first. You write
backward. But in Columbo, you had to start with an interesting villain
and Unaware that one friend is framing another [or murder, lawyer Frank
Simpson (Don Ameche) tries to figure out where Columbo's investigation
heading ( Suitable for Framing").
A perfect crime. We rarely worked backward from the ending. They
were very tough. When Columbo got in trouble, it was usually a weak
ending. Some are very good. Some are weak. Because of Jackson,
'Suitable for Framing' is one of the best endings."
Nobody pushed for good clues harder than Falk.
"The Columbo format made it difficult to turn out scripts,"
'There are a limited number of writers who can do this. There's a
mind-set and a philosophy that make this type of writing tricky. And
another big problem is that television is always so frantic. My ideal
to have five or six Columbo scripts on the shelf sitting there. Why
can't television have it done in advance? Get them right before you
start doing them.
"You have to be careful with Columbo. There are real clues and
there are things that just have the appearance of being clues. There
are real clues that have a genuine ingenuity and a real delight when
the audience finds out what they are. The best kind of clue is the type
where the audience says, 'Why didn't I think of that?' But at the same
time, they're saying, 'Gee, that's clever.' Most clues are fake. They
just manipulate. Real clues are hard to come by. They're like hen's
teeth. When you get one, the ending is a delicious surprise. It's
taining, brilliant, unpredictable yet totally convincing and satisfying
in every way. They're rare."
Directed by television veteran Hy Averback, "Suitable for
(the fourth pun title in a row) also benefits from one of the strongest
all-around casts ever assembled for a Columbo. Vic Tayback, later Mel
in the movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and the CBS series
version (Alice), has some nice moments as avant-garde artist Sam
Franklin (Falk has a marvellous time in the scene where Columbo,
thoroughly flustered and embarrassed by the presence of a nude model,
tries to question Franklin). Wonderful character actress Mary Wickes
has a cameo as Tracy O'Connor's gossipy landlady. Joan Shawtee, an
Abbott and Costello graduate who played Pickles on The Dick Van
Dyke Show, plays flamboyant art gallery owner Mitilda. Kim Hunter,
am Academy Award winner for A Streetcar Named Desire, makes an
endearing Edna. Don Ameche, who would go on to overcome a
ten-year career slump and win an Oscar for Cocoon, (1985), is typi-
cally stalwart and dignified as Frank. And Ross Martin, best known as
Artemus Gordon on The Wild, Wild West, is still another worthy
addition to Columbo's rogues gallery. Thirty-two years before
able for Framing," twelve-year-old Peter Falk got his first taste
acting while attending summer camp in upstate New York. His dra-
matics counselor was Ross Martin.
Originally Aired: November 17th, 1971
Directed by: Hy Averback
Levinson and William Link
Associate Producer: Robert F, O'Neil
Story Editor: Steve Bochco
Music Score: Billy Goldenberg
Sunday Mystery Movie Theme: Henry Mancini
Director of Photography: Russell L. Metty, A.S.C
Art Director: Arch Bacon
Film Editor: Budd Small
Set Decorations: Richard Friedman
Assistant Director: Gil Mandelik
Sound: James H. Alexander
Unit Manager: Henery Kline
Editorial Supervisor: Richard Belding
Main Title Design: Wayne Fitzgerald
Title and special effects by Universal Title