Season 2 Episode 1

Etude in Black

Aired Unknown Sep 17, 1972 on NBC
out of 10
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65 votes

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Episode Summary

Etude in Black

The mistress of a conductor becomes a target for murder after threatening to tell all to her lover's wife.

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  • Back in Black

    A landmark entry in the Columbo series, Etude in Black is a riveting crime drama. When an orchestra conductor kills his mistress for threatening to make their affair public Lt. Columbo is assigned to the case, which at first looks like an apparent suicide. The writing's very good, and does an impressive job at building suspense and intrigue. Additionally, John Cassavetes and Blythe Danner deliver strong performances and have remarkable on-screen presences that engage the audience. And, Columbo's famous basset hound, Dog, makes his debut appearance, which adds a nice bit of humor to the film. Thrilling and well-crafted, Etude in Black is a captivating murder mystery.moreless
  • A maestro murders his mistress in order for her not to inform his wife about their affair.

    John Cassavetes who plays as Alex Benedict in the movie gives a fine performance. His shock and surprise at learning that his talented pianist has committed suicide is well acted; ensuring Columbo is aware of this.

    I did not particularly like the scene where Alex steals his own E-type Jaguar from the garage in order to reach his mistress to murder her. This did not really feature at a later stage of the movie.

    The flower left at the scene of the murder showed predictability of how Columbo would finally solve the case.

    Alexs' arrogance in the movie is reminiscent to his role in Rosemary's Baby.moreless
  • Spoilers

    The script hints at a certain predictability when the possibly incriminating carnation is retrieved from the murder scene by the murderer in front of Columbo, but it is a testament to the cleverness of the script-writer that the resolution is is more substantial than anticipated.

    In other respects, the script does not sufficiently expand on certain areas of the plot; Columbo never directly mentions a precise motive for the crime, nor is it clear as to why Columbo becomes suspicious of the actual murderer when the incriminating evidence is used much later on. One other slightly negative thing is that the circumstantial pieces of evidence are not as spectacular or as numerous as some of the other quality episodes.

James Olson

James Olson

Paul Rifkin

Guest Star

Blythe Danner

Blythe Danner

Janice Benedict

Guest Star

Anjanette Comer

Anjanette Comer

Jenifer Welles

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Columbo: (looks at film, calling to projectionist) Freeze! (points to screen) There's the flower! Now that's plain as day! Where did it come from?
      Benedict: I don't know. What difference does it make?
      Columbo: Well, on the tape at the concert you weren't wearing a flower. Now on this film coming out of Miss Welles's apartment, you have a flower. Where did it come from?
      Benedict: Are you actually trying to pin this murder on me with, with that?
      Columbo: Yes.

    • Columbo: Anyway, what I was going to ask you is this- How much do you make?

      Alex Benedict: I think that is very impertinent, how much do I make.

      Columbo: Tours?

      Benedict: I don't know.

      Columbo: Concerts?

      Benedict: I don't know.

      Columbo: Publishing?

      Benedict: I don't know.

      Columbo: Well, et cetera, et cetera. I make $11,000 a year. I got $750,000 for the house, $8,000 in taxes, 200 in furniture. How much help do you have?

      Benedict: I have five including the gardener.

      Columbo: You got that and the money plus, plus, plus. 11,000 times 10 years, 110,000. 110,000 times 100 years is 1.1 million. Well, let's say 900,000. That's 90 years work for me just to live here, without eating.

    • Columbo: Listen Paul, do you happen to know the name of the other guy?

      Paul Rifkin: I never asked.

      Columbo: Oh, sure. I mean, why would a guy ask his girl the name of the other man.

    • Columbo: Oh, listen, just one more thing. I know you don't agree but at least I've convinced my superiors that Jenifer Welles was murdered. It was not a suicide and they've officially assigned me to the case. That's my specialty, you know. Homicide.

    • Columbo: I happened to be in the neighborhood today. That's not true. I really came out here to see you. I don't want to appear presumptious.

    • Columbo: I can't imagine anyone murdering themselves, especially a young girl like that. Beautiful eyes. But that's me. I'd like to see everyone die of old age.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Myrna Loy is credited as Special Guest Star.

    • The name of Anjanette Comer's character, Jenifer Welles, is the same as that of an adult film star popular at the time this episode was filmed, namely, Jennifer Welles. Perhaps the unusual spelling of "Jenifer", was used to avoid direct association with the real life Miss Welles when this fact became apparent.

    • This episode marks the first appearance of Dog, Columbo's basset hound. He was introduced after the network insisted the show have another continuing character. Instead of a police sidekick, Levinson and Link decided to bring in a dog that didn't really do anything.

    • 120 minute episode. Originally this was written by Stephen Bochco as a 90-minute episode and Dean Hargrove re-wrote it for a 120-minute timeslot. Bochco never liked the extended version. The original 90-minute version was broadcast only in Canada.

    • Blythe Danner (Janice Benedict) was five months pregnant with her daughter, Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, during the filming of this episode.


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