Peter Falk’s greatest role: himself

Yesterday, I received a news notification from CNN on my phone that actor Peter Falk had died. Falk was best known for his role as Columbo, but I was born in 1985. I’ve never seen Columbo. A second thought then entered my mind.

I thought to myself, “I think that guy played an American in a German film that I watched in high school…”

I vaguely recalled a movie called Wings of Desire where two angels observe people in their daily lives, and where one of the angels falls in love with a human woman and gives up his immortality (because angels are immortal, as everyone knows) in order to become a mortal man and pursue the woman with whom he has fallen in love.

Spoiler alert: he becomes mortal and the two fall in love. It is the only film in the history of German cinema to have a happy ending.

That all may sound familiar. There is an American remake of the film called City of Angels made in 1998 starring Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage. Although it doesn’t end happily. Meg Ryan gets hit by a truck and dies.

But what did Peter Falk have to do with the German version of the story? Did the wires in my psyche get proverbially crossed and supplant him into the plot of a movie I barely paid attention to almost a decade ago?

So I went to the Wikipedia article. First things first. My recollection of the plot was pretty spot on. And not only had Peter Falk been in the movie, he PLAYED HIMSELF. Peter Falk played Peter Falk in a 1980s German movie. Greatest actor of all time.

He plays himself, and you find out that Peter Falk used to be an angel, but had, like the star of the film, given up his immortality to become a human. And now Peter Falk is deceased. I couldn’t help but wonder, “what if Peter Falk actually had been an angel?”

Peter Falk playing Peter Falk is on the same level of awesome as in the Eddie Money song “Take Me Home Tonight,” where Eddie says, “just like Ronnie sang…”

And then Ronnie Spector, who was famous for singing a song titled “Be My Baby” in the Ronettes sings “be my little baby.”

As an aside, the star of Wings of Desire was Bruno Ganz. He played Hitler in an amazing movie about Germany’s last days in World War II called Downfall.

That movie features a climactic scene where it becomes apparent that winning the war is no longer a possibility for Germany. Hitler explodes in a rage at his senior officials.

There are several dozen videos on YouTube which utilize this scene and change the subtitles jokingly. You’ve probably seen these. That’s Bruno Ganz. He was also in the Liam Neeson thriller called Unknown which came out earlier this year.

Recalling Peter Falk was definitely a blast from the past. Rest in Peace Peter Falk.

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