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Peter Falk, the iconic star of TV's Columbo, dies at 83

Peter Falk, the stage and movie actor who became identified as the squinty, rumpled TV detective in Columbo, has died.

Falk (83) died on Thursday in his Beverly Hills home, according to family friend Larry Larson.

In a court document filed in December 2008, Falk's daughter Catherine said he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Columbo spanned 30 years in prime-time television and established one of the most iconic characters in police work.

Falk grew up in Ossining, New York, where his parents ran a clothing store. At three he had one eye removed because of cancer and went on to defy entertainment chiefs who said he would never work in TV or films.

"When something like that happens early," he said in a 1963 interview, "you learn to live with it. It became the joke of the neighbourhood. If the umpire ruled me out on a bad call, I'd take the fake eye out and hand it to him."

In fact Falk won two Oscar nominations (Murder, Inc in 1960 and Pocketful Of Miracles in 1961) and collected five Emmys.

After university, he worked as an efficiency expert for the budget bureau of the state of Connecticut. He broke into the theatre after performing in amateur productions .

An appearance in The Iceman Cometh off Broadway led to other classical parts, notably as Joseph Stalin in The Passion Of Joseph D.

He made his film debut in 1958 with Wind Across The Everglades and established himself as a talented character actor with his performance as the vicious killer Abe Reles in Murder, Inc.

He was married to pianist Alyce Mayo in 1960. They had two daughters, Jackie and Catherine, and divorced in 1976.

The following year he married actress Shera Danese. They filed for divorce twice and reconciled each time.