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Subject: Archive: Bert Freed , Aug. 2, 1994


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Actor (first one to play Lt. Columbo)
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Date Posted: Friday, August 02, 04:24:03pm

Bert Freed (November 3, 1919 August 2, 1994) was an American character actor, voice-over actor, and the first actor to portray Detective Columbo.


Life and career

Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Freed began acting while attending Penn State University,[1] and made his Broadway debut in 1942. Following World War II Army service in the European theatre, he appeared in the Broadway musical The Day Before Spring in 1945 and dozens of television shows between 1947 and 1985. His film debut occurred, oddly enough, in a musical Carnegie Hall (1947).

Freed portrayed Rufe Ryker in the television series Shane, in which Freed added a unique touch of realism by beginning the show clean-shaven and growing a beard from one week to the next, never shaving again through the season.

Freed played homicide detective Lt. Columbo in a live 1960 television episode of The Chevy Mystery Show seven years before Peter Falk played the role, and also before Thomas Mitchell portrayed the eccentric police detective on stage prior to the Falk version. He made four guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of Ken Woodman in the 1960 episode, "The Case of the Treacherous Toupee"; murder victim Joe Marshall in the 1964 episode, "The Case of the Ruinous Road"; and Carl Holman, whose wife is the murderer in the 1962 episode "The Case of the Poison Pen-Pal."

He appeared (sometimes more than once) in many other television shows such as The Rifleman, Laramie, Bonanza, The High Chaparral, Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, The Virginian, Mannix, Barnaby Jones, Charlie's Angels, Then Came Bronson, Run For Your Life, Get Smart, The Lucy Show, Hogan's Heroes, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, Combat!, Petticoat Junction, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, Ironside, The Green Hornet, The Munsters, The Untouchables, and many others. He directed one episode of T.H.E. Cat.

Freed appeared as a racist club owner in No Way Out (1950), Private Slattery in Halls of Montezuma (1951), the Police Chief in Invaders From Mars (1953), Sgt. Boulanger in Paths of Glory (1957), the hangman in Hang 'Em High (1968), Max's father in Wild in the Streets (1968), as Chief of Detectives in Madigan (1968), a homosexual prison guard in There Was a Crooked Man... (1970) and Bernard's father in Billy Jack (1971) in which he got "whumped" on the side of the face by Billy Jack's right foot "just for the hell of it."

Later years and death

He retired from acting in 1986, and died of a heart attack in Sechelt, British Columbia, in 1994 while on a fishing trip with his son.

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