Peter Falk's two daughters were banned from spending adequate time with him in his last days — the actor's second wife allegedly slammed the door in their faces, and what's more? She got away with it.
Peter Falk is famous for creating a legacy with his character as "Colombo" — a forgetful detective. To understand what happened within the actor's family, fans must know what sort of man he was.
Peter was arguably a fantastic actor. He was once laughed at when he sought to become a CIA operative because he had only one working eye. However, he became an actor despite his family's discouragement.
Peter Falk and Shera Danese circa 1977 in Los Angeles [left]. Actor Peter Falk's daughter Katherine on the set of his TV show "Columbo" on December 16, 1975 in Los Angeles, California [right] | Source: Getty Images
Peter has been described as a true "force of nature." Read on to find out the kind of people — friends, lovers, family — he was surrounded by.
He reportedly was the happiest when he drank with his friends; he reportedly loved life and women. Peter spent 50 years being married to two women, but he was never loyal to either of them. He spent 16 years with his first wife, Alyce Mayo.
Peter Falk in London on April 24, 1969 | Photo: Getty Images
HE PURSUED HER FOR YEARS… THEN CHEATED ON HER
Peter Falk knew how to act. He was good at many things, in fact, including speaking to women. The late actor saw no problem pursuing his college sweetheart, Alyce Mayo, for more than a decade before she eventually agreed to marry him.
It took some time for Catherine to find out that her father was laid to rest.
Peter Falk on August 9, 2007, in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images
They tied the knot in 1960; then Peter proceeded to cheat on her without regard for what she thought relentlessly. "He was an incorrigible philanderer," says Richard Lertzman, co-author of the biography, "Beyond Columbo."
According to Lertzman, who collaborated with William Birnes to write the book, Peter pursued women on every film set while Alyce turned a blind eye. She endured it for as much as she could, and during the duration of their marriage, they adopted two girls.
Peter Falk at the Variety Centennial Gala on December 2, 2005, in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images
The youngest, Catherine, studied sociology at Syracuse — the same university her mom graduated from, while the oldest, Jacquelyn, attended the University of Southern California as a psychology grad student.
Peter and Mayo went their separate ways in 1976 after she had had enough of his nefarious activities. After the divorce, the artistic woman continued to thrive and live a driven and satisfactory life that saw her meet many friends and share unique relationships.
Peter Falk on October 3, 2005, in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images
THE WOMAN WHO REFUSED HIM
After his marriage with Mayo was dissolved, Peter married one of the women he had cheated with, actress Shera Danese, 22 years younger than him.
Their relationship had started with Peter chasing her down to beg for a date after he spotted her walking on a Philadelphia street. She wasn't interested at first, but Peter was very persistent, so she agreed to a meeting over a cocktail.
Peter Falk and Shera Danese circa 1981 in Los Angeles | Photo: Getty Images
That cocktail became more, and eventually, they got married, and the actor kept up his extramarital engagements, even ramping them up, with volatile consequences. About their relationship Lertzman said:
"They were known across Hollywood as the Fighting Falks, always arguing, breaking up, then reconciling."
Indeed, the lovebirds filed for divorce twice, but they reconciled each time. Despite his infidelity, their union lasted up until he passed away.
Peter Falk and Shera Danese at the "Paradise Alley" Film Wrap-Up Party on February 11, 1978, at Universal Studios | Photo: Getty Images
THE DESPICABLE STEPMOM
As Peter Falk aged, his forgetfulness, acute flaw that endeared him to people first as a person then as Colombo, gradually turned into something much worse.
He developed severe Alzheimer's in 2006, and his unhappiness ensured that he went down that road much more rapidly. As he deteriorated, Danese dueled his adopted daughter, Catherine, in court over controlling the actor's care and wealth.
Peter Falk and Shera Danese at the 2004 Annual Lint Roller Party at Hollywood Athletic Club in Hollywood | Photo: Getty Images
According to what Catherine said in an old interview, Danese could not stand her and her sister since they were kids. And this only became worse as their father's case deteriorated.
Catherine also once said that she and her sister Jacquelyn were barred from having contact with their father for months because Danese slammed the door in their faces when they visited.
Peter Falk and Shera Danese at the 11th Annual Amanda Foundation Comedy Night and Silent Auction in Santa Monica | Photo: Getty Images
And that's not all; according to Catherine, Danese intentionally caused her panic when she called her father's private line one day. She expected to hear her dad, but instead, it was Danese letting her know that her father "never wants to speak with her again."
In court, Catherine accused her stepmom of elder abuse. Still, the judge ruled in the older woman's favor, awarding her conservatorship and giving Catherine the grace of visiting for only 30 minutes twice per week.
Peter Falk and his wife Shera Danese on October 14, 2005 in Santa Monica, California | Photo: Getty Images
HE LOVED THE ATTENTION
In an interview posted to YouTube several months ago, Catherine was asked if she thinks her dad enjoyed his fame as an actor, and her answer was positive. She said confidently, "I think he loved the attention."
Indeed, Peter once mentioned that he had two dreams — one was to be in "the Actor's Studio" while the other was to have different actors recognize and accept him as a professional actor.
Those were his greatest desires, and he eventually lived to fulfill them. He did nothing better. He was a lousy father who was well aware of how much his two girls thought of him but still didn't spend a lot of time with them, an unfaithful husband, but no one can deny him his respect as a great actor.
Peter Falk on January 16, 2006, in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images.
Falk passed away on June 23 at his Beverly Hills home, the same one he shared with Danese, his wife of more than three decades.
After doing her best to isolate his daughters from him in his last years, for her final move as their stepmother, Danese kept news of Peter's death away from them so that they learned of his demise through the media.
Peter Falk at the 20th Anniversary William S. Paley Television Festival Presents "Columbo" at Directors Guild of America in Hollywood | Photo: Getty Images
It took some time for Catherine to find out that her father was laid to rest at the Westwood Memorial Park, alongside stars like Caroll O'Connor and Jack Lemmon. Meanwhile, Danese walked away with most of her late husband's wealth.