• Craig Hunter

PT - Columbo - 004 - Suitable For Framing

Updated: Jan 26

Season 1 of The Predictably Treacherous Podcast continues with the incomparable Columbo.

Episode Summary: Art critic and International Man of Mystery Dale Kingston employs a middling art student to be his accomplice in the killing of his wealthy uncle.  He then attempts to frame his uncle's ex-wife for the murder so that his uncle's vast art collection will fall to him.

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Show Notes


Welcome everyone to The Predictably Treacherous podcast.  Today's epsiode is "Suitable for Framing" staring Ross Martin and Tracey O'Connell.  This is episode four of season one.  This episode was directed by Hy Averback and written by Jackson Gillis.  The original air date was November 17th, 1971 and the runtime was 73 minutes.

Let's get right to the episode summary.

Art critic and International Man of Mystery Dale Kingston employs a middling art student to be his accomplice in the killing of his wealthy uncle.  He then attempts to frame his uncle's ex-wife for the murder so that his uncle's vast art collection will fall to him.


The opening scene is inside a gaudy mansion with stadium ceilings and sparkling chandeliers   An old man is sitting at a piano playing Chopin in his bathrobe, naturally.  An international man of mystery with his rumpled velvet suit, enters the room and appreciates the music.  He checks his watch and then pulls out a gun and shots the old man. There's a cool music effect and the camera shows the shocked faces on the many paintings hanging on the walls. 0:55 to 1:01. The murderer goes upstairs and retrieves an electric blanket-this is LA by the way-from one of the bedrooms and covers the body on the floor.  

Then the "ransacking" troupe begins, knock over a lamp, flip over a chair, a table, pull books off the shelves, throw a flower pot into the fire place. Then he jimmies the patio door with a screwdriver.  That'll fool 'em. The murderer begins taking some paintings down from the walls and removing the canvases from the frames.  He takes two pastels of ballerinas and wraps them in brown paper that he tears from a large roll.  

The doorbell rings and he checks his watch, and walks over to the door and looks through the peephole.  He lets his attractive female accomplice in, and tells her she is late.  When she sees the body she dramatically recoils. She regains her composure and he kisses her for strength and leaves.  She looks around at the art and marvels.  She sits and looks at her watch on a chain around her neck and waits.

The International Man of Mystery, is Dale Kingston, an art critic.  He gets in his Rolls Royce and drives to an artist showing.  Inside, there are lots of pretentious people looking for art to hang in their bathrooms and a couple of girls in really short-shorts.  Dale arrives and the artist manager swoons for him, "Dale you never come to my showings"  "The invitations said there was free Champagne". Dale is supposed to be this highly respected art critic that writes scathing reviews of artists.  He comes across as a bit of a diva. The artist is Sam Franklin.  Dale makes a couple of condescending remarks about his works and begins fiddling with his watch.  Sam offers the time, five to eleven.

Meanwhile, Dale is making a baffoon of himself at the artist showing and the attendees are eating it up.  He frequently checks his watch. It's like he wants to make sure as many people as possible can account for him being there. There is a scene where Dale is surrounded by party-goers while he explains a piece that consists of these shiny twisting metal strips hanging in the air, sort of like a mobile for an adult.  He makes a joke about the relationship between the pieces being "where it's at".    I think it's a joke because everyone begins laughing and Kingston laughs a work laugh and then checks his watch while laughing...."where it's at" is another way of saying the relationship between the pieces...I think that's the joke.  I've seen this episode like 20 times...I just realized that this was a joke.

Back at the house, the young woman, Tracy O'Connell, an art student, has begun preparing for her part in the crime.  She has removed the electric blanket.  She looks through the peephole and confirms that a security guard is outside the door doing his rounds.  As he is about to drive away she fires a gun out the window.  He stops the car, runs to the front door and opens it with his set of keys.  As the security guard enters the house, Tracy opens the patio doors and runs down a long path of steps to her car and drives off.  The security guard hears the noise and runs to the patio door but Tracy is gone.

Columbo Intro

Next scene, Columbo is in the house with the paintings.  Some detectives are interviewing the butler.  The coroner is heard saying that the man was killed by a single bullet to the heart and the time of death was around 11pm, based on the temperature of the body. Dale Kingston arrives at the house.  The butler immediately rushes over to Kingston to tell him that he asked the police not to touch any of the paintings until he arrived.  A detective pulls Kingston away and Columbo asks the butler if Kingston is the new boss.  The butler says he hopes that Kingston keeps him in his employ as he was the deceased's only living relative but he doesn't feel its appropriate to talk about such things at a time like this.  

Columbo then dismisses the butler and locks onto Kingston. Rather than being sensitive to a man who just lost his only living relative, he begins asking Kingston seemingly meaningless, and annoying questions.  He asks him about the signature on a painting.  And then another signature, on another painting.  Columbo says he wishes the artists would write their signatures more clearly.  Kingston starts to get annoyed. They then discover that the valuable pastels are missing and Columbo wonders why the thief would take a relatively less valuable painting, then get smart and take the most valuable pastels.  Kingston concedes that it seems inconsistent.

A nice looking female cop named Sally arrives.  Actually, I guess she's a meter maid because she's wearing a slammin' uniform with short skirt, high heels, white gloves and askew hat. Lovely.They all go to the patio doors and Columbo explains that they found the patio door open but he can't figure out why the alarm didn't sound and why didn't the thief just use the window (he claims all professional thiefs use the window).  Columbo tells Sally to "go" and she starts running down the steps from the patio doors and the security guard confirms from inside that that is what he heard when he entered the house. Kingston says "you mean the thief was a woman." I don't get it, did the thief wear high heels to a robbery.  If you have to wear high heels as part of your cover then at least bring some New Balance to change into once the job's in progress. "...One of them", Columbo explains...one of the thieves, that is. "There were too many paintings for one person to carry.  Besides the best way to beat an alarm is to have someone on the inside let you in."

They go back inside and Columbo asks Kingston how a thief would get any money for valuable paintings.  Kingston says he could sell it in a foreign country, or ransom it back to the owner. Columbo says they should wire-tap Kingston's phone since the thief will likely try to contact him. Kingston reluctantly agrees.

The next day Columbo arrives at Sam Franklin's gallery.  He asks the manager what time Kingston arrived but she's too hung over to remember. Columbo enters the room where Sam is painting a nude and he averts his eyes in embarrassment.  Sam can't remember what time Kingston arrived.  He's also hung-over from the champagne the night before.  But then he remembers that Kingston asked about the time because there was something wrong with his watch. Now the valet who parked Kingston's car the night before arrives. He remembers Kingston because he gave a large tip for help "searching his trunk" for a cufflink.  He confirms the exact time that Kingston arrived, let's listen to the clip. (24:33 to 25:37).  2 bucks, blue horse.  I love that blue horse painting...i'd like to have that hanging in my office.

Now in Tracy's home, she is watching a live episode of Dale Kingston's tv show, "Dale Kingston's World of Art".   There's a crazy close-up fish eye shot of Kingston making a weird pun with "wart" and "removing the 'w' leaves 'art'" and then Kingston being a diva with the director. Tracey calls the studio.  Kingston takes the Tracey call and as Columbo approaches he pretends that its a call for an interview and hangs up as Columbo arrives.  Columbo asks him some questions as he is getting his make-up off.  Kingston mentions that his uncle was married once and that his ex still goes by Matthews so the thief may try to contact her. Columbo says that the lab confirms that there was no way someone got in through the back door lock.  So how did they get in.  Your uncle wouldn't have let anyone in unless he knew him. Columbo says he checked Kingston's alibi and everything checks out.  So if Matthews was killed at 11pm than you sure didn't do it.  Then Kingston says sarcastically, "what a shame, and here I am your most obvious suspect."  Columbo says its not like that, its just that he needs to explain all of these loose ends.  Like why would a person look in a trunk of a car for a missing cufflink.  Kingston tells him its because he threw his top coat into the trunk to keep it from getting stolen.  Then later he found it caught in his coat sleeve. And then we get the first confirmation that Columbo is on to Kingston and he's letting Kingston know it.  Let's listen to the clip

He Knows

(30:45 to 31:20)After Kingston slyly says "Isn't that nice..." Columbo and Kingston look at each other and Columbo knows and Kingston knows and they also know that each other knows. Finally, Columbo shows Kingston the 'bluehorse' painting and he says it looks wonderful for wallpaper in a child's room.  great line.  Columbo asks why he would go to the artist showing if this is what he thinks about his work.  Kingston has a good response, he says that the papers pay handsomely for scathing reviews of hacks.

In the next scene, Kingston meets Tracy on a deserted country road...actually it looks like the Hollywood hills.  Tracy gets the pastels from her trunk and gives them to Kingston.  Kingston unwraps the pastels and Tracy is impressed by them and asks why she can't paint like that.  Kingston says patience...it takes time to get what you really want. Of course, he's not talking about her artistic talent but about his own desire for his uncle's art collection.  At this point, Tracy has fulfilled her role in the plan and is just a liability so Kingston picks up a rock and kills her with it.

Kingston drives home to his apartment and gets the pastels out of the trunk. They are in a large folio.  He enters his apartment and Columbo is there sleeping in a chair.  Kingston is annoyed and says he is tired and Columbo sees the folio Kingston is holding and asks what he has.  Kingston says they are Water colours.  Columbo says he was just looking at water colours and he reaches into the folio and Kingston stops him before he pulls them out.  This will be important later. The phone rings and its the police calling to inform Columbo about Tracy.  He has apparently asked to be informed of any artist who gets killed.  Columbo leaves.

The next scene Columbo meets Edna Matthews.  They are going to the reading of the will. Columbo has  brought a painting that Tracy was working on and shows it to Kingston and asks him if he recognizes it.  He says no.  Columbo tells him that he gave several lectures that the artist attended and shows him a picture.  He says don't be ridiculous, thousands of students have attended my lectures.  I've never seen that girl before in my life. At the reading of the will we discover that Matthews left the entire art collection to Edna, much to her shock and to Columbo's.  Kingston does not act surprised and handles it graciously.  The lawyer tells Columbo that the rest of the estate that Kingston did inherit is worthless because the house is rented.  Columbo leaves quickly looking for Kingston who is waiting for him.  Kingston berates Columbo for suspecting him in light of this new revelation.  Columbo says maybe you didn't know that your uncle changed your will.  Kingston produces a letter from Matthews to himself explaining the change to the will.  Columbo looks puzzled.  Notice they are out in the open about Columbo suspecting Kingston.

The next scene, Columbo is in the apartment of the woman who lived next door to Tracy.  She seems to be a busybody landlord.  She has a parakeet or budgie.  Kind of a strange pet...non-interactive...constantly chirping.  Is that a 70's thing? Columbo is trying to find out if Tracy was dating anyone.  The woman says she has a picture of an older gentleman that Tracy was dating.  She gets out a photo album and starts going through all the pictures and telling stories.  Columbo grows impatient.  She finally shows him the picture and its not Kingston. Outside Edna's home, the gardner is spraying the plants with a pesticide and he finds a gun in the bushes.  Edna's home is close to Mr. Matthews...just down the hill where the fake exit was made during the murder. Now Columbo is speaking with Edna in her home.  She looks like Roddy Doyle's character from "Short Fuse" a couple of episodes from now.  Edna is telling Columbo about her divorce from Rudy Matthews and then how they started to reconcile.  She said Rudy and her bumped into each other a couple of months ago, and they were older and things were different.  Rudy had decided that he was tired of the greed and the hording that came with owning a vast art collection and that the art really belonged to the people.  He had decided that he wanted to give them all away.  So he changed his will to give the paintings to Edna so that Kingston wouldn't get access to them.  Now Columbo has real motive.


And we're back. Let's recap what's happened thus far. Art critic Dale Kingston conspires with an art student to kill his uncle.  His intention is to frame his uncles ex-wife for the killing.  Once the art student has performed her part, Kingston disposes of her.  Columbo is on to Kingston but so far doesn't have the proof that he needs to make an arrest.

The Setup

In Edna's home.  Dale Kingston arrives saying he was invited by Columbo.  Columbo explains that a gun was found near Edna's home and its the same model of the gun taken from Matthews' desk.  Columbo makes a phone call to ballistics to check on the report and it is indeed the murder weapon.  Edna says she can't believe it, that she takes walks up that path frequently.  Kingston tries to hush her for her own good.  Columbo tells her she has nothing to worry about because the person who ran out of the house on the night of Matthews' death just kept on running down the path and discarded the gun along the way.  He says that the killer could have been anyone.

Edna leaves for shopping and Dale questions whether Columbo really believes Edna had nothing to do with it.  Columbo says he really does think she's innocent.  Another detective comes out from the back of Edna's house and tells Columbo that they found wrapping paper--like the paper in Matthews' home--in the garbage.  Kingston says that this looks bad for Edna but he says he still thinks that she didn't do it.  Columbo says he agrees with him.  He says that Edna's a vulnerable woman and he doesn't want to press her for fear that she will fall apart.  Columbo says that he'll just wait until the stolen paintings show up.  Kingston asks if they have searched the inside of the home yet.  They have not.  Kingston suggests that Columbo search the house for Edna's sake...to prove her innocence.  Columbo declines.

Dale goes to the lawyer and explains that searching Edna's home will clear her in case Columbo changes his mind but Columbo doesn't want to search the home and if only there were a way around him.  The lawyer agrees and says he'll contact a friend at city hall and make the arrangements.  He has Edna paged at the fashion centre. When Edna arrives at the lawyer's office parking lot, she goes into the building and Dale gets out of his car, takes the paintings from his trunk and hides them in boxes that Edna purchased at the fashion centre, in the back seat of her car. The lawyer and Edna drive to Edna's home and Dale follows in his Royals Royce.  The lawyer brings the boxes into Edna's home.  Dale makes them drinks and purposely spills a drink on himself.  He excuses himself to another room to wipe up the spill from his suit and while there takes the paintings from the fashion centre boxes and hides the paintings in a linen closet.

The police arrive to execute a search warrant.  Columbo arrives moments later, after the search has begun.  Columbo acts like he doesn't know why the search is taking place and that he has been bypassed.  (1:07:10) Dale says the best line of the episode "maybe you're just not needed so why don't you go home and have your dinner" Columbo says he should stay because leaving would look bad. (1:07:36)

The Get

The detectives bring through some linens and place them on the table.  There is a great overhead shot of everyone in the living room as the linens are placed on the coffee table.  They open them up to reveal the two pastels..  Let's listen to the clip 1:08:30 to 1:09:10 ("where'd you find those...") need to get clip from 1:08:30 to 1:09:10 and edit down to 1.5 minutes or so. Columbo pulls his hands out of his pocket and he is wearing gloves and they freeze frame and roll credits.

The Wrap-Up

And there you have it.  A good episode overall.  I always enjoy an episode where the killer has an elaborate plan and an accomplice that is to be killed. I rank this episode 23rd of 43.

Ross Martin

- born in 1920 and died of a heart attack in 1981.  Polish, immigrated to US in youth.   

- married twice had a daughter   

- only Columbo episode   

- best known for a recurring role in Wild Wild West with another Columbo guest star Robert Conrad.   

- deserved a second guest appearance.

I'll give mr Kingston a 4 out of 5 on the villain scale.  He had a premeditated plan that included the killing of the accomplice.  He was surly and obstinate.  He had a hate-on for Columbo.

Rosanna Huffman

- born in 1938 died in 2016   

- married to Columbo co-creator Richard Levinson   

- various tv and movie appearances from 1967 to 2000.  Recurring role on Murder One in the late 90's   

- only Columbo appearance

I give Tracy a 4 out of 5 on the Lily La Sanka scale for victims.  She participated in a planned murder and wanted to be romantically involved with Kingston.

Next week on The Predictably Treacherous podcast, another columbo episode, "Lady in Waiting" starring Susan Clark and Leslie Nielsen. Here is a brief summary Desperate to get out from under her brothers thumb so that she can marry her lover, a woman plans and executes the killing of her brother and frames it as an accident.