Columbo: 5 things you may have missed watching “Forgotten Lady”

With Janet Leigh,
in the Columbo episode, “Forgotten Lady”, reality and fiction co-exist and one is indistinguishable from another.  Memories are written, re-written, and forgotten.  It is an episode about nostalgia, past glories, and deceptive clues.  Continue reading about 5 things you may have missed watching “Forgotten Lady”.

Number 1: Hints of Grace’s memory problems come early

Grace shows hints of memory lapses very early in the episode.  While riding back with Ned Diamond, discussing their Broadway musical, she has difficulty recalling a name.  There is also a very subtle hint of repeating instructions to her driver, Raymond.  You’ll have it to watch the episode again and pay attention to the cutaway of Raymond to make your own observation.

Number 2: Grace didn’t forget to murder her husband


Some things in life are just plain black and white.

One easy, yet misguided conclusion, is Grace decides to murder her husband after he refuses to finance a half-million dollars for a Broadway show that evening.  In fact, Grace had already prepared her outfit beforehand.  She chooses an assassin-black leotard underneath her white gown.  She may have memory issues but no problems holding a grudge.

Number 3: Dr. Willis never goes to the garage in slippers

One of Columbo’s key evidence was Dr. Willis’ slippers.  Without scuff marks, he suspects he couldn’t had made it to the garage to grab his gun.  This theory only works if a) going to the garage undoubtedly leaves marks on slippers and b) Dr. Willis had never, ever considered walking in slippers to the garage as long as he had owned them.

Number 4: There is no around-the-world trip

While Dr. Henry Willis talks about going on a world trip with his wife, we know later she has little as a week to live.   Dr. Willis knew this.  Without a hint of preparation, a date was never given when their trip would kick off.  Either the doctor tried to time his wife’s passing overseas, or it was only a rouse to keep her from committing plans for the future.

Number 5: Columbo’s film tampering could have killed Grace


“I’m so mad, I could just die!”

According to Lt. Columbo, stress could kill Grace at any moment.  But he goes ahead and messes with her favorite film anyways.  Anxious and angry, Grace is on a verge of a stroke-inducting panic attack, when her film breaks.  Columbo’s enthusiasm to prove his point almost goes too far.

Bonus: John Payne’s debilitating car accident is worked into his character

John Payne is Ned Diamond, in his final appearance on screen and film.   Playing a famous actor and dancer,his career was cut short due to a car accident that ruined his legs.  In real life, John Payne suffered a debilitating car accident that ended his career in dancing.  And if you guessed, it was because of his legs.  A great example of art initiating life.  Read his bio on



  1. JRStern April 2, 2017 9:03 pm  Reply

    Oh, a couple more things too, the medical diagnosis is mumbo-jumbo, but also they don’t consider she might have fallen asleep for 11 minutes when the film ran and took that long to wake up and fix it. But it’s all a buildup for the final scene, and that’s a keeper.

  2. Kathryn Eisler April 30, 2017 7:26 am  Reply

    In Sam Jaffe’s scene with Grace, at one point the actor accidentally calls her “Rosie.” Apparently no one noticed.

    • Judy Nagorski April 4, 2019 9:13 am  Reply

      That was his nickname for her but she would have no way of knowing that he created a file using that as a first name and fictional last name.

  3. John Gammon February 5, 2018 11:59 am  Reply

    The best Columbo episodes are probably the ones where the murderer is a sympathetic, three dimensional character: My favourites in this group are Patrick McGoohan in “By Dawn’s Early Light”, Johnny Cash in “Swan Song”, and this episode in which Janet Leigh is on top form. Unusually, the killer doesn’t become more and more frustrated as Columbo turns up to check one more little thing over and over, just confused and uneasy. Makes you wonder what Sunset Boulevard would have been like with a more sympathetic Norma Desmond. Anyway, it was all circumstantial evidence. Columbo could never have proved in court that Mrs Willis hadn’t just fallen asleep and noticed the break in the film too late, or that Dr Willis hadn’t retrieved his gun earlier in the evening when he had shoes on, or that he hadn’t pretended to be reading his book while the maid was in the room because he didn’t want to be seen looking at his medical record.

    We’ll never know, but I wonder if this script had a different ending originally, in which Columbo stops Ned Diamond as he is leaving for the police station and says he’ll write the case down as suicide. This rulebending would make sense of Columbo’s relatively minor dishonesty earlier in the episode in which he employs someone to take his gun marksmanship test. “Well, I guess Ioday’s a day for doin’ bad…”

    • Judy Nagorski April 4, 2019 9:22 am  Reply

      I agree with you I enjoy all of Patrick McGoohan’s especially Identity Crisis and Ashes to Ashes bc Mr McGoohan often let’s his devious guard down and shows how much fun he is having with Mr Falk.
      I also enjoyed Jack Cassidy but my two solo villains are Dick Van Dyke and Robert Conrad (Columbo uncharacteristically loses his temper)!

  4. Judy Nagorski April 4, 2019 9:09 am  Reply

    As to#2 as Columbo points out the impact of her illness doesn’t have a definitive markers as to what is retained or lost -she didn’t remember killing him.#3 Since indication was the suicide wasn’t pre-planned,he would’ve just worn his slippers which he ordinarily wouldn’t do.#4The reason for the trip(why he was insistent on it,he knew she didn’t have much time left&wanted to give her a last restful loving gift rather than a traumatic painful one.#5Columbo had to re-enact that night w the film as proof to Ned &to himself that fixing the film was so 2nd nature to her she could do it without thinking about it.
    My favorite part(aside from the scene with his dog) was when Ned takes the blame which Columbo at first takes as a feeble attempt to shift Blane until Ned on the question of how long the investigation will take responds”maybe a couple months” then Columbo understands this is an act of pure love given to his sweetheart who will be gone by then. Columbo’s expression shows his respect for a truly classy gentleman!

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