Peter Falk

Columbo star Peter Falk, who won four Emmys for playing the absent-minded detective, has died. He was 83.

Falk died at his Beverly Hills home Thursday evening, his family said in a statement. Falk had suffered from dementia, a result of a series of dental operations in 2007.

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A New York City native, Falk was 3 when he underwent an operation to remove a malignant tumor in his right eye that left him with a glass eye. Rejected from the armed forces because of his glass eye, he joined the United States Merchant Marines before becoming a management analyst in Hartford, Conn., where he kicked off his stage career in a community theater group. Falk made his Broadway debut in 1956 in Diary of a Scoundrel and appeared in the Tony-winning The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1971.

After a string of small parts in feature films, Falk landed his breakout role as killer Abe Reles in 1960's Murder, Inc., which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He was Oscar-nominated a year later for his work in Frank Capra's Pocketful of Miracles. Falk later reprised his role of Reles for the 1960s TV series Witness and also appeared on the series Studio One, New York Confidential, Naked City and Target: The Corruptors!

His first regular TV role was on the short-lived The Trials of O'Brien, in which he played an attorney, but Falk's most iconic role remains the shabby but shrewd, trench coat-wearing Lieutenant Frank Columbo on the long-running series. Falk won four Emmys for Columbo — he has a fifth statuette for his work on The Dick Powell Theatre. Falk continued to play Columbo in sporadic, special-event TV movies, the last of which aired on ABC in 2003.

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Younger audiences will remember Falk for playing Fred Savage's storytelling grandfather in The Princess Bride and Paul Reiser's father in 2005's The Thing About My Folks. His last film was 2009's American Cowslip.

Falk was twice married. In 2009, his wife, Shera, and daughter, Catherine, battled in court over who should be in charge of Falk's personal affairs. A judge granted Shera control.

Besides Shera and Catherine, Falk is survived by another daughter, Jackie.