Columbo had just one star — Columbo himself, Peter Falk, obviously. Over the course of 35 years and 69 murder cases, Columbo saw a lot of guest stars come and go. There was really just one other regular character (well, not counting Dog the Bassett hound), Sergeant George Kramer, played by Bruce Kirby. Columbo’s superior first appeared in “By Dawn’s Early Light” (season four, 1974) and turned up in six episodes through “Agenda for Murder” (season nine, 1990).
Kirby can be seen in more Columbo mysteries, however. He was first Doug the lab attendant in “Lovely But Lethal” and also popped up as a TV repairman in “Make Me a Perfect Murder.” He was also another sergeant, Sgt. Phil Brindle, in 1995’s “Strange Bedfellow.”
The rank of sergeant must have suited Kirby, because, in 1975, he had a memorable turn as Sgt. Kimble on M*A*S*H in “Hey, Doc.” In the opening scene, he is playing cards with the gang, as Hawkeye notes how much they’ll miss taking money from him.
Born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu in New York City, Bruce started his television career in the 1950s, landing roles on Sgt. Bilko (naturally), a.k.a. The Phil Silvers Show. He played a cop, Officer Kissel, on a handful of episodes of Car 54, Where Are You?
Elsewhere, he can be seen on series like Adam-12, Hogan’s Heroes and Bonanza. Kojak fans may recognize him, as well. He played — you guessed it — a sergeant in six episodes, Sgt. Al Vine, in a role quite similar to his Columbo stint.Kirby with Falk in ”Identity Crisis”
On the big screen, Kirby can be found in The Muppet Movie as a guard and Throw Momma from the Train as a detective. The character actor was just suited to play a man in uniform or on the force, it seems.
Many will know Kirby through one of his sons, fellow actor Bruno Kirby, star of City Slickers, When Harry Met Sally and Good Morning, Vietnam. The younger Kirby, born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu Jr., sadly passed in 2006, fifteen years before his father.
The elder Kirby lived to the age of 95, passing away on January 24, according to The Hollywood Reporter.