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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Bruce Kirby, veteran actor and Columbo co-star

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Bruce Kirby, veteran actor and Columbo co-star
Screenshot: Columbo

Variety reports that longtime actor Bruce Kirby has died on Sunday, in Los Angeles. He was 95.

Born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu in New York City in 1925, Kirby started out studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio in New York. He had just turned 30 when he made his small screen debut on The Goodyear Playhouse in 1955. A veteran character actor, he followed that appearance with several guest star parts, in everything from The Phil Silvers Show to I Dream Of Jeannie to Mission: Impossible. Kirby’s low-key everyman charm seemed to particularly make him well-suited for cop or detective parts, in series like Car 54, Where Are You?, Chico And The Man, Kojak, and Barney Miller.

Undoubtedly his most famous role was that of Sergeant George Kramer on the legendary detective series Columbo. Such was Peter Falk’s charisma and the show’s string of high-profile guest stars that, other than the trademark trenchcoat, car, and basset hound, Kirby was the closest thing the show had to a recurring cast member other than the title character. Sergeant Kramer was usually simultaneously befuddled and impressed by Columbo’s unconventional sleuthing methods. Kirby appeared in nine episodes overall, not just as Kramer, but also a lab attendant and a TV repairman. In the ’80s, Kirby made a similarly noteworthy impression as a D.A. in 13 episodes of L.A. Law.

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Throughout the decades, the actor’s pace never appeared to slow, as he appeared on Matlock, Murphy Brown, and Murder, She Wrote. In more recent years, he guested on Days Of Our Lives, The West Wing, and The Sopranos. His last TV appearance was on a 2007 episode of Scrubs.

His big screen appearances were less frequent, but Kirby appeared in films like Catch-22, The Muppet Movie, Crash, Sweet Dreams, The Big Picture, and played a character named after himself, Mr. Quidaciolu in Stand By Me, as the shop owner who tells Gordy that he looks like his deceased brother, Denny. He finally retired from acting in 2009.

Kirby was the father of similarly hard-working actor Bruno Kirby, who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 57.

Bruce Kirby’s survivors include his son John, an acting coach, and his wife Roz, who he married in 1976.

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Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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