Steven Spielberg pays tribute to 'Columbo' and 'Murder, She Wrote' creator William Link, who has died at 87

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·2 min read
COLUMBO -- Pictured: Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo  (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo (Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg has paid tribute to William Link, the co-creator of iconic series like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote, who has died at the age of 87.

In a statement, Spielberg said that thanks to Link and his production partner Richard Levinson letting him direct the first episode of Columbo, it paved the way for him to make Duel, his career-making movie debut.

“Bill's truly good nature always inspired me to do good work for a man who, along with Dick Levinson, was a huge part of what became my own personal film school on the Universal lot,” Spielberg said (via THR).

“Bill was one of my favorite and most patient teachers and, more than anything, I learned so much from him about the true anatomy of a plot. I caught a huge break when Bill and Dick trusted a young, inexperienced director to do the first episode of Columbo.

MURDER, SHE WROTE: SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST -- Pictured: Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher -- (Photo by: Randy Marcus/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher (Credit: Randy Marcus/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“That job helped convince the studio to let me do Duel, and with all that followed I owe Bill so very, very much. My thoughts are with Margery and his entire family.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Emmy-winning writer and producer died on Sunday, from congestive heart failure.

Born in Philadelphia, Link met Levinson at high school, where they began writing short stories and radio scripts together in partnership that would last for more than four decades.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 29:  Writer Bob Levinson (left), and writer William Link (right), take part in a panel discussion with Director Blake Edwards.  Edwards was later presented with the Marlowe Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Mystery Writers of America at the Friars Club on June 29, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Getty Images)
Writer Bob Levinson (left), and writer William Link (right), take part in a panel discussion with Director Blake Edwards (Credit: Dan Steinberg/Getty Images)

They went on to write episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Dr Kildare and The Fugitive, before devising the show Mannix in 1968, and then Columbo in 1969, with Peter Falk playing the scruffy, introvert detective.

With Peter S. Fischer, and inspired by Agatha Christie, Link and Levinson created Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, in 1984.

The show ran for considerably longer than Columbo, over 12 seasons and 264 episodes.

Levinson died suddenly in 1987, but Link continued to write, with the movie The Boy with James Woods and John Lithgow released in 1991, and producing shows like Burke's Law and The Cosby Mysteries.

A collection of more Columbo stories was published in 2010.

He is survived by his wife Margery Nelson, and many nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

Watch: Mapleworth Murders pays homage to Murder, She Wrote