Blake Edwards, director of zany comedic farces like the PINK PANTHER series and more serious, satirical films later in this career, has died at age 88. A report from Edwards’ publicist said the filmmaker passed away from complications of pneumonia in Santa Monica on Wednesday night with his family, including wife Julie Andrews, by his side.
Perhaps Edwards will remain most well-known for his hilarious pairing with actor Peter Sellers in THE PINK PANTHER (1963), a comedy smash hit which spawned five sequels with Sellers portraying the inept French detective Jacques Clouseau bumbling his way into crime solutions and improbable romances.
Edwards maintained a challenging and cantankerous relationship with the Hollywood studio system, received only one Academy Award nomination in his career for his 1982 gender-bending comedy VICTOR/VICTORIA, a Best Adapted Screenplay nominee. In 2004, Edwards received an Honorary Oscar for his body of work writing, directing and producing for the screen.
His lengthy credits include other notable films like his adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961), the Jack Lemmon drama DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962), the period auto racing farce THE GREAT RACE (1965), Dudley Moore and Bo Derek’s sexy hit 10 (1979) and his social satire S.O.B. in 1981.
I grew up on a steady cinematic diet of Edwards’ films, especially fond of Sellers’ brilliant character comedy in the Clouseau films from 1964’s A SHOT IN THE DARK (a TV syndication favorite) through 1975’s RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER and THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN released one year later. The chemistry between Edwards and Sellers was both magical and combative at times, due to both men’s extreme personalities and private foibles. It was quite amazing these films ever got made at all as one or both parties would often argue with and shun another, only to cool off and return to the set again to capture some of the funniest comedy scenes ever recorded on film.
“Does your dog bite?” and “Do you have a rheum?” are just a couple of Clouseau’s trademark, faux-French accented lines of dialogue which defined Edwards’ unique brand of farcical, silly wordplay and character deficiency which made the clumsiest, dumb-luckiest detective in cinematic history such a fan favorite over decades. Perhaps like Edwards himself, Clouseau was the eternal outsider who continually stepped into the spotlight “until the case was solv-ed” and another unlikely, unforgettable triumph was achieved.
FilmEdge remembers Blake Edwards and remains grateful for the many years of laughter he left to us all.