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Posted at 12:58 PM ET, 12/16/2010

Blake Edwards dies at 88; directed 'Pink Panther' series

By T. Rees Shapiro


Update: The full obituary can be found here.

Blake Edwards, 88, a prolific filmmaker who kept alive the tradition of slapstick comedy in his Pink Panther franchise and nimbly showcased his dramatic range with "Breakfast at Tiffany's," died of pneumonia Wednesday at a hospital in Santa Monica.

In a six-decade career that rejected easy categorization, Mr. Edwards received an honorary Academy Award in 2004 for "writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work."

Some of his best-known films included the sophisticated romance "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) with Audrey Hepburn, the bleak story of a couple in an alcoholic spiral in "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962) starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, and the taut manhunt story "Experiment in Terror" (1962) with Remick and Glenn Ford.

The Panther series, which began in 1964 with "The Pink Panther" and "A Shot in the Dark," brought Mr. Edwards his most devoted following.

The films's inspired lunacy owed a great deal to actor Peter Sellers, who played the unbearably snobbish, pompous and incompetent French police inspector Jacques Clouseau.

The films were crammed with one-liners of vaudeville vintage. Sellers, playing Clouseau, leans down to pet a dog and asks its presumptive owner, "Does your dog bite?"

The dog then attacks the policeman's leg, and the man explains, "That's not my dog."

When Clouseau destroys a grand piano, the instrument's incredulous caretaker rebukes him, "Why, that's a priceless Steinway!"

The inspector replies, "Not anymore."

Mr. Edwards was credited with transforming a Truman Capote novella about a cynical call girl into the immensely likable "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Starring Hepburn, the film became an enduring popular success in large part because of Mr. Edwards's ability to balance the heroine's cynicism toward sex and power with an engaging comic approach that did not alienate audiences.

Please post your memories of the director and his films below.

By T. Rees Shapiro  | December 16, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Movies, T. Rees Shapiro  | Tags:  Blake Edwards, Breakfast at Tiffanys, The Pink Panther  
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Comments

My favorite film of his was S.O.B. (that also starred his wife Julie Andrews).

Posted by: MarilynManson | December 16, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Although Blake Edwards produced, directed and wrote many excellent films, one particular favorite is "The Great Race," a huge commercial success in 1965--it was one of the year's top-grossing films--and a film noted for several literally classic fight, sword fight and pie fight scenes! And the film stands as a huge homage to earlier classic good-guy-villian films, chase and race films, and cartoon-violence films and cartoons. It's one big, huge, incredibly enjoyable entertainment. It's also a puzzle why this excellent film isn't shown on television more often--it should be. If you haven't seen "The Great Race," put this one at the top of your list. "The Great Race" is one of several huge hits that marked an incredibly successful decade of filmmaking for Edwards in the 1960s--"Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Experiment in Terror," "The Pink Panther," "A Shot in the Dark," and "The Great Race." And all were done from 1960 to 1965! Not too bad! And, if you're not familar with the film, "The Great Race" stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, Arthur O'Connell and Vivian Vance. The score was by Henry Mancini. It's a classic, fun, entertaining film. A moment of silence today for Blake Edwards.

Posted by: thefrontpage | December 16, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Although Blake Edwards produced, directed and wrote many excellent films, one particular favorite is "The Great Race," a huge commercial success in 1965--it was one of the year's top-grossing films--and a film noted for several literally classic fight, sword fight and pie fight scenes! And the film stands as a huge homage to earlier classic good-guy-villian films, chase and race films, and cartoon-violence films and cartoons. It's one big, huge, incredibly enjoyable entertainment. It's also a puzzle why this excellent film isn't shown on television more often--it should be. If you haven't seen "The Great Race," put this one at the top of your list. "The Great Race" is one of several huge hits that marked an incredibly successful decade of filmmaking for Edwards in the 1960s--"Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Experiment in Terror," "The Pink Panther," "A Shot in the Dark," and "The Great Race." And all were done from 1960 to 1965! Not too bad! And, if you're not familar with the film, "The Great Race" stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, Arthur O'Connell and Vivian Vance. The score was by Henry Mancini. It's a classic, fun, entertaining film. A moment of silence today for Blake Edwards.

Posted by: thefrontpage | December 16, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The exceptionally funny and moving "Victor/Victoria" ranks as one of the best comedies of all time. The casting was spot on (especially Alex Karras as the gay bodyguard). James Garner wrestling with his attraction to a "man" is great fun to watch. If you see only one Blake Edwards movie... this is the one.

Posted by: wydafish | December 16, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I did not see listed, the wonderful film, "The Sound of Music" which I believe he directed and perhaps produced? This is a sad year with so many of the greats dying.

Posted by: MiriyamGevirtz | December 16, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: MiriyamGevirtz
[[I did not see listed, the wonderful film, "The Sound of Music" which I believe he directed and perhaps produced? This is a sad year with so many of the greats dying.]]
++++
I do not know if Edwards produced "The Sound Of Music", but the equally wonderful Robert Wise directed the film. Blake Edwards gave us many years great films and my cndolences go out to his family.

Posted by: Sandydayl | December 16, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

While I loved most of his films, my favorite would be "The Great Race" - I was taken to see that when I was five years old and the entire movie fascinated me (I loved Tony Curtis' character). I have never forgotten going to that with my beloved Aunt Anne and my Mom. It's one of my earliest memories. And "A Shot In The Dark" was hilarious. As the Aussies say: "He had a good innings."

Posted by: ikins | December 16, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

While there's no doubt the man made his mark in the movie world and earned numerous awards, he was a person of his times. Times have changed and the current zeitgeist would have relegated him to an ostracism that Mel Gibson wouldn't have reached. See the first 10-15 moments of Breakfast at Tiffanys if you haven't done so since it first came out and you'll see what I mean....there would have been a uproar thruout the media and even diplomats would have screamed in outrage across the world. Of course, he would have made some serious changes had he made that movie today so the issue wouldn't have come up. Back then even liberals wouldn't have been offended so I'm not criticizing a great man, just pointing out how things look very different today.

Posted by: drrealitycheck | December 16, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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