Blake Edwards, who will forever be linked to the popular “Pink Panther” film series he created, died today after a bout with pneumonia. He was 88.
He began his professional career in 1942 as an actor and in 1948 sold his first screenplay, “Panhandle,” a film he also appeared in. Finding writing more lucrative, he tuned his attention to television, writing several episodes of “Four Star Playhouse.” He also began working behind the camera, directing three of the episodes he wrote. He later directed several episodes of “The Mickey Rooney Show.” In 1959, he created the television series “Peter Gunn.” He graduated to feature films, directing two of the best films of the 1960s: “Breakfast at Tiffanys” and the powerful “Days of Wine and Roses.”
In 1963 he wrote and directed the first film in a series for which he would always be remembered for, “The Pink Panther.” The film told the story of the bumbling Police Inspector Clouseau and his search for a missing diamond. This began a long and successful collaboration with actor Peter Sellers. In fact, the two teamed up again for Edwards’ next film, “A Shot In The Dark.” In 1969, Edwards married actress Julie Andrews and two years later they teamed up on a film written and directed by Edwards, “Darling Lil.”
In 1975 Edwards began a decade of almost superior work, starting with “The Return of the Pink Panther,” again starring Sellers. He followed the film up with two more adventures and then he took a little known actress with her hair in corn rows and made her the biggest celebrity in the world, Bo Derek, who starred opposite Dudley Moore in the hilarious comedy “10.”
He began the 80s with a scorching look inside Hollywood: “S.O.B.” The story of a director fighting for his artistic rights, the film is remembered more for a quick shot of Julie Andrews baring her breasts. Though lightly received, he hit a home run with his next project, the musical “Victor/Victoria.” The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including one for Edwards adapted screenplay. Unbelievably, this would be the only Oscar nomination he would receive in his career. The film did win one award for it’s original song score.
Edwards went back to the well one too many times for his next film, “The Trail of the Pink Panther.” As Peter Sellers had died two years before, the film consisted of shots of Sellers that had been cut from the previous films. He tried the “Panther” formula again with “Curse of the Pink Panther,” this time without Sellers. It also died at the box office. He then redeemed himself with two very successful romantic comedies: “The Man Who Loved Women” with Burt Reynolds and “Micki and Maude” with Dudley Moore.
In the late 1980s he teamed up with Bruce Willis for two comedies, “Blind Date” and “Sunset.” In 1991 he wrote and directed the well received gender switch comedy “Switch,” which starred Ellen Barkin. His final feature was another “Panther” film, “Son of the Pink Panther,” which featured Roberto Benigni as Inspector Clouseau’s son.
In 2004 Edwards received an Honorary Academy Award “In recognition of his writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen.”