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Blake Edwards

Best known for such films as 10, Victor/Victoria and the hugely successful Pink Panther film series with Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards is often thought of as a director of slapstick comedies — but he also produced the sophisticated Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the searing drama Days of Wine and Roses.

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Though Edwards worked hard for his reputation as an over-the-top physical-comedy director and deserved his niche, his best film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s“, had a luxuriously languid pace and was as sophisticated a comedy as has been created in the last half of the twentieth century. Likewise, his second-best film, “Days of Wine and Roses”, was an intensely serious look at alcoholism.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1922, Edwards step-grandfather was silent-film director J. Gordon Edwards. Some claim that his penchant for slapstick came from this early silent-film influence, but all of Edwards’ first work — as actor, writer, and director — was serious. He was in “Best Years of Our Lives” as an actor, and created the famous TV series “Peter Gunn“.

Though he definitely showed a penchant for farce with “Operation Petticoat“, Edwards claims the original “Pink Panther” was supposed to center more on David Niven and Robert Wagner. The way Edwards tells it, Peter Sellers’ sublimely clueless and arrogant slapstick stole the scene, the film and the series.

Edwards’ “The Great Race” and “The Party” continued his penchant for zany physical comedy, but his bouts with Hollywood and his new wife, Julie Andrews, convinced him to escape to England for awhile in the early ’70s. While there, he returned to “Pink Panther” with “Return of the Pink Panther” and three other Pink Panther sequels.

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But it was the mega-blockbuster “10” that brought him back to Hollywood (in style). He followed that up with exposing his wife’s breasts in the satire of Hollywood, “S.O.B.“. He made it back to her, though, in 1982, with “Victor/Victoria”, a huge triumph for both of them. Though the rest of his comedies were mild successes and failures, he finally succeeded in bringing “Victor/Victoria” to the stage in 1996, once again catapulting the inimitable Julie Andrews into the firmament, which she so richly deserves.

Edwards films are also marked by his association with another genius, Henry Mancini, who composed the scores for Edwards works, starting with “Peter Gunn”. Certainly, Mancini’s work transcended this association, but there is no question that the themes from “Pink Panther”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, and “Moon River”, from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, are three of Mancini’s most loved masterpieces.

— Nate Lee


Memorable Quotes by Blake Edwards

“Make ’em redecorate your office. That’s primary, to let them know where you stand. Then, when you’re shooting interior sequences, use your own interior decorator and set dresser. That way everything on the set will fit your house when you’re finished.”

“Peter Sellers became a monster. He just got bored with the part [Inspector Clouseau] and became angry, sullen and unprofessional. He wouldn’t show up for work and he began looking for anyone and everyone to blame, never for a moment stopping to see whether or not he should blame himself for his own madness, his own craziness.”

“[on Julie Andrews] It’s marvelous to direct her. She’s enormously professional and understands that in the final analysis the last word is mine. Actually, working with Julie on a film is a whole lot easier than working with many people that I’m not married to!”

“Being thrown out of this place is significantly better than being thrown out of a leper colony.”

“If you still want to kill him, do me a favor and take him outside. Those are new sheets.”

Things You May Not Know About Blake Edwards

Suffered from CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

When asked, “If you could work with one actor for the rest of your career, who would it be?” he answered, in a heartbeat, “Jack Lemmon.”

Met wife-to-be Julie Andrews after she’d heard that he once described her as being, “…so sweet she probably has violets between her legs.” Andrews was so entertained by the remark she sent Edwards a bunch of violets accompanied by a note. They began dating and later married.

Former roommate of Mickey Rooney.

He adopted two children from Vietnam with Julie Andrews, Amy Edwards (b. 1974) and Joanna Edwards (b. 1975).

Was one of the first directors to employ video playback of shot film footage on set. He did this with The Party (1968).

Great Scenes:

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

  • As much as Audrey Hepburn’s presence makes this a watchable classic, the constant wit in the dialog makes it a listenable classic.
  • Audrey Hepburn learned to play the guitar for (and actually sang in) the fire-escape version of Moon River. It was enough to make grown men swoon — and still is.

DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES

  • Jack Lemmon tears apart a greenhouse looking for a bottle that he has hidden in a flowerpot, in a nightmarish scene
  • Lemmon rescues his wife, Lee Remick, from bingeing in a sleazy hotel

THE PARTY

  • Peter Sellers plays an (East) Indian accidentally invited to a big Hollywood party at the ultra-modern 1960s home of the studio chief
  • Though most of the film is an interesting look at the ’60s, the party doesn’t really get going until they wash the pet elephant and, of course, use approximately 2,200 times too much soap
  • Sellers inexplicably wins the heart of Claudine Longet, playing (what else?) a sexy French singer

A SHOT IN THE DARK

  • Though this isn’t technically the first of the Pink Panther series, its so much better than “The Pink Panther,” it has taken the honors
  • Herbert Lom slowly goes insane as Peter Sellers; boss, the Police Commissioner
  • Sellers finally gets the incredible Elke Sommer into bed, only to be attacked by Kato
  • So many of Peter Sellers’ and Blake Edwards’ physical gags and perpetual pratfalls have been imitated ad nauseam, it’s easy to forget they all started here

10

  • This film single-handedly launched or relaunched four phenomena: the rating system, cornrows, Ravel’s “Bolero,” and Bo Derek (who, trivia fans know, is actually an 11)
  • As much a genius as Peter Sellers was, there’s something… well… funnier about Dudley Moore’s style of physical comedy, as he tumbles down hillsides, burns his feet, crashes his car, and literally goes overboard for Bo Derek.
  • The slow-motion shot of Bo running on the beach is archetypal

VICTOR/VICTORIA

  • Julie Andrews plays a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman, while James Garner plays a man trying to figure out which of Julie’s incarnations he’s actually in love with
  • Leslie Ann Warren is the perfect screeching moll, confused by European sexual standards
  • Football star turned comedy actor Alex Karras is hilarious as a gangster coming out of the closet

BEST FILMS:

Blake Edwards’s directing credits include…

 

Year Movie
1956 He Laughed Last
1957 Mister Cory
1958 This Happy Feeling
1958 The Perfect Furlough
1959 Operation Petticoat
1960 High Time
1961 Breakfast at Tiffany’s
1962 Experiment in Terror
1962 Days of Wine and Roses
1963 The Pink Panther
1964 A Shot in the Dark
1965 The Great Race
1966 What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
1967 Gunn
1968 The Party
1970 Darling Lili
1971 Wild Rovers
1972 The Carey Treatment
1974 The Tamarind Seed
1975 The Return of the Pink Panther
1976 The Pink Panther Strikes Again
1978 Revenge of the Pink Panther
1979 10
1981 S.O.B.
1982 Victor Victoria
1982 Trail of the Pink Panther
1983 Curse of the Pink Panther
1983 The Man Who Loved Women
1984 Micki + Maude
1986 A Fine Mess
1986 That’s Life!
1987 Blind Date
1988 Sunset
1989 Skin Deep
1991 Switch
1993 Son of the Pink Panther
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