Blake Edwards, the creator behind such comedy classics as “The Pink Panther” series (the good Peter Sellers versions, not the egregious Steve Martin films), the still underrated “The Party,” “10,” and “S.O.B.,” has died at the age of 88.
It’s difficult to properly value just how important Edwards’ imprint was on the world of comedy, but almost every comedic actor working today owes him a big tip of the hat, and in particular, his work with Peter Sellers. The series of ‘Panther’ films they did together created numerous, classic comedic set pieces, but Edwards seemed to get the best out of whoever he worked with. Audrey Hepburn, Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, and Lesley Ann Warren all earned Oscar nominations in films they worked on for the director, titles that included “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Victor/Victoria.”
Edwards start came thanks to bit of good of luck and a vote of confidence. John Frankenheimer was originally slated to direct “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” before dropping out with Edwards stepping in with Hepburn’s approval. “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Experiment In Terror” would follow, before Edwards would find his comedic voice with “The Pink Panther.” The series was a hit and began a fruitful relationship with Peter Sellers who would star in all the subsequent sequels except for 1993’s “Son of the Pink Panther” with Roberto Benigni. The ‘Panther’ films are probably the most remembered work from the director, with his other films in between generally receiving mixed notices from critics and crowds.
But his impact on comedy is undeniable and his work with Sellers in particular represent a style that most modern comedians seem to have abandoned. While the clips below are “highlight reels” of sorts, they don’t really capture what made the films funny — an unbearable slow build of little moments that often erupted into larger gags and laughs. The Academy recognized his contribution and body of work with an honorary Oscar in 2004.
Edwards may no longer be with us, but his films still are. Pick up “The Party” or one of the ‘Pink Panther’ films tonight and see what you’ve been missing. [Variety]