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Beyond ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ — The Best of Blake Edwards

Beyond 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' — The Best of Blake Edwards

With the birthday of its star Audrey Hepburn and a 55th anniversary screening at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts theater in Los Angeles this past Wednesday, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was on our minds this week. The film is a window into a culture in transition, a preservation of some of the lavish decadence and puzzling perspectives of the early 1960s. While “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” might be the film from director Blake Edwards’ career with the most iconic character at its center, it’s far from his final contribution to the movie landscape.

In honor of other potential impending anniversary celebrations, we wanted to compile some of our suggestions for other places to turn for cinephiles who might only be familiar with the filmmaker via Holly Golightly. Edwards’ filmography had a distinct flair that ran through his on-screen output across the years, but he also showed a versatility that led to a bevy of fruitful creative partnerships. From his over three decades of films, we’ve collected those that round out the best of Edwards’ work.

Experiment in Terror


Year
: 1962
Where to Watch: On-Demand Rental 
Why It’s Great: Before settling into a comedic groove, and just a year removed from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Edwards served up this vicious little noir rooted in the heart of San Francisco. New York and Los Angeles have their fair share of crime stories, but “Experiment in Terror” succeeds in showing its characters nearly swallowed up by the city, all from the opening credits with the skyline bathed in pitch black. Edwards’ most well-known collaborations with lead actress Lee Remick and composer Henry Mancini would still be yet to come, but both are just as good here. Remick’s Kelly Sherwood find strength within her vulnerability, holding her own against the blackmail threats of a wheezing psychopath and Mancini’s score amplifies the feeling of encroaching darkness that engulfs all the players drawn into the central bank robbery scheme. Complete with some breathtaking editing choices and a dialogue-sparse climactic sequence that prominently features Don Drysdale and Vin Scully, this was an early indication that Edwards could move capably through multiple genres. – Steve Greene

Days of Wine and Roses


Year
: 1962
Where to Watch: On-Demand Rental
Why It’s Great: A decidedly modern cautionary tale about the dangers of boozing and banging, this 1962 drama (written by JP Miller from his own, earlier teleplay) doesn’t pull any punches when it comes time to shine a harsh light on alcoholism. It’s initially a liquor-soaked love story featuring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as a young San Francisco couple in love who toss back drinks in a mostly social manner. Fun! It’s all so fun! And then the fallout hits after years of spiraling out of control, the kind of vicious stuff that leads to the loss of jobs, the disintegration of families and a whole lot of crying. The film is refreshingly unsentimental, and it addresses a tough topic with honesty and grit. – Kate Erbland

A Shot in the Dark


Year
: 1964
Where to Watch: On-Demand Rental
Why It’s Great: If we’re limiting ourselves to one film from the Pink Panther series, this is the clear choice. Although the 1963 original has its charms, this sequel from a year later is even more catered to Peter Sellers’ comedic stylings. (His pronunciation of the phrase “nudist colony” is a prime example of a tiny detail that becomes indelible in Sellers’ capable hands.) Flipping the sheer dread induced by the cat-and-mouse plotting of “Experiment in Terror,” Commissioner Dreyfus’ repeated assassination attempts on the unsuspecting Clouseau are effortlessly played here for laughs. Co-written by Edwards along with “The Exorcist” scribe William Peter Blatty, the action culminates in one of the tidiest and oddly satisfying finales you’ll see for a story with such a wide array of suspects. Then again, the real strength of these Pink Panther films is in seeing Clouseau most glaringly out of place, whether it’s fumbling with a rack of pool cues or delicately shielding himself with pool floaties. – SG

The Party


Year
: 1968
Where to Watch: On-Demand Rental
Why It’s (Mostly) Great: One of Edwards’ most celebrated and reviled films. The Good: Accidentally invited to an exclusive Hollywood soiree, a sweet and bumbling Peter Sellers — channelling the great silent clowns by way of Jacques Tati — slowly, over the course of a series of long set pieces, turns the party into utter chaos, all while sticking a knife in the side of tinseltown inanity. “The Party” transports you to a world you’ll be happy to live in for 100 minutes with another terrific Henry Mancini score and a set that brings to life chic 1960s decadence. It’s Sellers and Edwards though, both working at their absolute peaks, who make this one of the most unique (some say experimental) and best comedies of the post-studio rra. The Bad and the Ugly: To enjoy this movie, you have to get past Sellers in brownface with an Indian accent, which is not by any means an easy pill to swallow. – Chris O’Falt

S.O.B.


Year
: 1981
Where to Watch: On-Demand Rental
Why It’s Great: Here is the most important thing most people might remember from “S.O.B.”: “I’m going to show my boobies!” Julie Andrews chanted those singsong words in an Edwards film that was clearly more personal than most: Andrews was playing a character in a film directed by her husband about (in part) what might happen if a director asked his family-friendly star wife to “show her boobies” on film. The film itself serves as an ahead-of-its-time Hollywood satire (and you do actually see those Mary Poppins). While that doesn’t make it a masterpiece, it does make it worth acknowledging. – Liz Shannon Miller

Victor Victoria


Year
: 1982
Where to Watch: On-Demand Rental
Why It’s Great: Edwards’ delightfully gender- and genre-bending comedy musical features Andrews again as a career-driven young soprano who discovers that the best way to get ahead in a man’s world is to, well, be a man. Adapted by Edwards (supposedly, in just the span of a single month) from the original 1933 German play, the Oscar-winning film is a confection of pure delight, featuring excellent songs and dazzlingly crafted costumes. God knows we’re probably inches away from a “Victor/Victoria” remake, but Edwards’ version of the classic is as fresh and lively as ever. It doesn’t need a remake, it needs a rewatch! – KE

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