Blake Edwards RIP

Directing legend dead at 88

Blake Edwards RIP

by James White |
Published on

The man who brought the world Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau, writer/producer/director Blake Edwards, has died at the age of 88.

Born in Oklahoma in 1922, Edwards was largely raised by his mother and his stepfather, a film production manager, in what he later described as a seriously dysfunctional family. He eventually met his biological father, a former stage director, at the age of 40, but regretted the decision.

His family moved to Los Angeles when he was three, and he attended Beverly Hills High before making a stab at acting in movies such as Ten Gentlemen from West Point, A Guy named Joe, Ladies Courageous, Strangler of the Swamp and Leather Gloves. But in 1946, he co-wrote the Western film Panhandle and produced it, nabbing a small role in front of the camera.

Other early work included creating and writing radio series including Richard Diamond, Private Detective and The Line-Up. His film resume expanded out to low-budget musical comedies and melodramas, making his directing debut with Bring Your Smile Along. He also established a healthy run in television, working on Peter Gunn, which won him more film work.

One big break happened when John Frankenheimer dropped out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn, who had director approval, gave the thumbs up for Edwards to take over. Despite its controversial racial portrayals, the film went on to become a huge hit, scoring Oscars for composer Henry Mancini and nominations for Hepburn and writer George Axelrod.

Mancini was a frequent collaborator with Edwards and in addition to their other successes, both will probably be best known for their work on the Pink Panther films. Edwards’ time with Peter Sellers led to both some legendary comedy moments and a troubled working relationship between the pair, with Sellers’ notoriously changeable temper complicating matters more than once.

Edwards would occasionally head back into Panther territory, but he was also responsible for the iconic Bo Derek/Dudley Moore comedy 10 and Victor Victoria, starring Julie Andrews, who became his second wife in 1969, and with whom he adopted two children (he already had two from his marriage to first wife Patricia Walker).

Despite his inarguable brilliance behind the camera, Edwards never won an Oscar himself, though he was presented with an Honorary Award in 2004.

Andrews and his children, who were with him when he died, survive him. In recognition of the joy he brought to the world, we can think of no finer tribute than this moment of inspired Clouseau lunacy. Thank you, Mr Edwards. You’ll be sorely missed.

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