In Memorium: Blake Edwards by Kamran Jawaid

This post is the unedited, correction appended copy of the article published in iMAGES on Sunday, Sunday 26st December 2010. A link to the printed version can be found at the end of this post.

Edwards-Panther-Blog

The Curse of the Pink Panther

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

It’s been ten years (give or take three) since I last saw a Blake Edwards film. I think it was “A Shot in the Dark” (1964) – a pitch-perfect charade of bumbling immaculacy cementing Peter Sellers as the accident prone Inspector Clouseau.

The pair collaborated on four Pink Panther movies (the original (1963) with appendages of “Return” (1975), “Strikes Again” (1976) and “Revenge” (1978)), “A Shot in the Dark” and “The Party” (1968), a travesty with Mr. Sellers perfecting a klutzy – and stereotypically Hollywood – Hindu.

The next time I saw “A Shot in the Dark” or “The Party” was at montage of the 76th Oscars when Mr. Edwards was honored for his career in movies. He was 82 and he had never won an Oscar.

On his entrance he whizzed past Jim Carrey, snatching the Oscar on a motorized wheelchair straight into a cardboard wall. Henry Mancini’s score from Pink Panther swelled and the audience stood up as Mr. Carry pulled him out. In Mr. Edwards’ acceptance speech he recalled a guy from “The Party” who scooped up elephant poop and sang “There is no business like show business”.

Mr. Edwards passed away of complications from pneumonia on 15th December. He was 88. Mr. Edwards is survived by his wife, actress Julie Andrews, and four children. Mostly Mr. Edwards is known as a master of slapstick, bedlam and sexual upheavals. That was his latter career. Before comedy, he mastered drama.

Days of Wine and Roses” (1962) a classic drama about alcoholism and breaking free is Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick’s career jewel. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) is a precocious and glossed up romantic-drama based fleetingly on the novel by Truman Capote that is routinely acknowledged in film-lists; it also plucked Audrey Hepburn out of her cutesy image of “Sabrina” and “Roman Holiday” into the mold of a eccentric, amoral, self-centered free-spirit in search for financial security and maybe romance. “Tiffany” also plastered Ms. Hepburn in memory as the poster of a high-society socialite: chic, dressed in black holding an oversized cigarette-holder.

Next, Mr. Edwards directed the open-faced thriller “An Experiment in Terror” (1962), another critical success that proved Mr. Edwards chops at other mediums. “The Great Race” (1965, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood) and “Pink Panther” had not happened.

Although music director Henry Mancini was an Edwards regular, once the title track of Pink Panther came out, there was no looking back. The franchise lingered until Mr. Edwards last big film.

That was “The Son of Pink Panther” (1993) with Roberto Benigni as Clouseau’s illegitimate son. By then Mr. Edward had lost it. I was 11 then, and I knew Mr. Edwards by his name and reputation – his name was stamped at the classic Pink Panther cartoons we used to watch on video.

In the days of video only his recent films were easily available. Some were barred by parental guidance. Others had nudity cut-down by the now-defunct Pulse Global. At this late a career, almost all of them charged with sexual frenzy, chaos and a plot barely enough to pitch the film’s original idea across.

In reverse order: “Switch” (1991) had a promiscuous Perry King turned into Ellen Barkin, all macho posturing, in what Roger Ebert calls “a performance of true comic invention”; Ms. Barkin was a howl in a movie that drowned headfirst in its own unconventionality.

Skin Deep” (1989), lammed universally, featured a womanizing John Ritter and a glow-in-the-dark condom. Before that came the critically panned “Blind Date” (1986) and introduced Bruce Willis to the big screen in a boozed-up comedy (it goes anywhere and everywhere); their next, “Sunset” (1988), got even worse reviews.

Mr. Edwards also made sure that wife Julie Andrews was anything but Mary Poppins. In the applauded “Victor Victoria” (1982) – a musical-comedy of mistaken identity and sexual role-playing, she plays a woman masquerading as a man playing a woman. The couple has five more credits together: “Darling Lili” (1970) – an epic commercial disaster; “10” (1979) that made Bo Derek an international sex-symbol and had Duddley Moore, facing male menopause (it was also the biggest money maker of the year); “That’s Life!” (1986), this time with Jack Lemmon in menopause; “The Man Who Loved Women” (1983) with Burt Reynolds and the Hollywood industry satire “S.O.B.” (1981).

Given the farcical nature of his later movies Mr. Edward’s films are sharply divided in critical opinion. “S.O.B” was nominated for a “Razzie” for “Worst Screenplay” (he wrote most of his movies) as well as a “Best Comedy Screenplay” by the “Writers Guild of America”; Mr. Edwards was also nominated for a “Razzie” for “Worst Director” as well as a nomination for “Best Picture Musical/Comedy” at the years Golden Globes.

In some ways he got the best of both worlds – critical lambast and overwhelming acclaim. He will be missed.

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The published version can be found at Dawn’s website here:

http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/26/inmemoriam-the-curse-of-the-pink-panther.html

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