Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blake Edwards 1922-2010

I came to love the work of Blake Edwards through my young love of Inspector Clouseau, the classic stumbling hero who was played by Peter Sellers in five movies directed by Edwards.

Even as a youth, I got the definite impression that Edwards, A) was very funny, and B) had a mean streak a mile wide.

Maybe you need to be a little mean to be funny. Most jokes are aimed at deflating someone or something.

I had to learn to accept that Sellers and Edwards were talented but often unpleasant men who grew to intensely dislike each other because both of their careers became dependent on making Clouseau films.

Sellers wanted to show he didn't need Edwards to make a Clouseau movie. From all I've heard about his proposed Romance of the Pink Panther, it's just as well it never made it to the screen.

Edwards wanted to show he didn't need Sellers to make a Clouseau movie. In fact, he tried at least four times: Trail of the Pink Panther utilizing some unused footage of the late Sellers; Curse of the Pink Panther, which was supposed to reboot the series with a new hero; Son of the Pink Panther, which tried yet another new hero; and Victor Victoria, which included a subplot with a bumbling detective. The last one is clearly the best, with expertly timed gags, and a character you forget about the moment he's off screen.

So is there a happy ending here? The happy ending is that Edwards made a lot of great comedies, including six with Sellers, even though they didn't like each other.

His slapstick, however violent, represented a kind of comedy not seen much today, and is long overdue for a revival.

My favorite Edwards film is A Shot in the Dark, in which he and Sellers truly create Clouseau as we now know him: thickly accented, bumbling, and somehow noble, the closest thing to Don Quixote or Laurel & Hardy that Hollywood has accomplished int he last 50 years.

I also have a special place in my hear to The Party, a comedy about a well meaning fool (Sellers) running amuck at a Hollywood Party. While not always 100% on the mark, it's a pleasurable return to the improvisational style that marked Hollywood's Golden Age of comedy. It was largely improvised, which was taboo at the time, but has now come back into fashion.


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