The Pink Panther
American director, screenwriter, producer and actor Blake Edwards (1922 to 2010) began his distinguished career in the 1940s as an actor before turning to writing radio script. He eventually worked at Columbia as a screenwriter and staff producer and later a producer and director. Edwards was probably best known for his collaboration with actor Peter Sellers in the massively successful “Pink Panther” film series. He won a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) and an Evening Standard British Film Award for “The Return of the Pink Panther” (1975), “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) and “Revenge of the Pink Panther” (1978). Edwards was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his direction of “The Days of Wine and Roses” (1962) and an Academy Award for writing “Victor Victoria” (1982). Other notable films include “Operation Petticoat” (1959), “Breakfast at Tiffany's” (1961), “Experiment in Terror” (1962), “The Great Race” (1965), “The Party” (1968), “10” (1979) and “S.O.B.” (1981).
Edwards has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his motion picture work. He was the recipient of an Honorary Award at the 2004 Academy Awards and was awarded the Life Career Award at the 2004 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, to name a few prestigious honors.
Childhood and Family:
William Blake Crump, who would later be popular as Blake Edwards, was born on July 26, 1922, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Lillian (1899-1990) and Donald Crump. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother married Jack McEdwards (1987-1992), who adopted Blake. His stepfather worked as a film production manager after moving the family to Hollywood in 1925. His step-grandfather, J. Gordon Edwards, was a director of silent movies. Blake graduated from Beverly Hills High School and served briefly with the U.S. Coast Guard before working as an actor in the early 1940s. His nickname was Blackie.
Blake was married to actress Patricia Walker from 1953 to 1967. The couple had two children, Jennifer Edwards (born March 25, 1957) and Geoffrey Edwards (born October 29, 1959). He married his second wife, English actress, singer and author Julie Andrews, on November 12, 1969. The two adopted two Vietnamese orphans, Amy Leigh Edwards (born 1974) and Joanna Lynne Edwards (born 1975). He also had a stepdaughter, Emma Walton (born November 27, 1962), from Andrews' first marriage to British set and costume designer Tony Walton.
Blake suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CGS) for about 15 years, which he described in the documentary “I Remember Me” (2000). On December 15, 2010, he passed away from complications of pneumonia at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He is survived by his wife, Julie Andrews, and family.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Blake Edwards kicked off his film career as an actor in 1942 with unaccredited parts in Henry Hathaway's “Ten Gentlemen from West Point” and Charles Barton's “Lucky Legs.” He went on to land roles in the movies “A Guy Named Joe” (1943), “Ladies Courageous” (1944), “Marshal of Reno” (1944), “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944), “This Man's Navy” (1945), “Gangs of the Waterfront” (1945), “Strangler of the Swamp” (1946), “Tokyo Rose” (1946), “Big Town” (1947) and “Leather Gloves” (1948) before turning his attention toward writing. Edwards co-wrote “Panhandle” (1948), which he also served as a producer. The next year, he wrote radio scripts for the popular private eye series “Richard Diamond, Private Detective,” starring Dick Powell. Before long, he landed work as a screenwriter and staff producer at Columbia Pictures.
Edwards co-wrote, with director Richard Quine, “Sound Off,” a comedy vehicle for Mickey Rooney, and the musical “Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder” (1952). He would go on to write the scripts for the Quine films “All Ashore” (1953), “Cruisin' Down the River” (1953), “Drive a Crooked Road” (1954), “My Sister Eileen”(1955), “Operation Mad Ball” (1957), where he nabbed a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Written American Comedy for his work, and “The Notorious Landlady” (1962), for which he shared a Writers Guild of America nomination (with Larry Gelbart). Edwards and his mentor also created the short lived sitcom “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954-1955) and developed Rooney's 1954 spoof “The Atomic Kid,” for Republic Pictures. It was Quine who co-wrote the script of “Bring Your Smile Along” (1955), Edwards' film directorial debut, as well as Edwards' “He Laughed Last” (1956).
In 1957, Edwards made an impression with his writing and direction attempts on “Mister Cory” (1957), a drama starring Tony Curtis. It received positive reviews from critics and helped launch the career of Curtis. He then directed and scripted “This Happy Feeling” (1958), an adaptation of the play “For Love or Money” by F. Hugh Herbert, and directed another vehicle for Curtis, “The Perfect Furlough” (1958), from a screenplay by Stanley Shapiro. He was reunited with Curtis and Shapiro for the commercially successful comedy “Operation Petticoat” (1959), which became the greatest box office success of the decade for Universal Studios. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Comedy.
In 1958, Edwards created, wrote and produced the series “Peter Gunn,” which starred Craig Stevens. The show, for which he also directed several episodes, ran until 1961. Edwards earned Emmy nominations for Best Writing of a Single Program of a Dramatic Series - Less Than One Hour and Best Direction of a Single Program of a Dramatic Series - Less Than One Hour (both for the episode “The Kill”) and an Edgar Allan Poe nomination for Best Episode in a TV Series (episode “The Comic”).
After directing Bing Crosby, Fabian and Tuesday Weld in the 1960 musical comedy “High Time,” Edwards directed the hit movie “Breakfast at Tiffany's” (1961, screenplay by George Axelrod), which was loosely adapted from the novella of the same name by Truman Capote. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn) and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the awards for Best Original Song and Best Song (“Moon River”). Edwards picked up a 1962 Director's Guild of America nomination in the category of Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for his work.
Edwards gained further recognition with “The Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), a movie starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Scripted by JP Miller, which Miller adapted from his own 1958 play of the same name, the film was well received and won an Oscar for Best Original Song. Edwards was handed the OCIC Award at the 1963 San Sebastián International Film Festival and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Director for his effort. Also in 1962, he helmed Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Stefanie Powers and Ross Martin in the thriller “Experiment in Terror” (1962), which brought Ross Martin a Golden Globe nomination for his supporting performance as Garland Humphrey 'Red' Lynch.
In 1963, Edwards directed and co-wrote (with Maurice Richlin) the comedy film “The Pink Panther,” the first in the “The Pink Panther” movie series featuring the bungling French police detective Jacques Clouseau. Starring Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau, the film was an instant hit. Under his direction, Sellers received nominations at the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Laurel Awards, while Edwards was handed a Writers Guild of America nomination for his writing. He was reunited with Sellers for “A Shot in the Dark” (1964).
In 1965, Edwards directed Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, Arthur O'Connell and Vivian Vance in the slapstick comedy “The Great Race,” which he co-wrote with Arthur Ross. The film, however, was a disappointment. He followed it up directing and producing the comedy “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy” (1966, starred James Coburn and Aldo Ray), directing, producing and writing the mystery “Gunn” (1967, starred Craig Stevens), and directing, producing and co-writing (with Frank Waldman and Tom Waldman) “The Party” (1968), which starred Sellers and Claudine Longet.
In 1970, Edwards directed his wife, Julie Andrews, and Rock Hudson in the musical “Darling Lili,” which he produced and co-wrote with William Peter Blatty. The next year, he directed, produced and wrote the western “Wild Rovers” (1971), starring William Holden, Ryan O'Neal and Karl Malden, directed James Coburn and Jennifer O'Neill in “The Carey Treatment” (1972), which earned mediocre to negative reviews from critics, cast Andrews and Omar Sharif in “The Tamarind Seed” (1974), which he directed and scripted, and directed the variety TV special “Julie and Dick at Covent Garden” (1974), which starred Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner.
However, Edwards did not score another financial success until he was reunited with music composer Henry Mancini and Peter Sellers for “The Return of the Pink Panther” (1975). Edwards was nominated for a WGA in the category of Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen and won a 1977 Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Comedy for the film. He again directed Sellers in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976), which was also another huge success at the box office, and “Revenge of the Pink Panther” (1978), which marked Edwards' last film with Sellers. He picked up an Evening Standard British Film for Best Comedy for both films and a WGA Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium for “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.” Edwards closed out the decade directing, producing (with Tony Adams) and writing “10” (1979), a romantic comedy starring Bo Derek, Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews. It was a surprising success at the box office and he received a WGA nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen for the film.
Edwards resurfaced in 1981 when he directed, wrote and produced “S.O.B.,” starring Andrews, William Holden, Richard Mulligan and Robert Preston. The comedy earned Edwards Razzie nominations for Worst Director and Worst Screenplay and a WAG nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. Edwards bounced back the following year with “Victor Victoria” (1982), a musical adaptation of a 1933 German film. Starring Andrews, the film was nominated for seven Oscars and won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score. Edwards picked up the nomination for Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score, while Andrews received a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Edwards also won a 1983 César for Best Foreign Film, a WGA for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium, a David for Best Screenplay - Foreign Film, and a Sant Jordi for Best Foreign Film. Also in 1982, Edwards directed, co-wrote and produced “Trail of the Pink Panther,” the seventh film in the “Pink Panther” movie series. He dedicated the film to Sellers, who died before the production began. He also directed, produced (with Tony Adams) and co-wrote (with his son Geoffrey Edwards) “Curse of the Pink Panther” (1983), with a new lead, Ted Wass, as American detective Clifton Sleigh. The film, however, was a flop. Edwards then directed Burt Reynolds, Kim Basinger and Andrews in the 1983 comedy “The Man Who Loved Women,” a remake of the 1977 French film “L'Homme qui aimait les femmes,” Amy Irving, Ann Reinking, Dudley Moore and Richard Mulligan in “Micki + Maude” (1984), Ted Danson and Howie Mandel in “A Fine Mess” (1986) and Jack Lemmon and Andres in “That's Life” (1986). He also worked with Bruce Willis, Kim Basinger, John Larroquette and William Daniels in “Blind Date” (1987), Bruce Willis, James Garner, Malcolm McDowell and Mariel Hemingway in “Sunset” (1988) and John Ritter and Alyson Reed in “Skin Deep” (1989). He then directed the television films “Justin Case” (1988) and “Peter Gunn” (1989).
In 1991, Edwards wrote and directed “Switch,” a comedy starring Ellen Barkin and Bruce Payne. The next year, he executive produced a short lived television series for Andrews called “Julie” (1992) before returning to “The Pink Panther” series with “Son of the Pink Panther” (1993), starring Roberto Benigni. In 1995, he wrote and directed a stage musical adaptation of “Victor/Victoria” for Andrews. The production was a success on Broadway and marked his last collaboration with Henry Mancini.
Edwards rewrote a version of his 1999 off-Broadway show “Big Rosemary,” which he directed for a 2004 Los Angeles stage production starring Jennifer Leigh Warren. The same year, he was given an Honorary Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures for his lifetime contribution to film.
Academy Award: Honorary Award, In recognition of his writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen (Oscar statuette), 2004
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Life Career Award, 2004
Writers Guild of America: Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement, 2002
Rhode Island International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001
Art Directors Guild: Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award, 2000
Hamptons International Film Festival: Distinguished Achievement Award, 1998
Directors Guild of America: Preston Sturges Award, 1993
Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Career Achievement Award, 1990
Razzie: Worst Director, “Sunset,” 1989
American Comedy Award: Creative Achievement Award, 1988
César: Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), “Victor Victoria,” 1983
David di Donatello: David, Best Screenplay - Foreign Film (Migliore Sceneggiatura Straniero), “Victor Victoria,” 1983
Sant Jordi: Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera), “Victor Victoria,” 1983
Writers Guild of America: Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium, “Victor Victoria,” 1983
Evening Standard British Film: Best Comedy, “Revenge of the Pink Panther,” 1979
Evening Standard British Film: Best Comedy, “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” 1978
Evening Standard British Film: Best Comedy, “The Return of the Pink Panther,” 1977
Writers Guild of America: Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium, “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” 1977
Laurel: 3rd place, Golden Laurel, Producer-Director, 1968
Laure: 2nd place, Golden Laurel, Director, 1965
San Sebastián International Film Festival: OCIC Award, “Days of Wine and Roses,” 1963