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Blake Edwards

Best known for such films as 10, Victor/Victoria and the hugely successful Pink Panther film series with Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards is often thought of as a director of slapstick comedies — but he also produced the sophisticated Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the searing drama Days of Wine and Roses.

Though Edwards worked hard for his reputation as an over-the-top physical-comedy director and deserved his niche, his best film, "Breakfast at Tiffany's", had a luxuriously languid pace and was as sophisticated a comedy as has been created in the last half of the twentieth century. Likewise, his second-best film, "Days of Wine and Roses", was an intensely serious look at alcoholism.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1922, Edwards step-grandfather was silent-film director J. Gordon Edwards. Some claim that his penchant for slapstick came from this early silent-film influence, but all of Edwards' first work — as actor, writer, and director — was serious. He was in "Best Years of Our Lives" as an actor, and created the famous TV series "Peter Gunn".

Though he definitely showed a penchant for farce with "Operation Petticoat", Edwards claims the original "Pink Panther" was supposed to center more on David Niven and Robert Wagner. The way Edwards tells it, Peter Sellers' sublimely clueless and arrogant slapstick stole the scene, the film and the series.

Edwards' "The Great Race" and "The Party" continued his penchant for zany physical comedy, but his bouts with Hollywood and his new wife, Julie Andrews, convinced him to escape to England for awhile in the early '70s. While there, he returned to "Pink Panther" with "Return of the Pink Panther" and three other Pink Panther sequels.

But it was the mega-blockbuster "10" that brought him back to Hollywood (in style). He followed that up with exposing his wife's breasts in the satire of Hollywood, "S.O.B.". He made it back to her, though, in 1982, with "Victor/Victoria", a huge triumph for both of them. Though the rest of his comedies were mild successes and failures, he finally succeeded in bringing "Victor/Victoria" to the stage in 1996, once again catapulting the inimitable Julie Andrews into the firmament, which she so richly deserves.

Edwards films are also marked by his association with another genius, Henry Mancini, who composed the scores for Edwards works, starting with "Peter Gunn". Certainly, Mancini's work transcended this association, but there is no question that the themes from "Pink Panther", "Days of Wine and Roses", and "Moon River", from "Breakfast at Tiffany's", are three of Mancini's most loved masterpieces.

— Nate Lee

Great Scenes:

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S

  • As much as Audrey Hepburn's presence makes this a watchable classic, the constant wit in the dialog makes it a listenable classic.
  • Audrey Hepburn learned to play the guitar for (and actually sang in) the fire-escape version of Moon River. It was enough to make grown men swoon — and still is.

DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES

  • Jack Lemmon tears apart a greenhouse looking for a bottle that he has hidden in a flowerpot, in a nightmarish scene
  • Lemmon rescues his wife, Lee Remick, from bingeing in a sleazy hotel

THE PARTY

  • Peter Sellers plays an (East) Indian accidentally invited to a big Hollywood party at the ultra-modern 1960s home of the studio chief
  • Though most of the film is an interesting look at the '60s, the party doesn't really get going until they wash the pet elephant and, of course, use approximately 2,200 times too much soap
  • Sellers inexplicably wins the heart of Claudine Longet, playing (what else?) a sexy French singer

A SHOT IN THE DARK

  • Though this isn't technically the first of the Pink Panther series, its so much better than "The Pink Panther," it has taken the honors
  • Herbert Lom slowly goes insane as Peter Sellers; boss, the Police Commissioner
  • Sellers finally gets the incredible Elke Sommer into bed, only to be attacked by Kato
  • So many of Peter Sellers' and Blake Edwards' physical gags and perpetual pratfalls have been imitated ad nauseam, it's easy to forget they all started here

10

  • This film single-handedly launched or relaunched four phenomena: the rating system, cornrows, Ravel's "Bolero," and Bo Derek (who, trivia fans know, is actually an 11)
  • As much a genius as Peter Sellers was, there's something… well… funnier about Dudley Moore's style of physical comedy, as he tumbles down hillsides, burns his feet, crashes his car, and literally goes overboard for Bo Derek.
  • The slow-motion shot of Bo running on the beach is archetypal

VICTOR/VICTORIA

  • Julie Andrews plays a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman, while James Garner plays a man trying to figure out which of Julie's incarnations he's actually in love with
  • Leslie Ann Warren is the perfect screeching moll, confused by European sexual standards
  • Football star turned comedy actor Alex Karras is hilarious as a gangster coming out of the closet

BEST FILMS:

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