Blake Edwards, the clown prince of comedy, dies aged 88

Blake Edwards, the prolific film director, producer and screenwriter who made his name with Breakfast at Tiffany's before managing, via the Pink Panther films, to create a hugely lucrative comedy franchise which jollified Hollywood for almost four decades, has died at the age of 88.

A publicist, Gene Schwam, announced yesterday that Edwards, who had been in a wheelchair for the final year and a half of his life, had died overnight due to complications of pneumonia. His wife, the actress Julie Andrews, was at his side, along with other family members.

Though he was responsible for more than 100 films and television shows – including the box office smash 10, Dudley Moore's 1979 romantic comedy with Bo Derek – Edwards will be chiefly remembered as the man responsible for perfecting the modern screwball comedy in collaboration with his friend Peter Sellers, who played Inspector Clouseau in the five original Pink Panther films of the sixties and seventies. Like many of his more commercial hits, the films were acclaimed for their brilliant dialogue and perfectly-pitched use of slapstick. Yet despite their influence, and enduring popular following, they met with a mixed critical reception and were occasionally derided by the Hollywood establishment.

Edwards was nominated just once for an Oscar, getting a nod for Best Screenplay for his 1982 film Victor Victoria. The only time he actually walked away with a gold statuette, however, was in 2004, when (as if to correct their previous oversights) the academy presented him with an honourary gong.

When he collected the award, he jokingly referred to Julie Andrews, who became his second wife in 1969: "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, and the beautiful English broad with the incomparable soprano and promiscuous vocabulary thanks you."



Throughout his career, Edwards frequently clashed with his paymasters at the major studios, even devoting a dark comedy, 1981's S.O.B., which starred Andrews, to express his disdain for their efforts (as he saw it) to bastardise the cinematic art form.

"I was certainly getting back at some of the producers of my life," he once remarked, of the film. "Although I was a good deal less scathing than I could have been." The only reason he was able to finance S.O.B., he added, was that it followed hot on the heels of the huge commercial hit 10. "Even then [the studio] tried to sabotage it."

Not even Breakfast at Tiffany's, the 1961 cult hit, could escape being almost ruined by studio interference, he once revealed. After attending an early screening, a Paramount executive instructed him to "get rid of that fucking song" from the film.

The piece of music was "Moon River." It was kept in after the film's star, Audrey Hepburn, informed the executive that the track would be cut "over her dead body." It went on to win an Oscar and become one of the most famous pieces of film music of all time.

A third generation film-maker, who was born in Oklahoma, Edwards began his career as a playwright and bit-part actor. At the time of his death, he was working on two Broadway musicals. One was based on the Pink Panther franchise; the other, Big Rosemary, was to be an original comedy set during Prohibition.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect