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: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea