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Blake Edwards: 1922 - 2010

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Blake Edwards: 1922 - 2010
Blake Edwards, the screenwriter, producer and director best-known for the hugely successful Pink Panther film series in collaboration with the comedian Peter Sellers, died Wednesday evening at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica of complications from pneumonia; he was 88. Known mostly for the slapstick comedy of the Pink Panther films and other farces ranging from the midlife crisis comedy 10 to the gender-bending Victor/Victoria, Edwards did venture into other genres, most notably with the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring Audrey Hepburn, and the melodrama Days of Wine and Roses, both filmed in the early 1960s. Edwards was also known for his high-profile marriage to actress Julie Andrews, whom he directed in a number of films, and with whom he adopted two children; Andrews and his family were reportedly at his bedside when he passed.

Born William Blake Crump on July 26, 1922, in Tulsa Oklahoma, Edwards was the son of a stage director and the grandson of prolific silent-film director J. Gordon Edwards. He began his career as an actor and a radio scriptwriter specializing in hard-boiled private detective scripts tinged with humor, a different take from the classic noir gumshoes such as Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. Edwards took his talents to the small screen in 1959, creating the TV series Peter Gunn about a private investigator who loved hip jazz and dressed to the nines. Though the series ran for over 100 episodes, Peter Gunn is perhaps best remembered for its theme music, composed by Henry Mancini, who was to become an invaluable contributor to Edwards' career in film.

In the mid 1950s Edward also moved towards film, directing a number of comedies before striking box office gold with the 1959 hit Operation Petticoat, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. Two years later, Edwards turned Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's into a critical and commercial success, propelling Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly into the pop culture pantheon as well as Mancini's hit song "Moon River", which won an Oscar (the film received five Oscar nominations total, including Best Actress). The adult-for-its-time comedy, co-starring George Peppard, Patricia Neal and Mickey Rooney (whose jaw-dropping portrayal of a stereotypical Japanese landlord was the film's biggest misstep), erased much of Capote's sexual subtext in favor of a standard Hollywood romance between the two leads, but it nonetheless became one of the favored romantic comedies of all time. He followed up that film with the effective black-and-white thriller Experiment in Terror (1962) , his only turn in the thriller genre, and the alcoholism drama Days of Wine and Roses (also 1962), which featured Academy Award-nominated performances by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.

In 1963, beginning with The Pink Panther (1963) and in four subsequent Panther films over two decades, Edwards, in collaboration with Peter Sellers, gave audiences one of the most distinctive comedic characters ever conceived - Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. With an exaggerated French accent and an incredibly clumsy manner, Clouseau was a uniquely brilliant creation, a completely inept detective who always got his man. Only two films were made in the early 1960s, but the franchise was revived in the mid 1970s with three more films. Though Sellers died in 1980, Edwards made three additional Panther films into the early 1990's, though none came close to capturing the freewheeling and blissfully absurd spirit of the first two Panther comedies, which also included A Shot in the Dark (1964).

First married from 1953-1967 to actress Patricia Walker, with whom he had two children, Edwards met his second wife, Julie Andrews, in the late 1960s as both were coming off big movie hits, she with The Sound of Music and he with the Pink Panther films as well as The Great Race (1965) and The Party (1968). The two, who married in November 1969, attempted to join their creative forces for the World War I musical melodrama Darling Lili, which was an attempt to show Andrews in a more adult light as a Mata Hari-type spy who attempts to use her seductive wiles on American major Rock Hudson, only to fall in love him. One of the most notorious flops of its time, the production was marred by expensive location shooting, expansive yet nonsensical musical numbers, extensive rewrites and constant meddling from Paramount studio to make the film more commercially appealing; the budget skyrocketed as the film drew towards its 1970 release, and was roundly drubbed as a fiasco on all counts.

Darling Lili practically sunk Edwards' career, and the filmmaker suffered from severe depression and retreated to Switzerland to recover. While he made some films in the early 1970s, none were warmly received until The Return of the Pink Panther in 1975. After two more Panther films with Peter Sellers, Edwards was suddenly back on top in 1979 with the comedy 10, which featured Dudley Moore as a man besotted with a younger woman, a corn-rowed Bo Derek, who thanks to the film would become a superstar and cultural icon of the time, due mostly to scenes captured of her running on a Mexican beach in little more than a flesh-colored bikini. The film turned Edwards' career around, and he gleefully skewered the Hollywood that attempted to sink him after Darling Lili with the scathing satire S.O.B. (1981), in which Andrews played a thinly veiled version of herself and finally rid herself of her pristine image by baring her breasts.

Andrews received an Oscar nomination, as did Edwards for screenwriting, for the cross-dressing musical hit Victor/Victoria (1982), the story of a British female singer pretending to be a gay Polish female impersonator in pre-World War II France. The racy comedy, which dealt frankly with cross-dressing and homosexuality in an era when both evoked titters and general discomfort with mainstream audiences, also starred James Garner and Oscar nominees Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren. The film, featuring numerous musical numbers and Edwards' patented brand of slapstick, was a huge hit, and would inspire a Broadway musical adaptation in the mid-1990s, also directed by Edwards and starring Andrews; lightning, however, did not strike twice, and though commercially successful, it was less than warmly received by critics.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Edwards made more comedies, including Micki & Maude (1984), A Fine Mess (1986), Blind Date (1987), and Switch (1991); his most notable film post-Victor/Victoria was the autobiographical That's Life! (1986), starring Jack Lemmon as an Edwards-style protagonist suffering from depression, Julie Andrews as his wife, and one of Edwards' children, and one of Andrews' children as part of the main character's large family.

After the Broadway adaptation of Victor/Victoria, Edwards essentially retired from filmmaking; in 2004 he received an Honorary Oscar "In recognition of his writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen". The presentation of the award, by Jim Carrey, was notable for including a patented Edwards sight gag, in which the director, ensconced in a wheelchair, crashed through a wall in an attempt to accept the statuette.

Edwards is survived by Andrews and his four children.

R.I.P. Blake Edwards

R.I.P. Blake Edwards
It had just been September 30th when multitalent Blake Edwards asked for a moment of silence in the cavernous Samuel Goldwyn Theatre to remember Tony Curtis who had just died less than 24 hours earlier. The actor and filmmaker had worked together on several films including Mister Cory (1957) and The Perfect Furlough (1959) along with huge box office hits Operation Petticoat (1959) and The Great Race (1965). And now Edwards himself has passed away this morning. He was 88. The writer and director and producer best known for the Pink Panther comedy franchise with Peter Sellers had been the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' latest tributee, there to participate in an on-stage conversation about his career for the Academy’s annual Jack Oakie Celebration of Comedy in Film. It was an enthusiastic sold-out house that included many collaborators and stars of Edwards’ movies including his wife Julie Andrews and daughter Jennifer Edwards. The entertaining
See full article at Deadline Hollywood »

Farrell Beats Grant to '10'

  • WENN
Farrell Beats Grant to '10'
Irish star Colin Farrell has signed up for a remake of steamy Blake Edwards flick 10 - taking the role from bumbling Englishman Hugh Grant. The hunky Phone Booth actor is one of the hottest properties in Hollywood at the moment and has beaten previous favorite Grant to the role, played by Dudley Moore in the 1979 original 10. Busty British babe Kelly Brook, who scored her first high profile acting role in American TV's Smallville, was slated to reprise the role Bo Derek famously played, but has lost out, with Terminator 3 babe Kristanna Loken now favorite to appear opposite Farrell.

Bo Derek and John Corbett's Trial Marriage

  • WENN
10 beauty Bo Derek and her Sex And The City hunk beau John Corbett have decided to take their romance up a notch higher - by embarking on a trial marriage. The lovebirds have set up house together in Corbett's West Hollywood, California, condominium and are now checking out life as a married couple, say friends. A neighbor says, "They certainly are not hiding their romance. You can often see them laughing and kissing as they walk hand in hand through the lobby of the building. They're friendly and smile at everyone." According to American tabloid the Star, the move comes after Derek spotted Corbett's co-star in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos, licking his face backstage at an awards show. Derek reportedly gave her lover an ultimatum to choose her or Nia. Now pals say Derek, 46, and her 41-year-old beau are planning to make it official. A source says, "John and Bo are really into each other. She moved in with him about a month ago and they're always kissing and cuddling. They've been dating for about a year and they are moving things forward by living together in a trial marriage. The next step is to actually tie the knot."

Bo Derek: Americans Are Prudish

  • WENN
Bo Derek: Americans Are Prudish
Actress Bo Derek has slammed America in general - for being prudish about nudity. The 10 (1979) star, a body naturalist, thinks it's ridiculous that full-blown sex is acceptable while nudity is frowned upon. She says, "America is so funny. They have a big problem with nudity - not vulgarity and violence and cheapness, just simple nudity. I always marvel at how really uptight people are. You can have these really heavy-duty sex scenes with half- clothed actors doing really vulgar things on a kitchen table or in a bathroom or on an airplane. But take your clothes off and suddenly it's a big problem. It's a funny, prudish side we have. And it is so silly."

Ted Turner Finds Love With "10" Star

  • WENN
Ted Turner Finds Love With
Media tycoon TED TURNER has found new love with actress Bo Derek just months after splitting from Jane Fonda. Three-times-married Ted is 19 years older than 43-year-old Bo, but those close to the 61-year-old say he's very keen on the sexy 10 (1979) star. A source says, "It's in the early days yet, but Ted has been escorting Bo around very discreetly. Ted loves beautiful women and he gets a big buzz out of the whole movie scene. " However the pair are playing down the reports themselves. Turner's spokesman Philip Evans says, "It is not true. I don't know where you got it. " And a spokeswoman for Bo says, "They've been friends for a long time - but there's no romance. " But the sources say Turner and Derek have found they have a lot in common - including their mutual love for The Great Outdoors Both are also nursing major heartaches - TIME WARNER mogul Turner's nine-year marriage to Fonda collapsed in January and Derek is still mourning the 1998 death of her husband and mentor, John Derek.

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