Blake Edwards

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Blake Edwards
Blake Edwards.jpg
Born William Blake Crump
(1922-07-26)July 26, 1922
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died December 15, 2010(2010-12-15) (aged 88)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Pneumonia
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Occupation Film director, screen and scriptwriter, producer, actor
Years active 1942–1995
Known for
Home town Tulsa, Oklahoma
Political party
Democratic
Spouse(s) Patricia Walker (m. 1953; div. 1967)
Julie Andrews (m. 1969)
Children 3 daughters, 1 son

Blake Edwards (born William Blake Crump, July 26, 1922 – December 15, 2010) was an American film director, screenwriter and producer.

Edwards' career began in the 1940s as an actor, but he soon turned to writing screenplays and radio scripts before turning to producing and directing in film and television. His best-known films include Breakfast at Tiffany's, Days of Wine and Roses, and the hugely successful Pink Panther film series with British comedian Peter Sellers. Often thought of as primarily a director of comedies, he also directed dramas and detective films. Late in his career, he transitioned to writing, producing, and directing for theater.

In 2004, he received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of his writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born William Blake Crump in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his step-grandfather was J. Gordon Edwards, a director of silent movies, and his stepfather, Jack McEdwards,[2] became a film production manager after moving his family to Los Angeles in 1925.[3] In an interview with the Village Voice in 1971, he said that he had "always felt alienated, estranged from my own father, Jack McEdwards".[4] After attending grammar and high school in Los Angeles, he began taking jobs as an actor during World War II. Edwards describes this period:

I worked with the best directors – Ford, Wyler, Preminger – and learned a lot from them. But I wasn't a very cooperative actor. I was a spunky, smart-assed kid. Maybe even then I was indicating that I wanted to give, not take, direction.[4]

Edwards served in the United States Coast Guard during World War II where he experienced a severe back injury, which left him in pain for years afterwards.[3]

Career[edit]

In the 1954–1955 television season, Edwards joined with Richard Quine to create Mickey Rooney's first television series, The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan, a sitcom about a young studio page trying to become a serious actor. Edwards's hard-boiled private detective scripts for Richard Diamond, Private Detective became NBC's answer to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, reflecting Edwards's unique humor. Edwards also created, wrote and directed the 1959 TV series Peter Gunn, which starred Craig Stevens, with music by Henry Mancini. In the same year Edwards produced, with Mancini's musical theme, Mr. Lucky, an adventure series on CBS starring John Vivyan and Ross Martin. Mancini's association with Edwards continued in his film work, significantly contributing to their success.

Operation Petticoat (1959)

Operation Petticoat was Edwards's first big-budget movie as a director. The film, which starred Tony Curtis and Cary Grant, became the "greatest box-office success of the decade for Universal [Studios]," and made Edwards a recognized director.[3]

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Breakfast at Tiffany's, based on the novel by Truman Capote, is credited with establishing him as a "cult figure" with many critics. Andrew Sarris called it the "directorial surprise of 1961," and it became a "romantic touchstone" for college students in the early 1960s.[3]

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Days Of Wine And Roses, a dark psychological film about the effects of alcoholism on a previously happy marriage, starred Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. It has been described as "perhaps the most unsparing tract against drink that Hollywood has yet produced, more pessimistic than Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend." The film gave another major boost to Edwards's reputation as an important director.[3]

Edwards's most popular films were comedies, the melodrama Days of Wine and Roses being a notable exception. His most dynamic and successful collaboration was with Peter Sellers in six of the movies in the Pink Panther series.[5] Five of the those involved Edwards and Sellers in original material, while Trail of the Pink Panther, made after Sellers died in 1980, was made up of unused material from The Pink Panther Strikes Again. He also worked with Sellers on the film The Party. Edwards later directed the comedy film 10 with Dudley Moore and Bo Derek.[5]

Darling Lili (1970)

Darling Lili, whose star, Julie Andrews, Edwards later married, is considered by many followers of Edwards's films as "the director's masterpiece." According to critic George Morris, "it synthesizes every major Edwards theme: the disappearance of gallantry and honor, the tension between appearances and reality and the emotional, spiritual, moral, and psychological disorder" in such a world. Edwards used difficult cinematography techniques, including long-shot zooms, tracking, and focus distortion, to great effect.[3]

The film failed badly, however, at the box-office. At a cost of $17 million to make, few people went to see it, and the few who did were unimpressed. It brought Paramount Pictures to "the verge of financial collapse," and became an example of "self-indulgent extravagance" in filmmaking "that was ruining Hollywood."[3]

Pink Panther films

Edwards is best known for directing most of the comedy film series The Pink Panther, all of those starring Peter Sellers as the inept Inspector Clouseau. It was considered a fruitful, yet complicated, relationship between the director and the lead actor, with many disagreements during production. At various times in their film relationship, "he more than once swore off Sellers" as too hard to direct. However, in his later years, he admitted that working with Sellers was often irresistible:

"We clicked on comedy, and we were lucky we found each other, because we both had so much respect for it. We also had an ability to come up with funny things and great situations that had to be explored. But in that exploration there would oftentimes be disagreement. But I couldn't resist those moments when we jelled. And if you ask me who contributed most to those things, it couldn't have happened unless both of us were involved, even though it wasn't always happy."[6]

The films were all highly profitable. The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), for example, cost just $2.5 million to make, but grossed $100 million, while The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), did even better.[3]

Honorary Academy Award

In 2003, Edwards received an Honorary Academy Award for cumulative achievements over the course of his film career.[7]

Silent-film style[edit]

Having grown up in Hollywood, the son of a studio production manager and grandson of a silent-film director, Edwards had watched the films of the great silent-era comedians, including Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Laurel and Hardy. Both he and Sellers appreciated and understood the comedy styles in silent-films and tried to recreate it in their work together. After their immense success with the first two Pink Panther films, The Pink Panther (1963) and A Shot in the Dark (1964), which adapted many silent-film aspects, including slapstick, they attempted to go even further in The Party (1968). Although the film is relatively unknown, some have considered it a "masterpiece in this vein" of silent comedy, even though it included minimal dialogue.[8][9]

Personal life[edit]

Edwards, the step-grandson of prolific silent-film director J. Gordon Edwards, married his first wife, actress Patricia Walker, in 1953. They had two children, and divorced in 1967. She appeared in the comedy All Ashore (1953), for which Edwards was one of the screenwriters.

Edwards' second marriage from 1969 until his death was to Julie Andrews. Andrews had a daughter from her previous marriage, and the couple adopted two orphans from Vietnam in the early 1970s, Amelia Leigh and Joanna Lynne. Andrews appeared in a number of his films, including Darling Lili, 10, Victor Victoria and the autobiographical satire S.O.B., in which Andrews played a character who was a caricature of herself. In 1995, he wrote the book for the stage musical adaptation of Victor/Victoria, also starring Andrews.

Edwards described his struggle with the illness chronic fatigue syndrome for 15 years in the documentary I Remember Me (2000).[10]

Death[edit]

On December 15, 2010, Edwards died of complications of pneumonia at the Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.[11] His wife and children were at his side.[5] His death came after 15 years of suffering from Chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.[12]

Legacy[edit]

Edwards was greatly admired as well as strongly criticized as a filmmaker during his career. On the negative side, general critique included this by American film author George Morris:

It has been difficult for many critics to accept Blake Edwards as anything more than a popular entertainer. Edwards' detractors acknowledge his formal skill but deplore the absence of profundity in his movies. Edwards' movies are slick and glossy, but their shiny surfaces reflect all too accurately the disposable values of contemporary life.[3]

Others, however, recognized him more for his significant achievements at different periods of his career. British film critic Peter Lloyd, for example, described Edwards, in 1971, as "the finest director working in the American commercial cinema at the present time." Edwards' biographers, William Luhr and Peter Lehman,[13] in an interview in 1974, called him "the finest American director working at this time."[14] They refer especially to the Pink Panther's Clouseau, developed with the comedic skills of Peter Sellers, as a character "perfectly consistent" with his "absurdist view of the world, because he has no faith in anything and constantly adapts." Critic Stuart Byron calls his early Pink Panther films "two of the best comedies an American has ever made." Polls taken at the time showed that his name, as a director, was a rare "marketable commodity" in Hollywood.[3]

Edwards himself described one of the secrets to success in the film industry:

For someone who wants to practice his art in this business, all you can hope to do, as S.O.B. says, is stick to your guns, make the compromises you must, and hope that somewhere along the way you acquire a few good friends who understand. And keep half a conscience."[3]

Filmography[edit]

Television credits[edit]

Radio drama credits[edit]

Theater credits[edit]

  • Victor/Victoria (1995–1997 Broadway production) [writer/producer/director]
  • Minor Demons (1997 off-Broadway production) [producer]
  • Big Rosemary (1999 off-Broadway production) [writer/producer/director]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Receiving Honorary Oscar in 2004". Youtube.com. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ 8:39PM GMT December 16, 2010 (December 16, 2010). "Telegraph obituary". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Wakeman, John (Ed.) World Film Directors Vol. 2. H.W. Wilson Co. (1988) pp. 302–310
  4. ^ a b Village Voice, Confessions of a Cult Figure, Stuart Byron, August 5, 1971 p56
  5. ^ a b c Moody, Mike (December 16, 2010). "Filmmaker Blake Edwards dies, aged 88". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi (UK) Ltd. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Blake Edwards:Old School" Directors Guild of America Quarterly, Summer 2009.
  7. ^ "Blake Edwards, American director, dies aged 88". BBC News (BBC). December 16, 2010. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  8. ^ Kehr, Dave. International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers – 2: Directors 3rd Ed. St. James Press (1997)pp. 291–294
  9. ^ "Clips from ''The Party''". Youtube.com. January 22, 2009. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  10. ^ Thomas, Kevin (May 30, 2002). "Tarr's 'Harmonies' Is Involving Puzzle The tale of a man's encounter with irrational forces will get three showings at LACMA". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Times). Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  11. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (December 16, 2010). "Blake Edwards, Prolific Comedy Director, Dies". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Julie Andrews' husband Blake Edwards, 88, dies of pneumonia". Daily Mail (London). 
  13. ^ Luhr, William, and Lehman, Peter. Blake Edwards, Ohio University Press (1981)
  14. ^ Velvet Light Trap magazine, Fall, 1974

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Peter O'Toole
Academy Honorary Award
2004
Succeeded by
Sidney Lumet