Inspector Clouseau

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This article is about the character. For the film of the same title, see Inspector Clouseau (film).
"Clouseau" redirects here. For the Belgian pop group, see Clouseau (band).
Inspector Jacques Clouseau
The Pink Panther and The Inspector character
Sellers pinkpanther7.jpg
Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau
First appearance The Pink Panther
Portrayed by Peter Sellers
Alan Arkin
Roger Moore
Steve Martin
Children Jacques Gambrelli
Jaqueline Gambrelli

Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau ([ʒak klu.zo]) (formerly Inspector) is a fictional character in Blake Edwards' farcical The Pink Panther series. In most of the films he was played by Peter Sellers, but one film starred Alan Arkin and another featured an uncredited Roger Moore. In the 2006 Pink Panther revival and its 2009 sequel, he is played by Steve Martin.

Clouseau as The Inspector is also the main character in a series of short animated cartoons as part of The Pink Panther Show.[1] More recent animated depictions from the 1970s onward were redesigned to more closely resemble Sellers, and later Martin.



Clouseau is an inept and incompetent police detective in the French Sûreté, whose investigations are marked with chaos and destruction he largely causes himself. His attempts at solving a case usually lead to misfortune for himself and others. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), an attempt to interview witnesses leads to him falling down stairs, getting his hand caught in a medieval knight's gauntlet, then a vase, knocking a witness senseless, destroying a priceless piano, and accidentally shooting another officer. Clouseau is not very intelligent, frequently pursuing an idiotic theory and solving the case only by sheer, improbable luck. His incompetence and stupidity, plus the fact that he is usually right, eventually transform his direct superior (former Chief Inspector Dreyfus) into a homicidal psychotic – Dreyfus goes so far as to construct a doomsday device and threatens to destroy the world in an attempt to kill Clouseau.

Regardless of his rather limited ability, Clouseau successfully solves his cases and finds the correct culprits, even if this success is achieved entirely by accident. He is promoted to Chief Inspector over the course of the series, and is regarded by many other characters who presumably have not met him as France’s greatest detective; those characters he actually encounters, nevertheless, are quick to realise his incompetence and limitations. He is immensely egocentric and pompous; despite his many failings, he is seemingly convinced that he is a brilliant police officer destined to succeed and rise through the ranks of the Sûreté. Despite this, Clouseau does appear to show some awareness that he is not the most competent or intelligent person, as he is notably embarrassed by and quick to brush aside his more extreme acts of clumsiness with phrases such as "I know that", and attempts to appear elegant and refined regardless of what calamity he has just caused. In the Steve Martin incarnation, however, although he can be very eccentric, arrogant and accident-prone, he is a more competent and clever detective than in the original movies, being able to deduce in the end who is the main villain behind the crimes depicted. Clouseau's immense ego, eccentricity, exaggerated French accent and prominent mustache were derived from Hercule Poirot, the fictional Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie.

Chief Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman; his country is professedly his highest priority. The later films reveal he had fought in the French Resistance during the Second World War. He has been prone to infatuation (which is often reciprocated) ever since being cuckolded by Sir Charles Lytton. He is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as "Sir or Madam".

Sellers said in several interviews that the secret of Clouseau’s character was his tremendous ego. His favourite example of Clouseau’s ego was that, whenever someone said, "Phone call for Inspector Clouseau", Clouseau would reply, "Ah yes, that would be for ME." And later on, after his promotion, whenever he was addressed as "Inspector Clouseau," he would stress: "That would be CHIEF Inspector!" Sellers maintained that Clouseau’s ego is what made the character's klutziness funnier because of his quest to remain elegant and refined while causing chaos everywhere he turned.[citation needed]

As rendered by Sellers, Clouseau’s French accent became steadily more exaggerated in successive films (for example, pronouncing "room" as "reum"; "Pope" as "Peup"; "bomb" as "beumb"; and "bumps" as "beumps" <or "bimps">), and a frequent running gag in the movies was that even French characters would have difficulty understanding what he was saying. Much of that humour was of course lost in the French dubbing: in order to keep some of Seller's characterization, the French post-synchronization gave Clouseau an odd-sounding, nasal voice. Also, Clouseau goes by more names than "Inspector Clouseau", or "Clouseau". Clouseau often goes by his alias, Professor "Guy Gadbois" as in Clouseau's accent it is more like "Gie Gadwaa".

Clouseau considers himself a cunning master of disguise, and he insists upon using elaborate costumes and aliases that range from the mundane (a worker for the phone company) to the preposterous (a bucktoothed hunchback with an oversized nose). He uses these disguises to discover clues or obtain confessions, but usually these schemes fail miserably (foiling his own subterfuge or revealing his presence or identity), yet the investigation somehow progresses despite his incompetence.

In his earliest appearances, Clouseau is actually (only slightly) less inept and exaggerated; some of the above character elements were not added until the 1970s.[citation needed] One notable trait in his first appearance is his belief that he is a skilled violinist and his violin is a genuine Stradivarius, though he does not really know how to play the instrument.


The Pink Panther (1963)[edit]

Jacques Clouseau makes his first appearance as the Inspector in the 1963 film The Pink Panther, which was released in the United States in March, 1964. In this movie, the main focus was on David Niven's role as Sir Charles Lytton, the infamous jewel thief nicknamed "the Phantom", and his plan to steal the Pink Panther diamond. The Inspector Clouseau character plays only a supporting role as Lytton's incompetent antagonist, and provides slapstick comic relief.

Unlike all other Sellers' movies, Clouseau is married. His wife, Simone (Capucine), is secretly Sir Charles' lover and helps him in his crimes. At the end of the film, she leaves Clouseau for Sir Charles (eventually becoming Lady Lytton, see below).

A Shot in the Dark (1964)[edit]

A Shot in the Dark (1964) was based upon a stage play that originally did not include the Clouseau character. In this film, Sellers first developed the exaggerated French accent that became a hallmark of the character. The film also introduces two of the series regular characters: his superior, Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), who is driven mad by Clouseau's bungling; and his long-suffering Chinese servant, Cato (Burt Kwouk), who is employed to improve Clouseau's martial arts skills by attacking him at random.

Sellers stepped away from playing the character following this movie, but returned in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) and its sequels.

Inspector Clouseau (1968)[edit]

When the character returned for the film Inspector Clouseau (1968), he was portrayed by American actor Alan Arkin; Edwards was not involved in this production. The film's title credits, animated by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, feature their Inspector character from the series of short cartoons under that name.

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)[edit]

The 1968 film does appear to have had an impact on the Clouseau character when Sellers returned to the role in 1975's The Return of the Pink Panther, particularly in the character's mode of dress. The opening credits were animated by Richard Williams, featuring Clouseau once again seeking to retrieve the Pink Panther diamond after it is stolen by the Phantom, Sir Charles Lytton. The roles of Sir Charles and Lady Lytton (the former Mrs. Clouseau) are recast, now played by Christopher Plummer and Catherine Schell.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)[edit]

The Pink Panther Strikes Again continues the story from the end of The Return of the Pink Panther, featuring the now-insane Dreyfus creating a crime syndicate and constructing a doomsday machine with the intention of using it to blackmail the world to kill Clouseau. Footage shot for this film was used to include Sellers in Trail of the Pink Panther. The opening credits were again animated by Richard Williams.

Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)[edit]

According to DVD liner notes for Return of the Pink Panther, Sellers and Edwards originally planned to produce a British television series centered on Clouseau, but a film was made instead, Revenge of the Pink Panther, which ignores Dreyfus' "death" in the previous film and has Clouseau investigating a plot to kill him after a transvestite criminal is killed in his place. The movie was a box office success and led to several more films after Sellers died in 1980; biographies of Sellers such as Peter Sellers—A Celebration reveal that he was involved in the pre-production of another Clouseau film, The Romance Of The Pink Panther, at the time of his death.

Trail of The Pink Panther (1982)[edit]

Blake Edwards attempted to continue telling Clouseau's story despite losing his lead actor. The 1982 film Trail of the Pink Panther utilized outtakes and alternative footage of Sellers as Clouseau in a new storyline in which a reporter (played by Joanna Lumley) investigates Clouseau's disappearance. In the process, she interviews characters from past Clouseau films (including the Lyttons, played by the returning David Niven and Capucine), and also meets Clouseau's equally inept father (played by Richard Mulligan).

Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)[edit]

The immediate sequel to Trail, Curse of the Pink Panther, reveals that Clouseau underwent plastic surgery to change his appearance; the character appears on screen briefly in the form of a joke cameo appearance by Roger Moore, billed as "Turk Thrust II". David Niven and Capucine again reprise their original Pink Panther roles as the Lyttons, now also joined by the returning Robert Wagner as nephew George Lytton. Neither Trail  nor Curse  was a box office success, and the series was retired.

Son of the Pink Panther (1993)[edit]

Despite the failure of Curse, Edwards attempted to revive the series a decade later with Son of the Pink Panther, in which it is revealed that Clouseau had illegitimate children by Maria Gambrelli (played by Elke Sommer in A Shot in the Dark, although recast in this film as Claudia Cardinale, who played the Princess in The Pink Panther). Clouseau's son, Jacques Jr., was portrayed by Roberto Benigni, and has a twin sister, Jacqueline, played by Nicoletta Braschi. Jacques Jr. attempts to follow in his father's police footsteps, but is revealed to have inherited the same ineptness as his father.

The Pink Panther (2006)[edit]

Steve Martin as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, suited with a Gendarme uniform

Steve Martin's rendition of Clouseau in the 2006 film is considered to be a rebooting of the character. The film depicts Clouseau as an inept Gendarme hired by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to serve as the visible investigator into a high-publicity murder, so that Dreyfus can carry out his own secret investigation without risking repercussions if he fails to solve the crime. However, the new film is set in a different continuity: Martin's Clouseau is considerably older than Sellers', and although the 2006 film was promoted as taking place prior to the events of the first Pink Panther film, the time frame has been advanced to the present day.

Also, in this film, although clueless, Martin's Clouseau does not seem entirely incompetent, being able to locate the Pink Panther diamond and solve the case on his own through his knowledge of such obscure facts as a Russian army rule that all members must know the location of a specific part of the brain or have a clear knowledge of Chinese. He has limited detecting skills, but is good deal more street-smart than Sellers' Clouseau. A running gag in this and the following film has Clouseau randomly attacking his partner, Gilbert Ponton to keep him on his toes, only to be successfully countered each time.

The Pink Panther 2 (2009)[edit]

Main article: The Pink Panther 2

When a series of rare and historical artifacts are stolen by the mysterious Il Tornado, Clouseau is assigned to a "dream team" of international investigators to recover the artifacts and the Pink Panther. Despite appearing to be bumbling and clumsy as usual, Clouseau once again displays surprising cleverness through his unorthodox methods. For example, he replaces the Pink Panther with a near perfect fake, reasoning that if The Tornado was the culprit, he would have been able to tell that the Pink Panther was a fake. He also causes several problems for Dreyfus, as usual. The film culminates in his marriage to Nicole Durant, Dreyfus' secretary.

Portrayers in film[edit]

Peter Sellers[edit]

Alan Arkin[edit]

Roger Moore[edit]

Steve Martin[edit]

Other films[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beck, Jerry (2006). Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide to the Coolest Cat in Town. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd. ISBN 0-7566-1033-8. 

External links[edit]

Clouseau/ Inspector Clouseau at the Internet Movie Database