The Pink Panther (1963 film)

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The Pink Panther
Pink panther63.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Jack Rickard
Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Martin Jurow
Screenplay by
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Philip Lathrop
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • December 19, 1963 (1963-12-19) (West Germany)
  • March 20, 1964 (1964-03-20) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $10.9 million (North America)[1]

The Pink Panther is a 1963 American comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and co-written by Edwards and Maurice Richlin, starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, and Claudia Cardinale. The film introduced the cartoon character of the same name, in an opening credits sequence animated by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.


As a child, Princess Dala receives a gift from her father, the Shah of Lugash--"the Pink Panther," the largest diamond in the world. This huge pink gem has an unusual flaw: looking deeply into the stone, one perceives a tiny discoloration resembling a leaping panther. (As the camera moves in, this image comes to life and participates in the opening credits.) When Dala is a young woman, rebels seize power in Lugash and then demand possession of the jewel, but the exiled princess refuses to hand it over.

Several years later, Dala (Claudia Cardinale) relaxes on holiday at an exclusive ski resort in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Also staying is a noted English playboy, Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven)--who leads a secret life as a jewel thief called "The Phantom"—and has his eyes on the Pink Panther. His unwitting American playboy nephew George (Robert Wagner) follows his uncle to the resort, also hoping to steal the jewel...and blame it on the Phantom.

On the Phantom's trail is French police inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté—who doesn't know his wife Simone (Capucine) is the paramour of Charles and helper in the Phantom's crimes. Clouseau is so clueless and clumsy that while several theft attempts are made at a fancy-dress party, he looks everywhere but the right place. Meanwhile, Simone dodges her husband while trying to avoid George who has grown enamored of her and aid Charles, who has grown enamored of Dala...and is ambivalent about carrying out the theft.

During a costume party, Sir Charles and his nephew attempt to steal the diamond, only to find the jewel already missing from the safe. In spite of himself, the buffoonish inspector discovers the two in the act, resulting in a car chase throughout the town streets. Despite all odds, Sir Charles and his accomplice George are captured when all the vehicles collide with one another.

Later, Simone informs Dala that Charles wished to call off the theft and asks her to help in his defense. Dala then reveals that it was she herself who stole the diamond to avoid deportation back to Lugash, and she has a plan to save Sir Charles from prison. At the trial, Charles' and George's convictions seem inevitable when the defense calls as their lone witness a surprised Clouseau. The barrister asks a series of questions that suggest Clouseau himself could be the Phantom. An unnerved Clouseau pulls out his handkerchief—from which drops the jewel, promptly rendering him unconscious from shock.

As Clouseau is driven away to prison, he is mobbed by a throng of enamored women. Watching from a distance, a regretful Simone expresses fears he will rot in prison; Sir Charles reassures her that when the Phantom strikes again, Clouseau will be exonerated. Sir Charles, Simone, and George drive away to continue their life of crime as Dala leaves to return to her country. Meanwhile, in the police car, the officers express their envy that Clouseau is now the object of affection of young women everywhere. As they ask him with obvious admiration how he committed so many robberies, Clouseau's mood gradually changes: "Well, you know . . . it wasn't easy." The film ends by showing the Pink Panther as a traffic warden—getting run over by the car carrying Clouseau and attempting to chase after it; then ends the film as he grabs hold of a 'The End' title card.



The film was "conceived as a sophisticated comedy about a charming, urbane jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton." Peter Ustinov was "originally cast as Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his faithless wife in league with Lytton."[2] After Gardner backed out (the Associated Press reported in November 1962 it was because The Mirisch Company wouldn't meet all her demands),[3] Ustinov also left the project, and Blake Edwards then chose Sellers to replace Ustinov.[2] Janet Leigh turned down the lead female role, as it meant being away from the United States for too long.[4]

The film was initially intended as a vehicle for Niven, as evidenced by his top billing.[5] As Edwards shot the film, employing multiple takes of improvised scenes--- it became clear that Sellers, originally considered a supporting actor, was stealing the scenes and thus resulted in his continuation throughout the film's sequels. When presenting at a subsequent Oscar Awards ceremony, Niven requested his walk-on music be changed from the "Pink Panther" theme, stating, "That was not really my film."[6]

The film was shot in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Rome and Rocca di Papa; Paris, France; and Los Angeles, USA, using the Technirama process in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. According to the DVD commentary by Blake Edwards, the chase scene at the piazza (filmed at Piazza della Repubblica in Rocca di Papa) was an homage to a similar sequence 26 minutes into Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940).

Fran Jeffries sang the song called "Meglio Stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight)" while she danced provocatively around a fireplace.


The movie was a popular hit, earning estimated North American rentals of $6 million.[7]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, 'Seldom has any comedian seemed to work so persistently and hard at trying to be violently funny with weak material"; he called the script a "basically unoriginal and largely witless piece of farce carpentry that has to be pushed and heaved at stoutly in order to keep on the move."[8] Variety was much more positive, calling the film "intensely funny" and "Sellers' razor-sharp timing ... superlative."[9]

In a 2004 review of "The Pink Panther Film Collection," a DVD collection that included The Pink Panther, The A.V. Club wrote:[10]

'Because the later movies were identified so closely with Clouseau, it's easy to forget that he was merely one in an ensemble at first, sharing screen time with Niven, Capucine, Robert Wagner, and Claudia Cardinale. If not for Sellers' hilarious pratfalls, "The Pink Panther" could be mistaken for a luxuriant caper movie like Topkapi...which is precisely what makes the movie so funny. It acts as the straight man, while Sellers gets to play mischief-maker.'

The film was selected in 2010 to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry.[11][12]

The film received 90% on the popular review site Rotten Tomatoes.[13]

American Film Institute Lists

Soundtrack album[edit]

The soundtrack album was released on RCA Victor, and consisted of music written by Henry Mancini, performed by his orchestra, and featured in the film. In 2001, the soundtrack album was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. In 2005, the score was listed at #20 on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.

All songs written by Henry Mancini, except where noted.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The Pink Panther - Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Retrieved July 12, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Articles for The Pink Panther (1964)". TCM Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  3. ^ Bob Thomas (November 17, 1962). "Stars' Salaries The Biggest Gripe". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Associated Press. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  4. ^ "Janet Leigh interview and movies". 
  5. ^ The Other Side Of The Moon, Sheridan Morley
  6. ^ Neal Gabler, opening comments from Reel Thirteen, WNET-TV.
  7. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
  8. ^ Bosley Crowther (April 24, 1964). "The Pink Panther (1963)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  9. ^ "The Pink Panther". Variety. December 31, 1963. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  10. ^ Scott Tobias (April 5, 2004). "The Pink Panther Film Collection". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  11. ^ "'Empire Strikes Back' among 25 film registry picks". Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  12. ^ Barnes, Mike (2010-12-28). "'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  13. ^ The Pink Panther at Rotten Tomatoes
  14. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees

Further reading

External links[edit]