Thursday, December 16, 2010

He Laughed Last

I bow my head today in appreciation of American screenwriter, director, and producer Blake Edwards, who died yesterday at age 88. In addition to his many big-screen pictures--Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The Pink Panther (1963), The Great Race (1965), 10 (1979), and Victor, Victoria (1982)--Edwards was responsible for two memorable mid-20th-century TV detective dramas: Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-1960), starring David Janssen; and Peter Gunn (1958-1961), with Craig Stevens.

There are plenty of worthy tributes to Edwards appearing on the Web, including obituaries in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the blog Edward Copeland on Film. Rather than duplicate their information, I’d like to celebrate the man by showcasing some of the work he brought to the silver screen. Below, I have embedded the trailers from three of my favorite Edwards films: the original Pink Panther; Victor, Victoria (in which he directed his wife, singer-actress Julie Andrews); and a less-well-known picture, 1988’s Sunset, which teamed Bruce Willis (playing early western film star Tom Mix) with James Garner (as onetime lawman Wyatt Earp) in an adventure/crime drama about prostitution, movie-making, and murder in 1920s Hollywood.

Edwards died in Santa Monica, California, apparently from “complications of pneumonia.” But thanks to his abundant film and TV work, and despite some negative reviews of his later work, he’s unlikely to be forgotten.

And because any day that offers helpings of both Audrey Hepburn and composer Henry Mancini has to be considered worth living, here’s a bonus clip from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, featuring the song with which that romantic flick is most closely associated (even though--amazingly--it wasn’t included in the trailer.)

READ MORE:The Late Great Blake Edwards,” by Mercurie (A Shroud of Thoughts); “Blake Edwards and Crime,” by Michael Carlson
(Irresistible Targets).


Naomi Johnson said...

I love Sunset. Thanks for that.

Max Allan Collins said...

Fine write-up, but we would all be remiss if we did not pay special attention to PETER GUNN, which -- arguably in tandem with 77 SUNSET STRIP -- was responsible for the private eye craze on TV that gave the genre a new lease on life. I am one of the writers as influenced by PETER GUNN and what it spawned on the tube as by the novels of Hammett, Chandler and Spillane.

The Spillane connection is major -- Edwards wrote and directed a TV pilot starring Brian Keith that was rejected by the networks over its violence. Not long thereafter, he created the similar, but hipper, GUNN.

In regards to his incredible career, let me just say this of Blake Edwards: "I'd like to see the Great Leslie do THAT one!"

Anonymous said...

Garner is great in 'Sunset' - it's lovely seeing him pick up the role he'd previously played in 'Hour of the Gun'.

Very interesting to hear about Edwards' Spillane pilot. I'd really love to see that! Strange to think that Brian Keith played 'tecs in Spillane AND Ross Macdonald adaptations.

Max Allan Collins said...

It's getting a little hard to find, but in my DVD boxed set THE BLACK BOX, there's a disc called "Shades of Noir" that includes my Mickey Spillane documentary and the complete Brian Keith/Blake Edwards HAMMER pilot.

Winifred said...

hanks for this. Doesn't seem to have been reported here in the UK much. He made some fantastic films but he was the master of comedy with the Pink Panther series. Fabulous and timeless comedy.

Thanks for the information on Sunset, sounds a great film and one I've never heard of. So I'm on the look out now!