The Way of the Word

16. December 2010

RIP Blake Edwards

Born William Blake Crump on July 26, 1922 in Tulsa, OK, died December 16, 2010 in Santa Monica, CA,  at the age of 88, from complications of pneumonia.

Edwards originally started out in the 1940s as an actor, but then turned to writing radio scripts.  He got his big break from Orson Welles, who hired him as one of the writers for the legendary War of the Worlds broadcast. He continued on to creating Richard Diamond, Private Detective for the radio. He revisited some themes of Richard Diamond when he created a similarly light-hearted hardboiled PI, Peter Gunn, for television. The show ran from 1958 until 1961, had a reunion movie in 1967, and was remade in 1989.

His big break as a director came when John Frankenheimer dropped out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Edwards took over. After several serious movies, such as Experiment in Terror and Days of Wine and Roses, Edwards co-wrote and directed the movie that would change his life: The Pink Panther (1964). This movie typecast him as a comedy man, and he seemed happy to play that role, as his creative output became almost exclusively comedic afterwards.

His frequent collaborators were Peter Sellers, the composer Henri Mancini, and Julie Andrews, whom he married as his second wife in 1969.

Besides several Pink Panther movies, Edwards directed the  comedies Operation Petticoat (1959), The Great Race (1965), 10 (1979), Victor/Victoria (1982), Blind Date (1987), Sunset (1988), Switch (1991). And many more.

The list above is a mix of some of his better known movies and a few personal favorites. I absoutely love Operation Petticoat, a war comedy with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. I can’t see The Great Race with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon often enough, it’s on par with the Zucker-Zucker-Abrahams movies. Sure, we have him to blame for Bo Derek (10), but also to thank for Bruce Willis (Blind Date, Sunset).

In 2004, he received an honorary Acacemy Award for his life’s work. Which was more than deserved.

As I write this, I have two thoughts: One is that you’d better be careful. Pneumonia has killed how many celebrities this year? I didn’t think it was that dangerous. The other thought is that if there is a heaven, think of the movies that Leslie Nielsen and Blake Edwards will make up there now. It’s a pity we can’t see them — they would be so funny, we would die of laughter.

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