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Blake Edwards

Blake Edwards
Blake Edwards 1966.jpg
Edwards in 1966
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 Filmmaker, actor
Years active 1942–1995
Known for
Home town Tulsa, Oklahoma
Spouse(s) Patricia Walker
(m. 1953; div. 1967)

Dame Julie Andrews
(m. 1969; his death 2010)
Children 4

William Blake Crump (July 26, 1922 – December 15, 2010), better known by his stage name Blake Edwards, was an American filmmaker.

Edwards began his career in the 1940s as an actor, but he soon began writing screenplays and radio scripts before turning to producing and directing in television and films. His best-known films include Breakfast at Tiffany's, Days of Wine and Roses, 10, Victor/Victoria, and the hugely successful Pink Panther film series with British actor Peter Sellers. Often thought of as primarily a director of comedies, he also directed several drama, musical, 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

Born William Blake Crump July 26, 1922, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he was the son of Donald and Lillian (Grommett) Crump (1897–1992).[2][3] His father reportedly left the family before he was born. His mother married again, to Jack McEdwards,[4] who became his stepfather. McEdwards was the son of J. Gordon Edwards, a director of silent movies, and in 1925, he moved the family to Los Angeles and became a film production manager.[5] In an interview with the Village Voice in 1971, Blake Edwards said that he had "always felt alienated, estranged from my own father, Jack McEdwards".[6] After attending grammar and high school in Los Angeles, Blake 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.[6]

Edwards served in the United States Coast Guard during World War II, where he suffered a severe back injury, which left him in pain for years afterwards.[5]

Career

Edwards' debut as a director came in 1952 on the television program Four Star Playhouse.[7]

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.

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.[8] Edwards later directed the comedy film 10 with Dudley Moore and Bo Derek.[8]

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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

Darling Lili (1970)

Darling Lili star Julie Andrews married Edwards in 1969. While a few critics such as George Morris thought the film a major picture ("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.[5]), the film failed badly with most critics and 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."[5]

Pink Panther film series

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. The relationship between the director and the lead actor was considered a fruitful, yet complicated, 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."[9]

Five of 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.

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.[5]

Honorary Academy Award

In 2004, Edwards received an Honorary Academy Award for cumulative achievements over the course of his film career.[10]

Silent-film style

Having grown up in Hollywood, the stepson of a studio production manager and stepgrandson 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 Sellers and he appreciated and understood the comedy styles in silent films and tried to recreate them 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). The film has always had a cult following, and some critics and fans have considered it a "masterpiece in this vein" of silent comedy, though it did include minimal dialogue.[11][12]

Personal life

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, Emma, 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).[13]

Death

On December 15, 2010, Edwards died of complications of pneumonia at the Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.[14] His wife and children were at his side.[8] His death came after 15 years of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.[15]

Legacy

Edwards was greatly admired, as well as criticized, as a filmmaker during his career. His critics are alluded to 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.[5]

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,[16] in an interview in 1974, called him "the finest American director working at this time."[17] 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 first two 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.[5]

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."[5]

Filmography

Television credits

  • Invitation Playhouse: Mind Over Murder (1952 TV anthology series) [writer – "The Long Night"]
  • Four Star Playhouse (1952–1956 TV anthology series) [writer/director – "Dante's Inferno," "Welcome Home," "Knockout," "Trail's End," "The Squeeze," "The Hard Way," "The Test," "Indian Taker," "The Bomb," "Detective's Holiday," "The House Always Wins," "High Stakes," "No Limit," "A Long Way From Texas," "The Stacked Deck"]
  • City Detective (1953–1955 TV series) [associate producer; director - "Midnight Supper"]
  • The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan (1954–1955 TV series) [creator/writer - "Hey, Mulligan"]
  • Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1954 series pilot) [writer/director]
  • The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse (1954 episode) [writer/director - "Death, the Hard Way"] (unsold pilot for Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator nearly identical plot as Edwards' "Four Star Playhouse" script, "The Squeeze")
  • The Lineup (1954 episode) [writer – "Cop Killer" same script as used for the radio series]
  • The Star and the Story (1955 episode) [director - "Safe Journey"]
  • Fireside Theatre (1955 episode) [writer - "The Smuggler" and director - "Big Joe's Coming Home"]
  • Chevron Hall of Stars (1956 episode) [creator - "Double Cross"] (pilot for Richard Diamond, Private Detective)
  • Ford Television Theatre (1956 episode) [writer - "The Payoff"] [unsold pilot for proposed "Johnny Abel" detective series]
  • Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957–1960 TV series) [creator]
  • Meet McGraw (1957 episode) [writer – "Tycoon"]
  • Studio 57 (1957 episode) [writer - "The Smuggler" same script used on "Fireside Theatre"]
  • Peter Gunn (1958–1961 TV series) [creator/writer/producer/director – multiple episodes]
  • Rango: Posse from Hell (1959) [producer/director - unsold pilot]
  • Mr. Lucky (1959–1960 TV series) [writer/producer/director – multiple episodes]
  • Dante (1960–1961 TV series) [creator] (spin-off of Four Star Playhouse)
  • The Dick Powell Show (1962 episode) [creator/writer/director - "The Boston Terrier"] [first of two unsold pilots for "The Boston Terrier" detective series]
  • Johnny Dollar (1962 unsold series pilot, "The Barton Baker Matter" same script as used for the radio series) [writer/producer/director]
  • House of Seven (1962 unsold series pilot) [writer/producer]
  • The Boston Terrier: Salem Witch Hunt (1963 unsold series pilot) [creator/producer]
  • The Monk (1969 TV movie) [writer]
  • Casino (1980 TV movie) [executive consultant]
  • The Ferret (1984 unsold series pilot) [writer/executive producer]
  • Justin Case (1988 TV movie) [writer/producer/director]
  • Peter Gunn (1989 TV movie) [writer/producer/director]
  • Julie (1992 TV series) [executive producer/director]
  • Mortal Sins (1992 TV movie) [executive producer]
  • Victor/Victoria (1995 live TV broadcast) [writer/producer/director]

Radio drama credits

  • Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1949–1953) [creator/series writer/director]
  • The Lineup (1950–1952) [writer – "The Candy Store Murder," "Cop Killer," "The Jersey Parallel," "The Holstedter Case,""The Mad Bomber,""Yudo in Ypsilanti," "The Grocery Store Matter," "The Senile Slugging Case," "The Molly About Seven Case," "The Brommel and Bellows Bloody Bullet Case," "The Hiccoughing Hampster Haemostatic Case," "The Harrowing Haggada Handball Case," "Lt. Guthrie Kidnapped," "The Syncopic Sweazy Sweat-Out Case," "The Flighty Fulvous Finch Case," "The Pointless Pierson Polemic Polarity Case," "The Railroad Roundhouse Roundup Case," "The Potting Peter Case," "The Bakery Bandit's Bad Blooper," "Lobdell's Poodle-Cut Tomato Case," "The Guided Gang Case," "The Twitching Twist's 22 Tweaking Case," "The Karger Cops a Klinker Case"]
  • Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar (1951–1953) [writer – "The George Farmer Matter," "The Protection Matter," "The Baskerville Matter," "The Shayne Bombing Matter," "The Black Doll Matter," "The James Forbes Matter," "The Voodoo Matter," "The Nancy Shaw Matter," "The Isabel James Matter," "The Nelson Matter," "The Stanley Price Matter," "The Lester Matson Matter," "The Amita Buddha Matter," "The Alfred Chambers Matter," "The Phillip Morey Matter," "The Allen Sexton Matter," "The Howard Arnold Matter," "The Gino Gambona Matter," "The Bobby Foster Matter," "The Nathan Gale Matter," "The Independent Diamond Traders Matter,""The Monopoly Matter," "The Barton Baker Matter,""The Milk and Honey Matter," "The Ben Bryson Matter"]
  • Suspense (1951) [writer – "Over Drawn" and "The Case for Dr. Singer"]

Theater credits

  • Victor/Victoria (1995–1999 Broadway production and tour) [writer/producer/director]
  • Minor Demons (1997 off-Broadway production) [executive producer]
  • Big Rosemary (1999 off-Broadway production) [writer/producer/director] (adaptation of He Laughed Last)

References

  1. ^ "Receiving Honorary Oscar in 2004". Youtube.com. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Blake Edwards, Prolific Comedy Director, Dies at 88". 
  3. ^ "Person Page". 
  4. ^ "Telegraph obituary". London: Telegraph.co.uk. December 16, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ a b Village Voice, "Confessions of a Cult Figure", Stuart Byron, August 5, 1971 p56
  7. ^ Feiwell, Jill (December 12, 2003). "Life Oscar to Edwards". Daily Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ a b c Moody, Mike (December 16, 2010). "Filmmaker Blake Edwards dies, aged 88". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi (UK) Ltd. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Blake Edwards:Old School" Archived December 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Directors Guild of America Quarterly, Summer 2009.
  10. ^ "Blake Edwards, American director, dies aged 88". BBC News. BBC. December 16, 2010. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  11. ^ Kehr, Dave. International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers – 2: Directors 3rd Ed. St. James Press (1997)pp. 291–294
  12. ^ "Clips from ''The Party''". Youtube.com. January 22, 2009. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (May 30, 2002). "Tarr's 'Harmonies' Is Involving Puzzle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  14. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (December 16, 2010). "Blake Edwards, Prolific Comedy Director, Dies". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Julie Andrews' husband Blake Edwards, 88, dies of pneumonia". Daily Mail. London. 
  16. ^ Luhr, William, and Lehman, Peter. Blake Edwards, Ohio University Press (1981)
  17. ^ Velvet Light Trap magazine, Fall, 1974

External links

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