The Pink Panther (1963)
Release Year: 1963
Director: Blake Edwards
Writers: Maurice Richlin (screenplay), Blake Edwards (screenplay)
Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, Claudia Cardinale, Brenda de Banzie, Colin Gordon
Rating: Nominated for 1 Oscar: Best Score. Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Actor – Comedy or Musical (Peter Sellers)
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #200, week 16 2018
The bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) has made it his life’s mission to catch the jewel thief know as Phantom. He follows Princess Dala to both the Italian Alps and Rome, as he is convinced her diamond known as The Pink Panther is the Phantom’s next target.
The Pink Panther was originally conceived as a risqué heist film starring David Niven (Murder by Death, 1976) and Robert Wagner (The Towering Inferno, 1974) as uncle and nephew jewel thieves with Peter Ustinov in a small role as bumbling detective Clouseau. However, British comedy genius Peter Sellers (Being There, 1979) took over the role and took the cast and crew by storm. Today the names Sellers and Cloueau, even though Steve Martin made an ill-advised attempt to take over the character. Sellers is a master at physical comedy and comedic timing and the endearing and unfortunate Clouseau makes the film worth you while on his own. But when Clouseau is not on screen the film still a solid heist film set in the beautiful Italian Alps and has an elegant European feel to it, in part because of the the stylish Niven and the beautiful Capucine (Trail of the Pink Panther) as Inspector Clouseau’s scheming wife. The Pink Panther of the title is for ever linked with the animated character of the great title sequence but in fact refers to a pink diamond. The mysterious Phantom is bound to try and steal it and Clouseau is deadset on finally capturing the elusive jewel thief. Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther is a comedy and heist classic not to be missed and boast a great Oscar-nominated score from Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961). Highly recommended to comedy fans.
The film was supposed to have David Niven’s character as its lead, but the crew and subsequently the audiences loved Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau so much that he became the focus of the film and subsequent sequels.
The animated Pink Panther in the opening credits was director Blake Edwards’s idea. He thought the opening credit needed an animated element and decided on a personification of the pink diamond of the film’s title. Edwards chose the character from a hundred alternative panther sketches. The Pink Panther became popular it its own right and starred in both film and television series, starting with the cartoon short The Pink Phink the following year.
Peter Sellers modelled the character of Clouseau on Capt. Matthew Webb (1848 – 1883) who in 1875 became the first person to swim the English Channel.
Picture Copyright: MGM