'Pink Panther' director Edwards dies


Film director Blake Edwards, whose movies included The Pink Panther and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, has died in California at the age of 88, his publicist said tonight.

Edwards, married to British actress Julie Andrews, died from complications of pneumonia yesterday morning at St John’s Health Centre in Santa Monica. Show business newspaper Daily Variety said Edwards died this morning.

His wife and other family members were at his side, said publicist Gene Schwam. Edwards directed many films including 10 and The Tamarind Seed . He was also a screenwriter, producer and actor.

Edwards was a major Hollywood player in the 1960s. His work as a director during that decade included the classic  Breakfast at Tiffany's  with Audrey Hepburn, and  Days of Wine and Roses  with Jack Lemmon.

His original  Pink Panther  in 1963 helped make a huge star out of a young Peter Sellers, and cemented Edwards's own fame as a director with a keen eye for cutting edge humour and satire.

"The most fun and the worst times were with Peter," Edwards told Reuters in an interview in 2002 when the Writers Guild of America gave him a lifetime achievement award. "When he was at the top of his form, he was great fun. When he was in his depressed, angry world, he was impossible."

Edwards would go on to make several  Pink Panther  movies that became box office hits with Sellers playing a bumbling French detective, Chief Inspector Clouseau, who was searching for a fabled, stolen diamond. Sellers died in 1980.

But like so many careers in Hollywood, Edwards saw his share of lows, too. Movies such as  Darling Lili  flopped at the box office, and for a period in the 1970s, his phone stopped ringing. He wrote about that time in his 1981 movie, S.O.B.

"It got a lot of hostility off my chest, and I think it was one of my better writing jobs," he told Reuters.

In 1982, Edwards landed back on top of Hollywood's heap after writing and directing Andrews in gender-bending comedy  Victor Victoria, in which his wife played a struggling female singer who finds success when she masquerades as a man.

Edwards was born William Blake Crump on July 26, 1922 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, He tried acting in the 1940s, but by late that decade turned to writing and later directing. He was married twice, the second time in 1969 to Andrews.

Andrews and Edwards were married for 41 years and raised five children together, three from separate marriages and two they adopted.