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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blake Edwards 1922-2010




Agent Triple P has just noticed that Blake Edwards died this morning in Santa Monica at the age of 88.

Edwards directed several of Triple P's favouirite 1960s films, including one of his top ten favourites The Pink Panther (1963).   He also directed the charming Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and the underrated WW2 comedy What did you do in the War, Daddy (1966) which are both Triple P favourites.  Triple P was not so fond of his later comedies, although he enjoyed "10" (1979). 


Breakfast at Tiffany's


Edwards wasn't a great director, by any means, and his use of the proscenium framing technique could give his films a rather distant, theatrical quality but he was one of the few directors from the fifties who continued to work through to the nineties.  He was also from that first generation that started as a TV director and the question as to whether the theatrical "aquarium" approach to TV in the early days continued to influence his film work is one on which cinéastes can ramble on about for hours.  In fact, space and framing were very important to him with nearly all of his films being shot in widescreen Panavision.  As a result his comedies often saw his protaganist as a lone, small figure struggling against overwhelming activity in a large frame.  It isn't a coincidence that in his thrillers he often used the more constricted aspect ratio of 1.33:1 to give a closer, more immediate effect. 


The Pink Panther


The other thing he brought to his films, was a remarkable, high gloss effect which resulted from beautifully lit images and careful composition. Watch some of the sequences from the Pink Panther, especially on the magnificent blu-ray edition,  to see what we mean.  In the sixties these images were more often than not accompanied by the equally glossy music of his great friend Henry Mancini.  They could have made an interesting James Bond film in the sixties, we think.   Much of John Barry's "cocktail" music for Bond owes a lot to Mancini. It should be remembered that, originally, The Pink Panther (which is very unlike the deteriorating sequels that followed) was supposed to be a sophisticated comedy thriller built entirely around David Niven's urbane jewel thief with Peter Sellers a very last minute replacement for Peter Ustinov.

This glossy, sixties Blake Edwards is the one that Agent Triple P appreciates, not the frantic slapstick of most of his later comedies.  For this alone he deserves to be remembered with a Martini, accompanied by the sultry sounds of Henry Mancini (Royal Blue from The Pink Panther, probably)!

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