AKA William Blake Crump
Birthplace: Tulsa, OK
Location of death: Santa Monica, CA
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Film Director, Screenwriter, Film/TV Producer
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Pink Panther
Military service: US Coast Guard (WWII)
Moviemaker Blake Edwards was best known for sophisticated, even zany comedies, often scored by Henry Mancini. These include the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers, 10 with Bo Derek, Victor/Victoria with James Garner and Robert Preston, and What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? with James Coburn and Dick Shawn.
Born William Blake Crump, his name changed after his mother married Jack McEdwards, a long-time Hollywood production manager who rose to the rank of assistant director on several films. The "Mc" appears to be an affectation by Edwards' stepfather, whose own father had been J. Gordon Edwards, a film director in the silent era noted for his films with actress Theda Bara, including the 1917 Cleopatra.
As a boy, Blake Edwards played on the back lots of studios, and attended school with other children of the movie industry elite. After a stint in the Coast Guard, he went into the family business as an actor, and briefly shared an apartment with Mickey Rooney. Edwards' first film role was an uncredited bit part in Ten Gentlemen from West Point in 1942, with George Montgomery and Maureen O'Hara. In Marshal of Reno, Edwards acted alongside Gabby Hayes and 11-year-old Robert Blake, but the closest Edwards came to a starring role was in 1946, with Strangler of the Swamp.
After dozens of forgettable assignments, Edwards decided that he was not destined to be an actor, and began to work behind the scenes. He started writing movies in the late 1940s, co-scripting and acting in the low-budget westerns Panhandle and Stampede. He wrote radio dramas in the 1950s, including Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Considered the last drama of radio's golden age, Johnny Dollar starred Edmond O'Brien (and later John Lund) in weekly adventures about an investigator looking into insurance fraud. That show was starchy and serious, but actor Dick Powell was impressed, and asked Edwards to write for his new radio drama, Richard Diamond, Private Eye, where Edwards' trademark snappy scripted sense of humor began blooming.
He directed his first films in the mid-1950s, beginning with the Frankie Laine musical comedy Bring Your Smile Along. In 1956, Edwards wrote and directed Mister Cory, with Tony Curtis in the lead, which he has called his "first film of any consequence". It provided a boost for both Edwards and Curtis, and the next several years were the peak of Edwards' career. He produced TV's Peter Gunn starring Craig Stevens, and made the film classics Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant, Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, and Days of Wine and Roses with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.
Edwards' most famous work, The Pink Panther, was released in 1963, with Peter Sellers as Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The part had originally been cast with Peter Ustinov, but that actor reneged at the last minute, and Sellers stepped in, with his suggestion that the character be "bumbling", which, of course, changed not just the character, but the nature of film comedy. The next year, Edwards and Sellers returned with an enjoyable sequel, A Shot in the Dark. Over the years, both Sellers and Edwards used the Pink Panther franchise as a fallback, making another sequel when they needed cash.
In the late 1960s, as Edwards' marriage was dissolving and he was in psychotherapy, he commented in an interview that actress Julie Andrews "is so sweet she must have violets between her legs". Andrews, whose own marriage was ending, sent him a bouquet of violets, and their romance began. He directed her in Darling Lili, and while on location the two shared a house. They decided to marry when his two children wanted to move in with them.
In 1979, after making three Panther sequels in four years, Edwards wrote and directed the hit 10, which made Dudley Moore famous and Bo Derek briefly a star. S.O.B., starring Andrews, was the first of a
series of Edwards' films that seemed semi-autobiographical, dealing with aging and the loss of creativity and virility — and a shocked audience got to see Mary Poppins' breasts. Andrews also starred as the woman playing a female impersonator in 1982's Victor/Victoria, which was arguably Edwards' last great film.
Also in 1982, Edwards released The Trail of the Pink Panther, a mishmash of outtakes from several previous Panther films, starring Sellers — two years after his death. Sellers' widow, Lynne Frederick, successfully sued Edwards for diminishing the late actor's memory, and received over a million dollars. The next year, Edwards made Curse of the Pink Panther, in which Inspector Clouseau was "missing". In 1993's Son of the Pink Panther, noted chair-walker Roberto Benigni did a poor impression of Sellers, and in 2006's The Pink Panther and a sequel, Steve Martin filled the role, with Edwards neither writing nor directing.
After several films with poor box office returns, Edwards effectively retired from film after 1993's Son of the Pink Panther. He directed Andrews on Broadway in Victor/Victoria, and in 2004 he accepted an honorary Oscar, zipping across the stage in an electric wheelchair to receive the statuette for "writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen". It was Edwards' only Academy Award. He died in 2010.
Father: Jack McEdwards (stepfather, film industry)
Mother: Lillian McEdwards (homemaker)
Wife: Patricia Walker (actress, m. 1953, div. 1967, two children)
Daughter: Jennifer Edwards (actress, played Heidi in infamous NFL botch)
Son: Geoffrey Edwards (director)
Wife: Julie Andrews (actress, m. 12-Nov-1969, until his death, two daughters adopted)
Daughter: Emma Walton Hamilton (stepdaughter, dau. of Andrews and author Tony Walton)
Daughter: Amy Lee Edwards (adopted, b. 1974)
Daughter: Joanna Lynn Edwards (adopted, b. 1975)
High School: Beverly Hills High School, Beverly Hills, CA
Afghanistan World Foundation Celebrity Committee
Edgar Allan Poe Award Special Award (2002)
Oscar (honorary) 2004
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6910 Hollywood Blvd.
French Legion of Honor
Risk Factors: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
Son of the Pink Panther (27-Aug-1993)
Skin Deep (3-Mar-1989)
Blind Date (27-Mar-1987)
That's Life! (10-Sep-1986)
A Fine Mess (8-Aug-1986)
Micki + Maude (21-Dec-1984)
The Man Who Loved Women (16-Dec-1983)
Curse of the Pink Panther (13-Aug-1983)
Trail of the Pink Panther (17-Dec-1982)
S. O. B. (1-Jul-1981)
Revenge of the Pink Panther (14-Jul-1978)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (15-Dec-1976)
The Return of the Pink Panther (21-May-1975)
The Tamarind Seed (11-Jul-1974)
The Carey Treatment (29-Mar-1972)
Wild Rovers (23-Jun-1971)
Darling Lili (24-Jun-1970)
The Party (4-Apr-1968)
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (31-Aug-1966)
The Great Race (1-Jul-1965)
A Shot in the Dark (23-Jun-1964)
The Pink Panther (19-Dec-1963)
Days of Wine and Roses (26-Dec-1962)
Experiment in Terror (13-Apr-1962)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (5-Oct-1961)
High Time (16-Sep-1960)
Operation Petticoat (5-Dec-1959)
The Perfect Furlough (21-Jan-1959)
This Happy Feeling (18-Jun-1958)
Mister Cory (23-Feb-1957)
He Laughed Last (12-Aug-1956)
Bring Your Smile Along (22-Jun-1955)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Leather Gloves (11-Nov-1948)
Tokyo Rose (8-Feb-1946)
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