It had just been September 30th when multitalent Blake Edwards asked for a moment of silence in the cavernous Samuel Goldwyn Theatre to remember Tony Curtis who had just died less than 24 hours earlier. The actor and filmmaker had worked together on several films including Mister Cory (1957) and The Perfect Furlough (1959) along with huge box office hits Operation Petticoat (1959) and The Great Race (1965). And now Edwards himself has passed away this morning. He was 88. The writer and director and producer best known for the Pink Panther comedy franchise with Peter Sellers had been the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ latest tributee, there to participate in an on-stage conversation about his career for the Academy’s annual Jack Oakie Celebration of Comedy in Film. It was an enthusiastic sold-out house that included many collaborators and stars of Edwards’ movies including his wife Julie Andrews and daughter Jennifer Edwards. The entertaining evening featured a liberal dose of clips of The Pink Panther (1964), 10 (1979), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), The Party (1968), and Victor Victoria, the 1982 farce that ironically brought Edwards his one and only Oscar nomination – for his screenplay adaptation. Of course, the Academy gave him an honorary statuette in 2003 (which he accepted in his signature slapstick style: by rolling across the stage in a wheelchair). Host Walter Mirisch (whose company produced Panther and Party) then led the director through a series of observations and anecdotes about his long career. The highlights included a tale about the Paramount exec who, following a preview of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, told Edwards to get rid of “that fucking song”, which of course turned out to be the classic Oscar-winner “Moon River”. Edwards said Audrey Hepburn told the exec, “Over my dead body.” Edwards also talked about what “a pain in the ass” Peter Sellers was while confessing that the unpredictable comic genius could be schizophrenically charming at the same time. “What can you say about a guy who had nightly conversations with his dead mother?” Blake noted. Surprisingly, there were no behind-the-scenes stories about his notorious 1981 anti-Hollywood satire S.O.B. even though it was chosen to be shown in its entirety after the discussion. Blake and Julie obviously saw this as a very personal film about a producer who makes a huge musical flop starring his wife — a Julie Andrews-style beloved star played by, well, Julie Andrews — and then reshoots it as a soft core flick focusing on Andrews’ rack. The film was inspired by Edwards’ battles with Paramount over his disastrous 1970 flop Darling Lili. Everything about Edwards was bigger than life: the movies and the man and the laughs.
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