Friday, December 17, 2010

A Legend Lost

Director Blake Edwards left us today at age 88, after a career in TV and film that spanned more than 5 decades. Starting with the screenplay and an appearance in 1948's Panhandle, Edwards was involved with dozens of projects before making a directorial splash with 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's, a toned-down version of Truman Capote's novel about free-spirit Holly Golighlty and her love affair with the ambiguously sexual Fred. Andy Rooney's performance as Holly's Japanese landlord may well be one of the most horrifically racist since Gone With the Wind, but Audrey Hepburn's iconic performance and the classic "little black dress" will live on in the hearts of movie-lovers forever. 

Gee, wasn't George Peppard dreamy?
Of course, Edwards' greatest successes would come with the Pink Panther series, starring the amazing Peter Sellars as the incompetent Inspector Clouseau. The films went on well beyond Sellars' interest in them, but each one seemed funnier than the last (until Sellars' death, when archival footage was combined with new material to make really terrible films).

Oh, Herbert Lom and that twitching eye!
Then there was 10, the film that made Bo Derek a star and turned Ravel's "Bolero" into the ultimate sex accompaniment:

Next, he turned the world's sweetheart, Julie Andrews (and his devoted wife) into a sex object by exposing her breasts in S.O.B.

Then came his last great film, 1982's Victor Victoria, a remake of a German film about a performer who pretends to be a transvestite in order to make her name in Parisian burlesque in the 1930's. Victor Victoria is one of my favorite movies, not in the least in part due to the amazing performance of Robert Preston as Victoria's gay agent, Toddy. Julie Andrews; James Garner; Alex Karras and the amazingly hilarious Leslie Ann Warren all give the best performances of their careers in this delightfully funny film about sexual ambiguity and art of theatrical illusion.I made sure I was in attendance for Ms. Andrews' last Broadway performance in the stage adaptation, but was disappointed to find that it lacked the spark that made Edwards' film so delightful. Still, it was Julie on Broadway - a magical experience in and of itself.

After Victor Victoria, Edwards directed a few less-than successful comedies like Micki & Maude; A Fine Mess; Blind Date; Skin Deep and  Switch. But none of them had the success or finesse of his earlier works. Married to Julie Andrews for over 40 years, Edwards was an old-school Hollywood veteran, the likes of which we will probably never see again. I for one, am very saddened by his passing and can only hope that cinema will see will his like again.

More, anon.

1 comment:

Mr. Bananas said...

A Fine Mess was Howie Mandel's finest performance! Haha. I watched it like 36 times as a kid.