American filmmaker Blake Edwards has died today aged 88 after suffering complications of pneumonia at a hospital in Santa Monica, California. Born in Oklahoma in 1922, Edwards began his distinguished career as an actor before stepping behind the camera for his theatrical feature debut as a writer and producer on the 1948 Western Panhandle. Edwards went on to write a number of musical comedies for director Richard Quine including Crusin’ Down The River (1953), Drive a Crooked Road (1954) and My Sister Eileen (1955) before making his directorial debut with the 1955 comedy Bring Your Smile Along (1955).
Continuing to build an impressive CV over the next few years with credits on TV series such as The Mickey Rooney Show (1954-1955), Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-1960) and Peter Gunn (1958-1961) alongside cinematic efforts including Mister Cory (1957) and Operation Petticoat (1959), Edwards career really began to take off in the early 1960s. Brought in as a last minute replacement for John Frankenheimer as director of the Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Edwards followed this up with The Grip of Fear (1962) and Days of Wine and Roses (1962) before enjoying a career high with the slapstick classic The Pink Panther (1963), featuring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau.
Edwards continued to work alongside Sellers with sequels A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and, following Sellers’ death, the posthumous Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). He enjoyed mixed success outside of the series, with highlights including 10 (1979), The Man Who Loved Women (1983) and Blind Date (1987), before returning to the franchise for his final feature Son of the Pink Panther in 1993. He received his only Oscar nomination as screenwriter for the 1982 musical comedy Victor Victoria and in 2004 was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of his services to the industry.