'The Pink Panther' (1964) - The Film Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'The Pink Panther' (1964) - The Film

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The Pink Panther Films
The Pink Panther (1964) | A Shot In The Dark | Inspector Clouseau
The Return of the Pink Panther | The Pink Panther Strikes Again | Revenge of the Pink Panther
Trail of the Pink Panther | Curse of the Pink Panther | Son of the Pink Panther


The Pink Panther is the first film in a series of nine films (plus two recent remakes) starring either the character of Inspector Clouseau or the fabulous jewel known as the Pink Panther. The film's title refers to the jewel – the character of Clouseau was intended to be purely a minor role – but the words 'Pink Panther' soon became synonymous with the character of Clouseau as a result of the comic genius of Peter Sellers.

Plot

Once Upon A Time1 as a child, Princess Dala was given a priceless diamond, the Pink Panther, named after a panther-shaped flaw in the centre of the pink jewel. She retains this jewel as an adult despite being deposed from her kingdom of Lugash; however she is targeted by suave womaniser Sir Charles Lytton, whose secret alter ego is a jewel thief known as the Phantom. Sir Charles and Princess Dala meet at a ski resort.

Meanwhile, Inspector Jacques Clouseau is hot on the Phantom's tail, aided by Tucker from Lloyd's of London, who have insured the jewel. What Clouseau does not know is that his wife, Simone, is secretly having an affair with Sir Charles. Extra chaos occurs when Sir Charles' young American nephew George arrives.

Who will steal the jewel and who will be blamed for its theft?

Cast

Characters and actors in bold returned to appear in other films in the series.

CharacterActor
Sir Charles LyttonDavid Niven
Inspector Jacques ClouseauPeter Sellers
George LyttonRobert Wagner
Simone ClouseauCapucine
Princess DahlaClaudia Cardinale2
TuckerColin Gordon
Defence BarristerJohn Le Mesurier
SingerFran Jeffries
SaloudJames Lanphier
ArtoffGuy Thomajan
Angela DunningBrenda de Banzie

A talented cast was assembled for The Pink Panther. One minor role was played by John Le Mesurier, who had previously appeared opposite Peter Sellers in I'm All Right, Jack. He would later find fame as Sergeant Arthur Wilson in Dad's Army and perform as the The Wise Old Bird in the radio series of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Italian actress Claudia Cardinale was cast as Princess Dala but as English was not her first language, Princess Dala's dialogue was dubbed by twenty-year-old Gale Garnett. Claudia Cardinale would later return as Maria Gambrelli in Son of the Pink Panther.

Capucine would reunite with Peter Sellers in 1965's What's New Pussy Cat, Woody Allen's first film. She would reprise her role as Simone in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther.

David Niven

Academy Award winning actor David Niven was born in London in 1910 and was appointed a Lieutenant after graduating from Sandhurst Royal Military College. After a Hollywood career, including 1939's Raffles, a film about a gentleman thief based on the 1890s character invented by EW Hornung3, he returned to England to enlist during the Second World War, although he did make films during the war including The First of the Few, the story of how RJ Mitchell's designed the Spitfire. He returned to acting after the war, notably 1946's A Matter Of Life And Death. In 1958 he won the Best Actor Oscar for Separate Tables, however it was his 1939 appearance in Raffles that led to his casting as gentleman-thief The Phantom in The Pink Panther. David Niven returned to play Sir Charles Lytton twice more, in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. The character would next be seen in The Return of the Pink Panther, played by Christopher Plummer.

Peter Sellers CBE

Peter Seller found fame with Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan in The Goon Show, playing several characters including Bluebottle, Major Bloodnok, Henry Crun, Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Willium 'Mate' Cobblers. He was desperate to be an actor, inspired by Stan Laurel. He had previously made The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film, an Oscar-nominated 11-minute long short film.

Peter Sellers appeared in The Pink Panther as a last-minute replacement for Sir Peter Ustinov. This was intended to be a minor role, billed fifth after Sir Charles Lytton, Simone Clouseau, George Lytton and Princess Dala. With director Blake Edwards' support he transformed the role he had been given into effectively the starring lead, without changing the screenplay, through his physical presence and talent.

When he was asked how he had developed the character, Peter Sellers replied.

'I had always been somewhat amused at the way certain Frenchmen tried to show their virility with a bit of chest-puffing, rolling their shoulders, trying to look imposing and always with a big moustache. I decided the moustache was very important. The raincoat was my own, not the buckled and bangled types one saw on the Italian men but quite serviceable Bogart-style raincoat. The hat was a logical extension of the look and I knew where to find one in London.'

Blake Edwards had named Clouseau after French director Henri-Georges Clouzot. Peter Sellers was inspired by Stan Laurel, which fitted perfectly with Blake Edwards' fascination with early silent comedy. Sellers was also inspired by a box of Bryant and May matches on the flight to Paris, whose logo was a heroic image of Captain Matthew Webb, who in 1875 became the first person to swim the channel. Captain Webb is notable for his prominent moustache, which Peter Sellers immediately used as the starting inspiration for his performance. However, unlike later films, Sellers plays Clouseau with a normal French accent.

The Making of The Pink Panther

The genesis of The Pink Panther came from Blake Edwards' writing partner Maurice Richlin4. Richlin had proposed a film about a suave jewel thief who was having a relationship with the wife of the police inspector trying to catch him. At the time Blake Edwards' career was at a high-point, and the independent Mirisch Corporation had offered to fund his next project and allow Blake complete freedom to direct. Although the Mirisch Corporation were not keen on the script, they reluctantly stuck to their deal and financed The Pink Panther.

The Mirisch Corporation's reluctance initially seemed to be justified as Blake Edwards had severe difficulty in finding a cast. Blake Edwards had wanted Audrey Hepburn to be the Princess, having worked with her on Breakfast at Tiffany's, but she was unavailable. Ava Gardner was the first choice to be Simone Clouseau; however, she demanded her own villa, car with chauffeur and personal hairdresser and even demanded that the production should be moved from Cinecittà Studios in Rome to Madrid. This was considered too much, and so she was fired. Second choice was Psycho's Janet Leigh, but she turned down the offer because she would have to take her children, Kelly and Jamie-Lee Curtis5, out of school and be apart from her recently-married fourth husband, Robert Brandt. In the end French actress and model Capucine was cast, on Audrey Hepburn's recommendation.

The minor role of Inspector Clouseau was originally offered to Sir Peter Ustinov. As Ava Gardner was no longer involved, Peter Ustinov pulled out shortly before filming began6. A desperate Blake Edwards cast Peter Sellers, whom he did not know, as Sellers had a short break before he had to film Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb with Stanley Kubrick.

There were other problems. In the bath scene between Capucine and Robert Wagner, an industrial-strength foaming agent was used. This burned both the stars' skin and temporarily blinded Robert Wagner, who was submerged beneath the bubbles, hiding from Sellers' Clouseau.

During the film's development, it gradually became more and more of a slapstick and silent-era inspired comedy. Sequences particularly near the end of the film involved scenes which would not have been out of place in a silent-comedy, such as an old man attempting to cross the road while chaos ensues around him, and two gorillas attempting to break into a safe unaware of each others' presence. Blake Edwards described this process with the words:

'We [Peter Sellers and I] discovered that we were soul-mates as far as certain kinds of comedy. Our favourite people in the comedy world. I had seen I think I'm All Right Jack. In a matter of a day, in a matter of a few hours we were together in our quest for that character and Peter said "Could we employ some of those things in this? I'd like to make it a little more mine."
'We decided to try and make Clouseau a real clumsy, accident-prone, well-intentioned but idiotic character. We decided that the one thing about Clouseau that could make him succeed was that he embodied what I considered to be the eleventh commandment, which is "Thou shalt not give up". He figured he could lose, never figured that he could fail.
'

The script had been written with Peter Ustinov in mind, and with no time to re-write it, Edwards allowed Sellers to improvise. This gave Sellers the creative freedom to transform the role beyond all recognition, effectively stealing the film from David Niven.

Filming had been due to begin on 12 November 1962, although the film was made in late 1963 and finally released in February 1964 in the UK and one month later in America. The sequel, A Shot in the Dark, was released only three months later. Both proved highly successful.

Music

Enrico 'Henry' Mancini was a highly experienced composer, having worked for Universal Pictures in the early 1950s7. Mancini met Blake Edwards when he scored the Grammy-winning theme for Edwards' Peter Gunn television series, and his highly successful professional relationship with Edwards meant he would compose the score for many of Edwards' films. His score for Breakfast at Tiffany's had won two Oscars in 1962 for Best Music and Best Song, for which he had written the music for 'Moon River' with the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. In 1963 he and Johnny Mercer co-won the Best Song Oscar for Days of Wine and Roses. In 1964 the two were nominated for an Oscar for Charade.

Blake Edwards naturally asked Henry Mancini to do the theme for The Pink Panther. His work created one of the most famous film themes of all time. For this, Mancini held auditions to find the perfect saxophonist, choosing Plas Johnson. His work for The Pink Panther was, in 1965, Oscar nominated for a Best Music Oscar. Sadly Mary Poppins won, although The Pink Panther theme won three much-deserved Grammy awards and was a top-ten hit in 1964. In 2005 the American Film Institute would list this as the 20th greatest film score of all time.

The Pink Panther's theme would be used in every Blake Edwards directed Pink Panther film except A Shot In The Dark and would also be used in the Pink Panther  cartoon series.

Another Mancini song used frequently in this film is 'It Had Better Be Tonight' also known as 'Meglio Stasera', a song with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer. This song is sung at one point by Fran Jeffries in a scene made to introduce this song and Fran Jeffries herself. This song later appears in a scene in the Blake Edwards directed film The Party, which starred Peter Sellers.

Soundtrack

A soundtrack album was released for this film. It contained the songs:

  • The Pink Panther Theme
  • It Had Better Be Tonight (Instrumental)
  • Royal Blue
  • Champagne and Quail
  • The Village Inn
  • The Tiber Twist
  • It Had Better Be Tonight
  • Cortina
  • The Lonely Princess
  • Something for Sellers
  • Piano and Strings
  • Shades of Sennett

Review

In contrast to later films, The Pink Panther is primarily a crime caper, with the character of Clouseau acting as comic relief in an otherwise played-straight drama.

The other unexpected star of the series is the cartoon Pink Panther. The animation itself is beautifully orchestrated, and within seconds a character originally intended to just be on posters advertising the film comes to life to decorate the film's credits.

The film itself begins in a whirlwind, taking place in the first few minutes in Lugash, Rome, Hollywood, Paris and Cortina d'Ampezzo. These first few scenes cut quick and fast; however as soon as the audience is beginning to feel breathless the pace slows down. In many key scenes Edwards allows the actors to entertain the audience without moving the camera, rather than dazzle the audience with cuts and close-ups. Although the camera is often static, the film never is.

The film is full of a mixture of small, exciting moments. For instance, Inspector Clouseau plays the violin, badly, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, a small scene which sets up a rewarding moment later. Despite the opening few minutes being set all around the world, the film feels smaller and more intimate than its sequels, with most of it set within one ski resort's hotel in Cortina, especially two adjoining hotel rooms, that of the Clouseaus and the neighbouring Lyttons. This ensures that the five main characters in the film, the Clouseaus, the Lyttons and the Princess, are each allowed to develop as well as have a backstory, and the audience is invited to relate to them all.

The odd mix keeps the film fresh, including moments of music and dancing, comedy, romance and drama, slapstick and suspense. In many ways the film is so unconventional it should not work – its genius is that it does.

Animated Credit Sequence

For the opening sequence we are informed that inside the Pink Panther jewel is a flawed discoloration in the shape of a leaping panther. The camera zooms into the diamond, showing the pink panther itself, although it is sitting, smoking and wearing a monocle. The Panther drops the monocle and is chased by the Phantom glove, which is hunted by an Inspector-like character who also chases the Panther. Like Inspector Clouseau, the Panther is clumsy and often falls over.

The Panther spins credits, changing a name into a propeller to make an aeroplane. When the title 'The Pink Pant Her' is on screen he moves the 'Her' to the end of 'pant' to form 'Panther', and gestures that that is him. He adds 'And the Pink Panther' to the lists of starring actors and 'screenplay by' credits, which are typed on a typewriter by the Phantom glove. The Panther wolf whistles Claudia Cardinale, conducts when Mancini's 'Music by' credit appears onscreen, is exploded by a camera during the photography credits and punts and falls off a Gondola. The Panther writes 'Directed By Elabk Sdrawed' before the Phantom glove forces him to change it to 'Blake Edwards' at gunpoint. The Panther grabs the gun from the glove, but the Phantom glove puts a finger in the end when the Panther pulls the trigger and so Pink Panther is exploded as the film begins, opening in Rome.

At the end of the film Pink Panther directs Rome's traffic, but 'The End' is spelt 'Thend', causing a crash.

Connections with later films

  • Disguises – all films in the series feature disguises:
    • Simone Clouseau is the first to use a disguise, changing her clothes to change her appearance in a lift.
    • Sir Charles Lytton has a Phantom kit including a Cat Burglar disguise. He also affects a limp to disguise the fact that he is not hurt.
    • There is a fancy dress party, with several guests dressed up.
    • Inspector Clouseau's first ever disguise is a man in a suit of armour at a party.
    • Sir Charles and George Lytton both are disguised as gorillas.
  • Clouseau Clumsiness:
    • Inspector Clouseau has difficulty when spinning a globe in his office. A similar problem would befall him in A Shot In The Dark.
    • Inspector Clouseau destroys his first musical instrument, by standing on his own violin.
    • Inspector Clouseau has difficulty opening his hotel room door. He would have problems with doors in A Shot In The Dark.
  • During the party near the end of the film, all the lights go out. A similar sequence would occur near the end of A Shot In The Dark.
  • Inspector Clouseau fails to consummate his passion in bed, something he would frequently experience.
  • Clouseau plays his violin in bed. This would be mentioned in Son of the Pink Panther.
  • The Pink Panther jewel would return in The Return of the Pink Panther as well as Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. So, too would the Phantom, Sir Charles Lytton. It is described to Princess Dala as 'a gift for your father from his grateful people' and no religious significance attached to it is mentioned in this film.
  • At the end of the film Inspector Clouseau is arrested. He would frequently be arrested in A Shot In The Dark.
  • George Lytton hides from Clouseau in a bath. Clouseau would later be attacked in a bath in A Shot In The Dark and flood a bath in The Return of the Pink Panther.
  • George Lytton hides from Clouseau in a bathroom cabinet. Cato would hide in a cabinet in The Return of the Pink Panther.
  • Clouseau faints when he discovers the Pink Panther in his pocket. He would faint in a similar fashion when discovering Dudu's body, saying 'Dead Dudu', in A Shot in the Dark.

Novelisation

A novelisation was published in April 1964, written by Marvin Albert based on the screenplay by Maurice Richlin and Blake Edwards. As it is based on the original screenplay, it is extremely noticeable how the character of Inspector Clouseau is rarely mentioned, and on the occasion that he is, he is usually referred to simply as 'the Inspector', in contrast to the four main characters who are always discussed by name. In fact, the blurb on back of the book mentions:

'The Pink Panther... a priceless pink diamond. It belongs to Princess Dala (what a beauty!), who is also known as the Virgin Queen... Sir Charles Lytton (a very debonair type!) is a jewel thief... George is Sir Charles' nephew. He doesn't care about diamonds, all he likes is girls... including Simone (a really ravishing creature!) who just naturally turns out to be the police inspector's wife.'

Inspector Clouseau, as you can see, is not mentioned. The plot follows that of the film very closely, with some scenes identical to that of the film, with the strange exception that Clouseau has little influence or impact. It adds more background information regarding Princess Dala and the military coup which overthrew her rule, changes the dog-kidnapping scene slightly, turning it into a skiing race, and gives the guests at Angela Dunning's parties more of a role.

The biggest change is at the end of the story. In the book Inspector Clouseau and Tucker are in a pantomime horse, rather than disguised as a knight and jester with two police sergeants in a zebra costume as in the film. The two costumed gorillas circling the safe does not appear, nor does the old man trying to cross the road while the police, gorillas and pantomime zebra drive by.

The novelisation is a wonderful device for measuring exactly how the casting of Peter Sellers transformed the story from a crime caper to a slapstick comedy. It is also the only novelisation not to show the Pink Panther or Inspector cartoon character on the cover, instead featuring a giant pink diamond surrounded by a jewel thief, well-dressed men and scantily-clad ladies in high heels.

The Pink Panther Films
The Pink Panther (1964) | A Shot In The Dark | Inspector Clouseau
The Return of the Pink Panther | The Pink Panther Strikes Again | Revenge of the Pink Panther
Trail of the Pink Panther | Curse of the Pink Panther | Son of the Pink Panther

1'Once Upon A Time' are the first words in the film, seen on screen.2Voice by Gale Garnett3Hornung was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law.4Richlin had written Operation Petticoat with Edwards.5Later star of the Halloween film series and A Fish Called Wanda.6The Mirisch Corporation sued Peter Ustinov in January 1964 for the delay in filming finding a replacement actor caused, but as Peter Sellers was so successful in the role, they could not prove that his actions had caused any damages.7Including for films such as Ray Harryhausen's It Came From Outer Space and 1954's Glenn Miller Story, for which he was first nominated for a Best Music Oscar.

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