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Blake Edwards

December 16, 2010 by staff 

Blake Edwards, (AP) – Blake Edwards, director and writer known for intelligent dialogue, visual gags and sometimes poignant belly laugh in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”,”10 “and the” Pink Panther “jokes, has died at age 88.

Edwards died of complications from pneumonia Wednesday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, said Gene Schwam publicist. Blake’s wife, Julie Andrews, and other family members were at his side. He had been hospitalized for about two weeks.

Edwards had knee problems, had undergone unsuccessful procedures and was “pretty much confined to a wheelchair for the past year-and-half or two,” said Schwam. That may have contributed to his condition, “he added.

At the time of his death, Edwards worked on two Broadway musicals, one based on the “Pink Panther” movies. The other “Big Rosemary,” must be an original comedy set during Prohibition, Schwam said.

“His heart was as big as his talent. He was an Academy Award winner in all respects, “said Schwam, who had known him for 40 years.

A third generation filmmaker, Edwards was hired to evoke the classic performance by Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Lee Remick and Andrews, his wife of 42 years.

Actor Robert Wagner credits Edwards with him to some of the greatest opportunities of his career.

“There will not be anyone like him through. He was a genius,” Wagner said Thursday. “Personally, we were so close friends and he was so nice to me all my life.”

Edwards often directed and written a wide variety of films including “Days of Wine and Roses,” a poignant story of alcoholism, “The Great Race”, a comedy adventure starring Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, and “Victor / Victoria,” Bender’s sex comedy with musical Andrews.

He was also known for an independent spirit who clashes with studio bosses. He vented his disdain for the Hollywood system in his 1981 black comedy “SOB”

“I was certainly back to some producers in my life, he already pointed out,” even though I was much less virulent than I could have been. The only way I had to do was because of the enormous success of ’10, and even then they tried to sabotage. ”

Because many of his films have been strewn with farcical situations, commentators often criticized his work. “In the world of comic Edwards, noses are being stung, moves towards a hangover, and beautiful women to pursue at any price,” wrote The New York Times’ Vincent Canby in a magazine “10 “. Gary Arnold, The Washington Post added:” Edwards seems to take two steps dumb for everyone to chip … He can not resist the most miserable sight gags that happen to him .. ”

However, Richard Schickel wrote in Time magazine: “When the director Edwards is at his best, there is something bracing, and in these days, unique about his comedy … He really wants to save the world by showing how some of its stupid. Creatures can be. ”

Steve Martin has expressed his thoughts on Twitter, writing, “Blake Edwards was one of the people who made me love the comedy. Sorry to hear of his death.”

Although many films Edwards had a massive success, he was nominated for an Oscar twice, in 1982 for writing the adapted screenplay of “Victor / Victoria” and in 1983 co-wrote “The Man Who Loved Women.” Lemmon and Remick earned Oscar nominations in 1962 for “Days of Wine and Roses”, and Hepburn was nominated for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1961.

The Academy Theatre Edwards selected to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 for “his writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen.”

When he received the prize, he jokingly referred to his wife: “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, and the beautiful English broad with the incomparable soprano and promiscuous vocabulary thanks you.”

Edwards had entered television in 1958, the creation of “Peter Gunn,” which established a new style of hard-edged detective series. The tone is set by the music of Henry Mancini theme heartbeat. With Craig Stevens, the series lasted until 1961 and resulted in a feature film 1967 “Gunn.”

“Peter Gunn” marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Edwards and Mancini, who composed the scores and melodic songs for the most movies at Edwards. Mancini won an Oscar for the score of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the song “Moon River”, the title song of “Days of Wine and Roses” and the score of “Victor / Victoria.”

The history of the Edwards family extended almost the entire length of U.S. films. J. Gordon Edwards was a pioneer director of silent films, including more than 20 exotic vamps Theda Bara. His son, Jack McEdward (family name), became deputy director and senior production in Hollywood.

William Blake was born McEdward July 26, 1922, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the family moved to Hollywood three years later, and the boy grew up on the sets of his father.

Edwards started in films as an actor, playing small roles in films such as “A Guy Named Joe” and “Ten Gentlemen from West Point.” After 18 months of the Coast Guard in World War II, he returned to action, but soon realized he had no talent. With John Champion, he wrote a western, “Panhandle,” which he produced and starred in the studio quickie, Monogram. He followed with “Stampede”.

In 1947, Edwards turned to radio and created the hard-boiled “Richard Diamond, Private Detective” for Dick Powell, he was converted to television in 1957, with Mary Tyler Moore with Powell as his secretary, whose face is never seen on screen.

Tired of the grind TV, Edwards returned to films and directed his first feature film, “Bring Your Smile long.” After a few more B movies which he co-writing in general, he made the big time in 1958 with “The Holiday in Paris,” with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, and “Operation Petticoat” with Cary Grant and Curtis.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Edwards established in 1961 as director of style that could combine with the bittersweet romantic comedy. His next two films proved its versatility: the thriller “Experiment in Terror” (1962) and “Days of Wine and Roses” (1963), history of alcoholism of a couple, with Lemmon in his first dramatic role.

“The Great Race” on a car race in 1900, marked the first attempt to show Edwards’ big budget. He spent money lavishly Warner Bros., which raises the ire of studio boss Jack Warner. The news of 1965 was a modest success.

Edwards disdain “for the studios have peaked in the 1970′s” Darling Lili “, a novel World War with his new wife, Andrews and Rock Hudson. The long, expensive place Paris has infuriated the bosses at Paramount. The film flopped, continuing decline Andrews from his position as No. 1 Hollywood star.

Over the past decade, affects only Edwards was “Pink Panther” sequels. Then came “10″, which he also produced and written. The sex comedy became a box office winner, creating a new star Bo Derek and restores the reputation of the director. He scored again in 1982 with “Victor / Victoria,” with Andrews playing a woman who looks like an impostor (men) of women. His films later became more personal, especially the 1986 “That’s Life” which he wrote with his psychiatrist.

After the death of sales in 1980, Edwards tried to keep the “Pink Panther” franchise alive. He wrote and directed “The Curse of the Pink Panther” in 1983 and “Son of the Pink Panther” in 1993 but both were failed efforts.

A remake of the 2006 original with Steve Martin as Clouseau was a modest success, the 2009 follow-up was less. They both had new directors, with Edwards credited as author.

He continued to oversee Andrews’s career, which included a short-lived television series and its 1996 declaration on Broadway in an $ 8.5 million version of “Victor / Victoria.” Edwards ran the show, which drew mixed reviews. When Andrews was the only one connected with the musical to be nominated for a Tony Award, she announced to an audience in the morning she was declining the nomination because his co-workers had been violated.

Andrews and Edwards were married in 1968. She had a daughter, Emma, from her marriage to Broadway designer Tony Walton. Edwards had a daughter, Jennifer, and son, Geoffrey, his marriage to Patricia Edwards. Andrews and he has adopted two Vietnamese children, Amy and Jo.

A longtime painter, Edwards began carving in mid-life, and his works in bronze in the style of Henry Moore drew rave reviews in the shows in Los Angeles and Bucks County, Pa.

Associated Press writers Bob Thomas and Sandy Cohen contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2010 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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