The sharpie of Sangamon Street. “That’s a great thing about this country, you can reach as high as you want. You can even be President.” Does he blow his brains out at the end, where else?
Edwards’ The Great Gatsby, “Based on a Story by Leo Rosten”.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times was filled with indignation, “absolutely nothing of any consequence is going on.” Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “breezy if forgettable entertainment.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “muddled... dreary... glossy... emotionally bogus and dramatically flat.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “modest”.
The sea gull is from Chekhov, Estelle Winwood plays the drunken housekeeper, Troy Donahue a movie star on Broadway, John Saxon a Connecticut horseman, Debbie Reynolds a secretary from Brooklyn, and Curt Jurgens a lion of the stage.
A quite deliberate technique brings this all to a first night with a standing ovation, but that demands a pretty severe analysis from Edwards on a play by F. Hugh Herbert (Crowther wrote in his New York Times review that the screenplay “has absolutely nothing worthwhile in it”).
Phony cops kill the last of the old bootleggers. The new boss puts the squeeze on Mother’s, she turns to Gunn.
The joint gets bombed, Gunn takes a hireling in tow with a pistol to the fellow’s head.
The play works out, even to Gunn’s surprise. “Day In, Day Out” figures as a chorus.
Lola Albright, Jack Weston, Gavin MacLeod, etc.
The Pacific Theater 1941-45, on the other end of a double bill with What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?.
The secret weapon is Lt. Crandall, the treatment is absolutely surreal, encompassing the home front, problems of supply and everything else.
The key is handed out during the film, no-one has taken it in the reviewing fraternity.
A four-year college course in which the surreal freshman and flying valedictorian is represented as a man of considerable experience and success, who vows to be the first in his family with a sheepskin.
This gives his spoiled, ignorant son and daughter opposing him like parents, and so forth in the construction.
Edwards has a specialty here in CinemaScope, a room full of brilliant actors, a mobile camera and a long take, in several variations.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The really useful model of analysis is Allen’s Annie Hall, which points up the horizontal structure Texas-Hollywood-New York for Holly Golightly’s trajectory, and this in turn finds her Texas roots in the rain-soaked alley (with missing Cat) at the end of the film, the top of the vertical structure being Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney’s performance is sometimes criticized, like Jerry Fujikawa’s in “A Quality of Mercy” by Rod Serling, dir. Buzz Kulik for The Twilight Zone, as a physical stereotype).
Pace some dazzled reviewers, diamonds are not Holly’s fascination but Tiffany’s itself, “nothing bad could ever happen to you there.”
Holly as bedrock of the social whirl, and Varjak in the literary set, constitute a total satire.
Experiment in Terror
To scrutinize a bank teller held as a pawn. She or her sister gets it unless she forks over the dough.
The robber has a penchant for Oriental girls, helps one in Chinatown with her son’s hospital bills.
That’s all. A curious feature, the killer is asthmatic.
San Francisco locations, Giants vs. Dodgers.
The theme proceeds to Darling Lili and The Tamarind Seed (cp. Mister Cory).
Days of Wine and Roses
Petroleum foreign or domestic and schmaltz however high on the perch add their luster nohow to a PR executive’s days, but the money lifts his wife out of “the roach kingdom”.
The salve is alcohol.
Critics have generally ridden the bottle on this, not perceiving the structure, yet when the rueful exec speaks of “dates for potentates” the tale is told.
The Pink Panther
The joke at the very beginning, before the credits, is so awe-inspiring that the cartoon character had to be invented to take the mickey out of it, as Welles said of Rosebud. Here it goes, a maharajah’s palace, two men enter presenting a large diamond on a necklace, “the most fabulous diamond in all the world,” but it has a flaw, which is curiously shaped like a pink panther. The maharajah accepts it and drapes it over the neck of his young daughter.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times completely missed the boat, and wrote glowingly about the cartoon critter, beyond which, he says, he couldn’t follow the film at all, even wondered if Edwards hadn’t wasted his time and worn out Peter Sellers in doing so. “Never mind,” says Clouseau, “when you’ve seen one Stradivarius, you’ve seen them all.”
Now we are ready for the knight in shining armor at the costume party, surrounded by jewel thieves in ape costumes. It’s Inspector Clouseau, who doesn’t know his wife is the lover and accomplice of the Phantom, who in turn has a shifty nephew with an eye on the business, and there is the grown-up princess with her feline bauble.
Capucine’s deadpan perfection as Madame Clouseau naturally struck Crowther as “mirthless”, Claudia Cardinale as the princess seemed to him a clothes horse, Robert Wagner “superfluous”, etc. And there is David Niven, cracking safes and leaving in each one a white glove monogrammed with the letter “P”.
This colossal misunderstanding has somehow set the tone for a critique which, if it was ignored by the public, nevertheless got the critter his own TV show (and a funny one at that). And to think, he may have been invented as a mere ruse to deflect the consideration of Andrew Sarris that Edwards suffered “occasional lapses of taste” (“never vulgar”, Godard says of his earlier films). One doesn’t make these things up, one only knows what one reads in the funny papers and movie reviews.
You needn’t go all the way to the silents for that “labored” and “clearly forced” bedroom scene (as Crowther has it), Jules White’s Three Stooges comedy What’s the Matador is right under your nose.
The Once Upon a Time opening is followed after the credits by a one-two-three sequence that’s intricately contrived. In Rome, an engraving of the she-wolf suckling Romulus & Remus hides a wall safe that is opened by the Phantom. The police arrive, he climbs down a rope, which lights like a fuse against the policemen scurrying down after him. The Phantom and his assistant drive away past the Colosseum.
In Hollywood, George Lytton is posing for a graduation photo at Pierre Luigi’s studio with a class hired for the purpose. Two men in trenchcoats enter, and pursue him down Hollywood Boulevard.
In Paris, a woman has a secret rendezvous, there is a package, the police arrive and send her fleeing into a hotel elevator, where she does a quick-change going up (this is Madame Simone Clouseau) and escapes them.
This rapid, difficult sequence (Phantom up and down, George out and about, Simone up and down—Phantom escapes, George pursued, Simone escapes) leads to the main action in Cortina d’Ampezzo, where Princess Dala and her jewel are on holiday (a newspaper headline warns of rebel unrest, the political situation suggests Donen’s Surprise Package). Sir Charles wants the diamond, Inspector Clouseau is there to nab the Phantom, George turns up and takes an interest. The briskness and complexity are such as to allow Fran Jeffries’ Mancini number as a respite, but also as a registration of style.
The main basis (if it isn’t Edward F. Cline’s My Little Chickadee) is a pivot of Wyler’s Roman Holiday, and the accidental fireworks display at the fancy dress ball not only figures famously in Stevenson’s Mary Poppins, it attains such a level of painterly abstraction as to become the pie fight in The Great Race.
It will surely have been seen that the farthest reaches of this are all but incalculable, which (along with the rapidity of cutting and setups) makes for the confusion experienced by Crowther. There is the ancient wealth of Rome, America the pretender, Paris the revolutionary, and the comedy takes place on Alpine heights, if you please.
Sir Charles Lytton is the hero, not Inspector Clouseau, and the five principal characters are co-equal. Clouseau is a rational Frenchman who falls off the spinning globe he leans on, his wife deceives him with complete serenity and skill. They all have their foibles, Sir Charles those of middle age, for example, his nephew George those of youth.
The performances rise to the occasion of a very demanding style with ease and brilliance. A single shot often registers a single expression or action, and these are accurate unfailingly. Capucine, resembling Loretta Young, is a tall, capable girl in her dress, and in a nightgown skitters about the hotel room with an adroitness that is perfectly expressive. Cardinale is all temperament and command as the Princess, with a bright smile on occasion. Niven is a man of infinite patience and acuity sometimes undone by circumstances but unflappable at all times, and Wagner is a keen fellow with a larcenous streak or the other way around. Forceful acting of this caliber is much of what makes The Pink Panther the absolute masterpiece it is.
After the ball transforms the Phantom and his rival into a couple of gorillas (this is Edwards on Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief, from Conway’s Arsène Lupin, to be sure), the Princess, alerted by Clouseau, arranges a trap and both are arrested. Madame Clouseau prevails upon the Princess, however, for the love they bear to Sir Charles, and he is saved by framing Inspector Clouseau for the theft.
Sir Charles, Simone and George observe his arrest. The Phantom is poor Clouseau, a hero to women everywhere, the envy and admiration of the policemen escorting him. How did he do it, they ask. “It wasn’t easy,” Clouseau replies.
Properly speaking, The Pink Panther was a great popular success, yet its critical reputation has never quite risen to its nearly unapproachable level, and there is the Zen master to explain, hurling this koan at his blockhead students, “an iron bar without a hole,” pointing at an open door.
“It’s hell in here!”
The implications are felt as far as Godard’s Éloge de l’amour in the largest sense (and compare Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King). The Old Phantom and the New Phantom are brought to book in the court of reason, and ancient wisdom redeems them in the name of love, nevertheless the proprieties are observed.
Raffles, of course, with David Niven.
Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “since 1963, Edwards has emerged from the ranks of commissioned directors with such personal works as The Pink Panther...”
Variety could not follow it, “so enticing that few will worry about the jerky machinations of the plot.” Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader), “the gorilla suit finale is a little heavy.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “quite palatable for the uncritical.”
A Shot in the Dark
Let us imagine, for the sake of argument, that the famous anecdote about Truffaut and Chabrol falling into a fountain has been heard by Edwards, that he chuckles over it and maybe tells it himself, finally it becomes a sort of springboard, maybe from a dream or from the play, into a full-scale joke in which the millionaire M. Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders) is Hitchcock, the twin representatives of the Nouvelle Vague are combined as Inspector Jacques Clouseau and played by Peter Sellers, whose characterization is based on a natural response to Elke Sommer as a beautiful, innocent girl. Herbert Lom plays Commissioner Dreyfus as precisely the man who would be ruined if Clouseau the nincompoop were right, as he says. Acknowledgment of the homage to The Man Who Knew Too Much at Café Olé is then given as Inspector Oxford in Frenzy.
The Great Race
“Journeys end in lovers meeting,” The Great Leslie finds this out, Professor Fate demands a rematch.
A legendary comedy based on a joke about a race from New York to Paris by automobile (in effect, this means around the world via the Bering Straits in winter).
The Great Race is an acquisition of the silent film. Edwards, however, approaches it by the long way, very patiently and diligently covering every mile of the distance in avatars that are readily identifiable, Genevieve, Chuck Jones, Dudley Do-Right, etc., all the way through the sound era to his sources. The Homeric difficulties of this are best appreciated by a director of Edwards’ erudition, but he’s a meticulous craftsman (as far as that goes), and the texture that results is geologically rich and vital, to the point of bedazzlement.
The casting is a work all its own, because actors are required who are able to respond with originality to such a method, in order to turn these rigors to account. Here is where Harvard Lampoon’s Natalie Wood Award for bad actresses is revealed as a quaint perverseness, like swallowing goldfish in a phone booth atop a flagpole on a Volkswagen.
‘Alliwell similarly says “the entire Prisoner of Zenda spoof could be omitted,” and as that is the centerpiece of a film that is formally all of a piece (this is where Mancini’s most characteristic harmonies come in), it’s impossible to know what could be meant by that (the baron turns up as Lili in Blazing Saddles).
In the midst of a fractious analysis, Sarris famously said “the custard-pie sequence transcends the psychology of slapstick to qualify as the last spasm of action painting in the Western world,” notwithstanding James Agee on slapstick, “one of the world’s great wonders.” It’s really Dalian on the face of it, and one might infer, from the way it’s filmed, that Sam Peckinpah had it chuckling in the back of his mind when he shot the end of The Wild Bunch four years later (The Ballad of Cable Hogue ends in another remembrance).
The two fights that flank the game of double identity are a mirror, the Boracho saloon brawl ends with Texas Jack’s plummet from the demolished balcony in the same gag that opens the pie-throwing scene, when Fate the Magnificent plunges into the Coronation cake, followed by the prince.
The Great Race is in some ways emblematic of Edwards’ middle style, as fixed from The Pink Panther up to 10, say, between the formality of Operation Petticoat and the freedom of The Man Who Loved Women.
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
The European Theater 1939-1945, even including the Phony War (see Operation Petticoat).
The decadent democracies, Hitler, the people, all the major characters are in it, sublimated by the gag material in treatments à l’outrance that are Edwards’ trademark, “a thinly-devised comedy without much substance,” according to Variety (Crowther found it deplorable, an insult to serious matters, blah-blah-blah).
You may define it differently, if you wish, a shavetail captain from the Academy is sent in to capture an Italian village, is dropped into the catacombs as a dead German colonel late of Stalingrad, and winds up a major.
DeMille’s The Crusades is probably the basis, with material from The Pink Panther, The Great Race and The Party that later goes into S.O.B., etc.
A falling-out among thieves.
A mobster and his transvestite moll knock off the boss aboard his yacht (the method is fake Coast Guardsmen) and move in, jealousy splits them, Peter Gunn is clumsily given planted evidence to implicate the mobster, and so forth, as greatly expanded from “The Kill”.
Albert Paulsen as Fusco, ahead of Rosenberg’s The Laughing Policeman. Helen Traubel as Mother (her toast is, “Sink the Bismarck!”).
The New York Times reviewer was under the vague impression he’d seen all that “unflustered derring-do” before on television, what he saw of it. “A trifle longish” (Variety). “Tongue-in-cheek” (Halliwell’s Film Guide). “Falters between parody and straight action” (Monthly Film Bulletin, cited by Halliwell). “Edwards’ L.A. is conceived in harsh primary colors, a plastic wasteland relieved only by a cozy bar with the painfully ironic name of ‘Mother’s’” (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader).
At the opulent maison in the bay (it’s called The Ark), the spécialité is twins.
Satyajit Ray must have laughed out loud at the Apu joke. Years later, in Agantuk, he acknowledges the meeting of Wyoming Bill Kelso and Hrundi V. Bakshi with a joke of his own.
Edwards’ film is sometimes said to have been improvised, but that can only mean that gag material was worked out on the set in the manner of silent comedy.
A foreign ménage, spy couple and servants, out of Halfred Itchcock. And she’s a popular singer on the stages of England and France, during World War One. Her latest assignment is to down an air ace.
The ace stays up, the spy ring comes to naught, and the singer with a Légion d’Honneur still rallies the crowd with “Tipperary” after the war.
Genuinely funny secondary material from Edwards and other sources (such as Annakin’s Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines) accelerates the passage of time involved, with songs by Mercer & Mancini.
Von Richtofen’s attack on the Swiss-bound train certainly recalls Secret Agent, and there are the two inquisitive Frenchmen in the bassin (during a rainstorm, yet).
Later there is The Tamarind Seed.
The tale of two Montana cowboys, unlike as can be, who run in together on a bank robbery and light out for Mexico.
A treasury of useful images, from the camera setups which are many and pictorial (cp. The Tamarind Seed) to the citations from Ives (“Charlie Rutlage”) and Juvenal (the lady and the chamber pot).
The main structural consideration is the ad hoc jointure of the two, a pair of brothers superficially similar are set to capture them but fall out at once afterward, which is the idea of Emerson’s ode.
The parallel action is a war between sheepmen and cattlemen (cp. Wyler’s The Big Country).
Critics could not decipher this in any useful way at the time, and so it meant very little to them.
Edwards’ screenplay is made of vignettes illustrating various points along the way, all are deliberate in their exactitude, one goes to considerable lengths in establishing for the benefit of the drama that the rovers are not at a cathouse during the robbery.
The Carey Treatment
The structure is essentially drawn from The Sleeping City (dir. George Sherman) and principally serves as an analysis of Faces (dir. John Cassavetes), this is still further clarified in Blood Work (dir. Clint Eastwood). The quixotic jailbird is by way of David Miller’s Lonely Are the Brave, there are lesser and more fleeting evocations of Rudolph Maté’s D.O.A. (photographic studio and dark-haired Marla Rakubian as J.D.’s secretary), for example, also Jack Smight’s Harper in the tone of a cornered junkie’s vitriolic contempt for “doctors and cops”.
The central shaft of humor is conveyed by James Coburn’s highly refined impression of Orson Welles for the single line, “movie stars don’t have babies, they have agents.” The grandeur of the theme is stated in Edwards’ opening views of Boston the great city from a great height, Emersonian views, it might be Paris or London or El Greco’s Toledo.
Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “looks to be exactly what might have been intended by a talented director with reasonably venal ambitions to amuse a great many people.” Variety, “a serviceable release.” Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), “the problem is in the script.” Nick Pinkerton (Film Comment), “as for The Carey Treatment, it belongs to its period more than to all time.” TV Guide, “essentially boring”. Film4, “not entirely worthless”. Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “never examines any of the issues it toys with.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “employs a good deal of rather self-conscious vulgarity and profanity but worse is its casual attitude toward abortion and marital commitments.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “pretentious thriller with a tendency to make moral points among the bloodshed.”
The Tamarind Seed
The commonplace story of a love affair between two people who happen to be a widow in the Home Office and a Soviet military attaché, they meet in Barbados on vacation.
Her husband was “uncomplicated” and festive, his car went over a cliff. She has taken a lover, a group captain and air attaché, married. He is dismissed by her and she relaxes in a bungalow on the sea reading Kingsley Amis.
The Russian woos her, Stalinist elements accuse him of treachery, he defects to the West.
Counter to this is the key element of his bargaining chip, a homosexual Minister in the British Government passing secrets to the Soviets at Paris.
Edwards sets his screenplay within Freddie Young’s pictures in such a way that the expression of the drama takes place there in a direct sequence of images. The Russian advances from sea and darkness against the lamplight and the cozy home, and then much later all the bright sea and the great world are with him as he faces the widow at a shadowy wall, these are composed shots among the most beautiful and telling in cinema. The cinematography completes the rational imparting of the work in anecdote and symbolism.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again
The abstruse structure is understood as mad Dreyfus burrowing up from below Chief Inspector Clouseau’s Paris flat (an insert shows the occupants of the downstairs apartment bound and gagged), Clouseau meanwhile transforming into Quasimodo (cp. the sleuth’s disguises in Roy William Neill’s Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon), whose inflated hump carries him over the Seine to Notre Dame (Beckett, “a wind of evil flung my despair of ease against the spires of the one lady”).
In England with Scotland Yard, he plunges from an upstairs gymnasium down to a drawing room and demolishes it (the prim English butler is a drag queen by night, in a tag from Nabokov and Peter Barnes). At Oktoberfest in Munich, a string of assassins wears itself out to a beautiful lady in the end, whereupon Clouseau’s attempts to storm a moated castle are seen. He succeeds disguised as the elder Einstein, draws the tooth of Dreyfus, and cuts him off at the knees with his own death ray.
Slapstick is a visual language, the inability to understand which leads ignorant people to think they are being cultured by disdaining it. That includes Canby and Ebert, not that critics were any better in the days of Chaplin and Keaton. It’s customary to laugh and dismiss the rest as fodder, which for centuries was the practice with Shakespeare’s plays, until it was finally realized, long after Coleridge had done so, that every part of the work is essential, not just the quotable lines.
Abstruse as it is, almost by the very nature of the style (and where is the critic who understands Surrealism?), The Pink Panther Strikes Again is even more so by dint of the ultimate bravura of its refinement. It must be a cause of deep satisfaction to Edwards that his understanding of comedy has reached the pinnacle on which Harold Lloyd stood, having climbed a very tall building without anyone being able to say exactly why.
Revenge of the Pink Panther
Clouseau is dead, gone like Elijah in the Bois de Boulogne.
No, it’s Claude Rousseau the criminal transvestite, mistaken for the Chief Inspector by Philippe Douvier, “the French connection” and head of Entreprises Douvier.
Chief Inspector Dreyfus at the Clinique Psychiatrique undergoes a “psychic rebirth” and falls into the open grave at Clouseau’s funeral, seeing the dead man in the guise of a priest, courtesy of Professor Balls.
Cato goes into business, converting the flat into an Oriental whorehouse run by Cato Fong Enterprises.
Douvier’s secretary and mistress Simone has the goods, his wife objects, Simone is cast out at Le Club Foot and joins up with Clouseau to put down the deal in Hong Kong.
A handheld camera on a candle in the dark yields to a surprise party. The fire moves to a hearth as background to a long discussion.
George Webber is a songwriter, he’s at the piano, his lyricist rises from the patio chaise longue with the latest verses, they try them out at the piano, the lyricist goes off to the bar, Webber joins him there, they talk, the butler comes in with Webber’s coat, goes out, Webber exits (one take).
His car crash is set up so convincingly that only afterward can it be appreciated. And then a bee goes up his nose. He literally falls, in a most vigorous stunt, from Hills to orgy to Manzanilla, where he arrives zonked and sweaty after pills to calm him down on the plane, taken with booze.
The structure seems closely related to that of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye.
Hell is what you make of it (Shaw), your every wish is gratified there (Beaumont).
The Standard Operational Bullshit in Hollywood is to blame the production if it fails, therefore the ill-fated producer has his fantasy of reshooting his pic to liven it up, but ultimately it’s a live-or-die proposition on the negative, critics and audiences being in the short term what they are, unreliable.
The dead producer is late of What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, and so is the hole in his floor (The Pink Panther).
Show business, seen as a gimmick strictly from hunger. Some of the joke is that Robert Preston looks like Martha Raye or Alan Bates in this part, and generally the straight face in furious entanglements is the sought-after key.
The mitigation of culture in its synecdoche as “camp” is the main effort. It’s a very beautiful game, abandoning the lassitudes of a sprawling technique for a surprisingly spruce Thirties genre taking off from Donen’s Movie Movie and Wilder’s The Front Page.
The result is a movie musical set in a time of close-ups displaying candidly the star as incandescence, the gag as definitive, the song-and-dance as pourparlers for the film’s actual tenor.
And a coda gives the campers their day.
What the outtakes in the first half add up to is a piece of cartoon madness not to be missed. Herbert Lom accomplishes the modulation through the second, in which several amusing cameos rise from the diapason of absence to Burt Kwouk’s drollery as Cato and Edwards’ serene tribute, with Richard Mulligan as Cousteau père and Kathleen St. John as the directionless Nanna. The dry humor of the policier runs throughout, and the end credits are accompanied by clips from the Pink Panther films, the sum total making for the true connoisseur’s delight as a résumé of style in immediate preparation for Curse of the Pink Panther.
Curse of the Pink Panther
Never has the calumny heaped on a film so redounded to the credit of its director. The cries of derision that greeted Edwards for committing sacrilege against his own invention, and with the lowest of motives, are likely without precedent before Trail of the Pink Panther. Only Brando can have known the feeling, when his customary self-mockery in Andrew Bergman’s The Freshman met with a similar response in certain quarters.
Curse of the Pink Panther opens with a minaret and a muezzin, then a hole is cut in a floor, the Pink Panther is stolen. This is structurally important because Det. Sleigh during his investigation later enters this room, saying “I wonder how they got in?”, and falls through the hole. Infantility is the key to Ted Wass’s performance, though he is presented in the image of Harold Lloyd. This is the critical misunderstanding behind the furor, because despite the fact that there is ample evidence of his skill throughout the film, Wass is not called upon to take that kind of leading position, nor does Edwards film him that way. When he takes a tumble over a railing, for example, a cut on the action deflates the gag. What he is called upon to do is to bounce about at the fiesta in Valencia, or kick his legs crazily while sailplaning, and this establishes the character later developed more or less, naturally, as Son of the Pink Panther.
Far from misapprehending the difficulties, Edwards has faced squarely on the dilemma of Sellers’ absence, which has brought him to his roots in Lloyd and the necessity of a new beginning, in a way. He has the Inspector Clouseau Museum and Roger Moore’s brilliant mimicry to evoke the character—whom Alan Arkin incarnated for Bud Yorkin in another superb film that was jealously derided.
What, above all, he has is an inexhaustible invention. Having further refined the deadpan reaction by transferring it to the Old World, he brings it back to New York for Wass’s opening scenes so that it may acquire a new caustic burn so slow it seems geological. The honeymoon sequence, developed out of The Pink Panther by way of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker’s Airplane!, the car chase in which Det. Sleigh’s Nice-Taxi overturns and skids downhill before righting itself, the madness of Professor Balls and, at the very end of the film, Herbert Lom’s mastery of the style in a perfectly realized scene, make for a work that is still more than the sum of its parts.
The skill with which David Niven, Capucine and Robert Wagner are introduced as a sunny chorus to the small rain on Det. Sleigh’s parade is really remarkable, and if Niven is dubbed, well, Buster Keaton was dubbed in Le Roi des Champs-Élysées.
The Man Who Loved Women
The unfailing line has not been deserted by Edwards, the original is always evident and the variation is plain and very successful at all times. There is a new composition along this line, the hero is a Malibu sculptor whose renown is such he meets a Pepperdine art major and they discuss “Henry Moore, Lipchitz, and me.” This is an excellent portrayal, authentically true-to-life and a main part of the film’s substance. All of it, in fact, since the new film draws a basic conclusion underpinning the earlier one, there is no question but that this sculptor has to conquer the material in every case. The construction is somewhat different from Truffaut’s film therefore, the two are compatible and necessary.
The New York Times gave it grudging admiration, the Windy City much less so, Variety said “woeful”.
Micki + Maude
Much ground gained has houses and hotels put on it here. Doubtless this is the situation of Arthur Miller’s play, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, i.e., a thief between two Christs or vice versa. Really, a surrealistic split of Rome and art for the sake of knowing which is which.
A comedy inexplicably praised by critics out of nowhere who panned other works by this director, and ignored by the pubic for some strange reason.
The Santa Monica joke par excellence, Brecht on those dizzying narrow sidewalks, Buster Keaton in the Civil War.
A Fine Mess
The great comedy on a doped racehorse (plugged by Larry Storch as a Nazi scientist and two mobsters played by Stuart Margolin and Richard Mulligan who stuff the dingus up the horse’s ass).
Half is a superb satire on the Eighties, with frizz fashions and slapdash boom-boom music, half pure Blake Edwards.
One of the best running gags in the movies (mostly offscreen, partly on the TV news), and everything but Laurel & Hardy themselves out of Parrott’s The Music Box.
A wonderful satire of the architect with a creative client. This leads to the beautiful central joke, well built-up and completely effortless, of him impotent amid the frame of her unfinished house, standing on the terrace in his underwear before a glorious view of hills and sea, he steps on a tack as he goes out.
The enormous strain frazzles his family, his singing wife may be seriously ill, it’s a Friday to Sunday with the artist up against it, including an old college rival now priest at the church he visits in his extreme malaise.
The son is a latter-day Peter Gunn on television, which gives Edwards a chance for a joke and fine direction.
A classic screwball that drives home in the fastest way to a mug shot of the asssucking assistant portfolio analyst a complete, total wreck.
That is salvation to him. Like Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, he embraces it at last, like Dr. Huxley in Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby, too.
The motto, from the director of Days of Wine and Roses, is in vino veritas.
The sheer profusion of styles and techniques is a style and a technique, a way of gaining ground in perfect surrealism amid nominal trappings of reality.
The jealous rival with “a monkey on his back” (as Maslin points out) and paint all over him and flour is the son of a judge and a professional golfer, the hero rids himself of a banzai account and returns to his guitar, a kiss in the swimming pool dissolves everything but the seaside.
Billy Wilder’s boulevard is very oblique here. Tom Mix bows to studio pressure, he is not to play himself as seen in the opening sequence halting a stagecoach robbery, but a faux Wyatt Earp. The genuine article arrives by train at Pasadena as technical advisor.
Thereby hangs a tale, largely dependent upon The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, with ample notation from Victor/Victoria, The Party, Peter Gunn, Rush’s The Stunt Man and Russell’s Valentino.
Time and space dissolve in the Shakespearean moment, The Great Race is seen right through to a color camera on the set. A parallel universe exists in contraposition to the innovation of sound, as a joke.
Even the tenderness of Days of Wine and Roses has its part, as well as the folly. The screenplay is Edwards’ greatest work, the filming is self-evident along lines indicated by John Ford.
It’s a remarkable thing, and will tell you everything you want to know about the state of American cinema, that the critics were startled by the scene of glow-in-the-dark condoms, and never once seem to have thought of Star Wars. They had never understood why Edwards remade The Man Who Loved Women, nor Micki + Maude at all, and so were all but left in the dark. And there you have the true tale of why Blake Edwards committed suicide at the Oscars.
They ought to have been put on their guard by his verbatim retelling of the “Frog & Scorpion” fable from Mr. Arkadin (dir. Orson Welles).
They missed a truly great comic performance by John Ritter. He has been overtreated with electric muscle stimulation by a vengeful former mistress who works in a spa, and now he cannot walk without jerking convulsively in unexpected ways all over the place, while before he reaches his car he must descend a flight of stairs being climbed by a woman carrying a briefcase full of papers, and then cross the parking lot where a blind man with a cane is walking in his general direction. Then he’s out behind the wheel on Sunset Boulevard.
Later he’s visiting his mother-in-law, who can’t stand him. She misses her lapdog, Harry. “If you let that dog run away, I’ll rip your beard off,” she says, rushing out. He rises from his chair and realizes he’s been sitting on Harry, now immobile. First he tries to resuscitate the little beast, then he tries to conceal it (the entire scene is filmed in one shot).
Before that, he is misled into attending a black tie hotel party in costume as Aladdin, magic lamp and all (only the doorman dressed as a beefeater gives him an existential alibi). A chorus of laughter assails him.
For the rest, an epic little tale of redemption by a director with Days of Wine and Roses under his belt, something else the critics didn’t mention (though the Washington Post’s reviewer, who must have studied at Columbia, speaks with great passion of Edwards’ “vulgarity” and calls this film “atrocious”—similarly, the paper adds that Skin Deep “contains flagrant, excessive and gratuitous profanity, nudity and adult themes.”).
The complexities of theme center on a bifurcation of the anecdote and its complete reversibility, which is to say the treatment of the theme is entirely thematic. This is a vigorous, wholly organized way of thinking that in shorthand we call inspiration.
A successful New York ad exec dies at the hands of three ex-girlfriends, God sends him back to prove his worthiness by finding any female who has ever liked him (it’s his one failing, he’s a yahoo toward women, they invariably describe him as a “putz”, a “major asshole”, etc.). The Devil obtains that he should be returned to Earth as a woman. He blackmails his way back into the firm as his own half-sister, seduces a lesbian cosmetics maven for her account, inadvertently sleeps with his own best friend and has a child.
A straightforward sermon, but here the bifurcation shows up in his conversion at the “miracle” he describes, conception and birth. The reversibility of the theme presents another image throughout, that of the manly woman.
Ellen Barkin plays Perry King as Ellen Barkin at the top of serenely beautiful performances by the entire cast, directed fittingly by Edwards.
Son of the Pink Panther
Son of the Pink Panther takes up immediately after Curse of the Pink Panther by expanding the raison d’être (theft of the jewel) and sharpening it with reference to The Pink Panther’s original introduction. The princess of Lugash is kidnapped for a ransom of 100 million dollars and the king’s abdication. Uncle Idris and the army are behind it.
Tati is the main inspiration for Jacques Gambrelli’s entrance on a motorized bicycle. Commissioner Dreyfus watches A Day at the Races (dir. Sam Wood) in the hospital after a beumb nearly dispatches him.
This is mainly built around Dreyfus as central to the style, and this slight change of perspective gives the ebullience of Graham Stark as Balls, who answers Edwards’ critics. “So many charlatans all use my talents for ill-gotten gain.” A continuous Steadicam take in the hospital corridor supplies a nimble composition.
An adaptation of The Passenger (dir. Michelangelo Antonioni) has Inspector First Class Jacques Clouseau, Jr. stop his borrowed car to ask a camel driver, “Do you know which way is north?” “Yes,” affirms the Arab without stopping.