Blake Edwards, who turned farce into high art in such Hollywood classics as the “Pink Panther,” “Victoria/Victoria” and slightly edgier fare like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” has died from complications related to pneumonia. He was 88.
Wife and actress Julie Andrews, and other family members were at his side at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif, according to his publicist, Gene Schwam.
His survivors include a daughter, Jennifer, and a son, Geoffrey, from his first marriage; two Vietnamese daughters, Amy and Joanna, whom he adopted with Andrews and a stepdaughter, Emma.
Edwards got his start as a writer in Hollywood, mainly penning comedies such as 1957’s “Operation Mad Ball” and launched his own directing career with “This Happy Feeling” and “The Perfect Furlough,” both in 1958
A year later, he helmed “Operation Petticoat” a zany World War II comedy starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis, about a submarine commander with a decrepit sub, a con-man for an executive officer and a group of hot army nurses.
He also had a touch for dark comedy which he put on display in 1965’s “The Great Race” (1965), “The Party” in 1968 and “The Man Who Loved Women” in 1983. His 1981, film “S.O.B.” took a rare shot at Hollywood culture.
While Edwards’ movies defined light comedy in the 1950s and early 1960s, his style lost favor after that as the nation’s mood and culture changed in the lated ’60s and early ’70s. He never fully understood the counter-culture.
But what goes around comes around, and Edwards’ tapped the national consciousness with “10,” starring Dudley Moore as a composer whose advancing age, he’s turning 42, touches off a midlife crisis. He goes on vacation and becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman, played by Bo Derek, whom he considers a perfect 10.
While Derek’s physical beauty is unmatched, the relationship sours when Moore’s character realizes that he has little in common with her shallow personality and limited intellect.
“Victor/Victoria” in 1982, a farce about a starving female singer who pretends to be a man, so she can pretend to be a female impersonator, is considered his last major success on screen. His wife starred in the picture and won his only Oscar nomination.
Edwards often said he derived his dark humor from two brushes with death.
His first occurred when he was seriously injured during a night of drunken revelry after diving into a shallow swimming pool.
Later in life, he said he came close to committing suicide on the beach in Malibu. But his dog knocked the razor blade from his hand and he lost it in the sand, until he stepped on it.
Edwards also acted in movies between 1942 and 1948 in such war-themed films as “Ten Gentlemen From West Point,” “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” And, he wrote for television.