For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “The Pink Panther.”
“The Pink Panther” was a 1963 American comedy film directed by Blake Edwards. It was written by Maurice Richlin and Blake Edwards and starred David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, and Claudia Cardinale. My focus is on this first Pink Panther movie, not on the myriad sequels in what became a Pink Panther franchise.
In this film, a dashing European thief, Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), plans to steal a diamond, but he’s not the only one with his eyes on the famous jewel known as the “Pink Panther.” His nephew George (Robert Wagner) also aims to make off with the gem, and to frame Charles for the crime. Blundering French police inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) intercedes, but finds his career — and his freedom — jeopardized.
In the film, Clouseau tries to stop the theft of the Pink Panther, but his clumsy attempts fail. He doesn’t realize that his wife, Simone (Capucine), is the Phantom’s lover, and throughout the movie, she is dodging her husband while trying both to carry out Sir Charles’ plans and to avoid George, who is smitten by her. Clouseau manages to capture Sir Charles and his accomplices, and a conviction looks inevitable until Sir Charles and Simone hatch a plan to frame Clouseau. The defense calls a surprised Clouseau to the stand as their lone witness. The barrister asks a series of questions that suggest Clouseau himself could be the Phantom. The unnerved Clouseau pulls his handkerchief out of his shirt pocket, revealing the jewel planted there by Madame Clouseau.
The cartoon Pink Panther then closes the film by holding the card reading THE END after getting run over by the police car carrying Clouseau to prison.
“The Pink Panther” was meant to be the first in a series of films based on David Niven’s character “The Phantom.” But despite the fact that Inspector Clouseau may not have been intended as the movie’s main character, Peter Sellers stole the show. The popularity of Sellers’ character, bumbling Inspector Clouseau, led to Clouseau, not the Phantom, headlining the rest of the series. The film also introduced the cartoon character of the same name, in an opening credits sequence, as well as a score from Henry Mancini.
As a side note, the 1964 sequel, “A Shot in the Dark,” where Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau becomes the focus of the movie, is arguably one of the greatest comedy films of all time. This was the film that introduced many of the most famous elements of The Pink Panther film series, such as the karate fights with Cato and Clouseau’s disgruntled boss Commissioner Dreyfus. Peter Sellers was at his best.