LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Film and television writer/director Blake Edwards, whose career spanned more than six decades and included “The Pink Panther” movies, has died from complications of pneumonia at age 88.
A spokesman for his wife Julie Andrews said Edwards died on Wednesday night at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica with Andrews and immediate family members by his side.
Show business newspaper Daily Variety said Edwards died on Thursday morning.
Edwards was a major Hollywood player in the 1960s. His work as a director during that decade included the classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Audrey Hepburn, and “Days of Wine and Roses” with Jack Lemmon.
His original “Pink Panther” in 1963 helped make a huge star out of a young Peter Sellers, and cemented Edwards’ own fame as a director with a keen eye for cutting edge humor and satire.
“The most fun and the worst times were with Peter,” Edwards told Reuters in an interview in 2002 when the Writers Guild of America gave him a lifetime achievement award. “When he was at the top of his form, he was great fun. When he was in his depressed, angry world, he was impossible.”
Edwards would go on to make several “Pink Panther” movies that became box office hits with Sellers playing a bumbling French detective, Chief Inspector Clouseau, who was searching for a fabled, stolen diamond. Sellers died in 1980.
But like so many careers in Hollywood, Edwards saw his share of lows, too. Movies such as “Darling Lili” flopped at the box office, and for a period in the 1970s, his phone stopped ringing. He wrote about that time in his 1981 movie, “S.O.B.”
“It got a lot of hostility off my chest, and I think it was one of my better writing jobs,” he told Reuters.
In 1982, Edwards landed back on top of Hollywood’s heap after writing and directing Andrews in gender-bending comedy “Victor Victoria,” in which his wife played a struggling female singer who finds success when she masquerades as a man.
Edwards was born William Blake Crump on July 26, 1922 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, He tried acting in the 1940s, but by late that decade turned to writing and later directing. He was married twice, the second time in 1969 to Andrews.
Andrews and Edwards were married for 41 years and raised five children together, three from separate marriages and two they adopted.