‘Pink Panther’ director Blake Edwards dies at 88

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Blake Edwards, the director and writer known for clever dialogue, poignance and occasional belly-laugh sight gags in “Breakfast at Tiffany‘s,” “10” and the “Pink Panther” farces, is dead at age 88.

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

“He was the most unique man I have ever known-and he was my mate,” Andrews said in a statement Thursday. “He will be missed beyond words, and will forever be in my heart.”

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

At the time of his death, Edwards was working on two Broadway musicals, one based on the “Pink Panther” movies. The other, “Big Rosemary,” was to 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 knew him for 40 years.

A third-generation filmmaker, Edwards was praised for evoking classic performances from Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Lee Remick and Andrews, his wife of 42 years.

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

“There won’t be anybody passing by like him again. He was a genius,” Wagner said Thursday. “Personally, we were so very close friends and he was so kind to me throughout my entire life.”

Edwards directed and often wrote a wide variety of movies including “Days of Wine and Roses,” a harrowing story of alcoholism; “The Great Race,” a comedy-adventure that starred Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood; and “Victor/Victoria,” his gender-bender musical comedy with Andrews.

He was also known for an independent spirit that brought clashes with studio bosses. He vented his disdain for the Hollywood system in his 1981 black comedy, “S.O.B.”

“I was certainly getting back at some of the producers of my life,” he once remarked, “although I was a good deal less scathing than I could have been. The only way I got to make it was because of the huge success of `10,’ and even then they tried to sabotage it.”

Because many of his films were studded with farcical situations, some reviewers criticized his work.

However, Richard Schickel wrote in Time magazine: “When 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 stupid some of its creatures can be.”

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

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