The Pink Panther

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The Pink Panther is a series of comedy films featuring an inept French police detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The series began with the release of The Pink Panther (1963). The role was originated by, and is most closely associated with, Peter Sellers. Most of the films were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards, with theme music composed by Henry Mancini.

Despite its use in the titles of most of the films of the series, "Pink Panther" is not the Clouseau character, but a large and valuable pink diamond which is first shown in the first film in the series.[1] The phrase reappears in the title of the fourth film, The Return of the Pink Panther, in which the theft of the diamond is again the center of the plot. That film also marked the return of Sellers to the role after a gap of ten years, which may have contributed to some confusion between the character and the diamond. The phrase was used for all the subsequent films in the series, even when the jewel did not figure in the plot (it only appeared in six of the eleven films).

The first film in the series had an animated opening sequence, created by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and set to the theme music by Henry Mancini, which featured the Pink Panther character. This character, designed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng, was subsequently the subject of its own series of animated cartoons, which gained its greatest fame when aired on Saturday mornings as The Pink Panther Show. The character would be featured in the opening of every film in the movie series except A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau.

Films and themes[edit]

As of 2013, eleven Pink Panther films have been made:

FilmYearClouseau ActorNotes
The Pink Panther1963Peter SellersAlthough the film was centered on David Niven, Peter Sellers was so popular that the resulting series would be built on Clouseau rather than the Phantom/Sir Charles Litton.
A Shot in the Dark1964Peter SellersReleased less than a year after The Pink Panther. Clouseau returns to bumble his way through a murder investigation. This also marks the first appearance of both Herbert Lom's Charles Dreyfus and Burt Kwouk's Cato.
Inspector Clouseau1968Alan ArkinThis film stars Alan Arkin as Clouseau, and does not have any other recurring characters (Dreyfus, Cato, the Phantom, etc.) from the rest of the series. Although it was produced by the Mirisch Corporation, Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini were not involved in the making of this film.
The Return of the Pink Panther1975Peter SellersThis not only marks the return of the famous "Pink Panther" diamond but also that of Peter Sellers as Clouseau, along with Edwards, Mancini, Dreyfus and Cato. Sir Charles Litton is portrayed by Christopher Plummer.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again1976Peter SellersDreyfus' insanity reaches a pinnacle, as he tries to intimidate the rest of the world into killing Clouseau.
Revenge of the Pink Panther1978Peter SellersThis film pits Clouseau against the French Connection. It is the last in which Sellers played Clouseau. He died two years after its release.
Trail of the Pink Panther1982Peter Sellers / Stand-insFeatures Peter Sellers as Clouseau using unused material from Strikes Again as well as scenes from previously released Pink Panther films. This was intended as a tribute to Sellers, but after its release Sellers' widow Lynne Frederick successfully sued Edwards and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's memory. David Niven and Capucine reprise their original roles. The film was a critical and commercial failure.
Curse of the Pink Panther1983Roger MooreInspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther diamond, both of which had gone missing in Trail, are pursued by the bumbling American detective, Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass). Clouseau returns in a cameo played by Roger Moore (who is credited as Turk Thrust II) after having plastic surgery to disguise his identity. Although intended to spawn a new series of misadventures for Sergeant Sleigh, the film's dismal box office performance and critical drubbing led to a decade-long hiatus of the series.
Son of the Pink Panther1993--Roberto Benigni tries to revive the series by portraying Gendarme Jacques Gambrelli, Inspector Clouseau's illegitimate son by Maria Gambrelli (the murder suspect from A Shot in the Dark). Once again, many former Panther co-stars return - Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk and Graham Stark, and a star of the original 1964 film, Claudia Cardinale. Although intended to relaunch the series with a new lovable bumbling hero, Son became the final installment in the original Panther series.
The Pink Panther2006Steve MartinThis reboot launches a new Pink Panther series starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau and Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. Not a remake of the original film, it forms a new starting point for a contemporary series, introducing the Clouseau and Dreyfus characters along with the famous diamond to a new generation.
The Pink Panther 22009Steve MartinThe sequel to Steve Martin's 2006 film. Martin reprises his role, but John Cleese replaces Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

Although the two most-recent Pink Panther films starred Steve Martin, most of the films in the series starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau and were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards. The popular jazz-based theme music was composed by Henry Mancini. In addition to the credits sequences, the theme often accompanies any suspenseful sequence in the first film and in subsequent films using the character.

Mancini's other themes for the first film include an Italian-language set-piece called "Meglio Stasera" whose purpose seems primarily to introduce young actress Fran Jeffries. Portions of an instrumental version also appear in the film's musical score several times. Other segments include "Shades of Sennett", a "honky tonk" piano number introducing the film's climactic chase scene through the streets of Rome. Most of the remaining tracks on the soundtrack album are early 1960s orchestral jazz pieces, matching the style of the era. Although variations of the main theme would be reprised for many of the Pink Panther series entries, as well as the cartoon series, Mancini composed a different theme for A Shot in the Dark that was later adopted by the animated spin-off series, The Inspector.

The Pink Panther of the title is a diamond supposedly containing a flaw which forms the image of a "leaping panther", which can be seen if held up to light in a certain way. This is explained in the beginning of the first film, and the camera zooms in on the diamond to reveal the blurry flaw, which focuses into the Panther (albeit not actually leaping) to start the opening credits sequence (this is also done in Return). The plot of the first film is based on the theft of this diamond. The diamond reappears in several later films in the series (The Return of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther). It also comes in the 2006 reintroduction of Inspector Clouseau also called The Pink Panther and its sequel The Pink Panther 2). The name "the Pink Panther" became attached to Inspector Clouseau, in much the same way that Frankenstein has been used in film titles to refer to Dr. Frankenstein's creation or The Thin Man was used in a series of detective films.

A Shot in the Dark, a film which was not originally intended to feature Inspector Clouseau, is the first of two films in the series (the other being Inspector Closeau) that features neither the diamond nor the distinctive animated Pink Panther in the opening credits and ending. Many critics, including Leonard Maltin, regard this film as the best in the series.

In the original Pink Panther movie, the main focus was on David Niven's role as Sir Charles Litton, the infamous jewel thief nicknamed "the Phantom", and his plan to steal the Pink Panther. The Inspector Clouseau character plays only a supporting role as Litton's incompetent antagonist, and provided slapstick comic relief to a movie that was otherwise a subtle, lighthearted crime drama, a somewhat jarring contrast of styles which is typical of Edwards' films. The popularity of Clouseau caused him to become the main character in subsequent Pink Panther films, which were more straightforward slapstick comedies.

Mancini's theme, with variations in arrangement, is used at the start of all but the first two of the subsequent films.

The first five Peter Sellers–Blake Edwards films were released by United Artists. Trail, Curse and Son were released by MGM/United Artists. DVD rights to The Return of the Pink Panther are now controlled by Universal Pictures' Focus Features division, in partnership with British production company ITC Entertainment and successor-in-interest ITV Global Entertainment Ltd. Focus Features issued this film on DVD for Region 1.

ITC originally intended to make an Inspector Clouseau television series, but Blake Edwards convinced the production company to back a feature film first, and later a series if the film should prove successful. The film exceeded expectations by becoming the most profitable film of 1975. United Artists quickly bought out ITC's investment and work immediately started on the next feature film.

Although official, the 1968 film Inspector Clouseau is generally not considered by fans to be part of the Pink Panther canon since it did not involve Sellers or Edwards. Some elements of Arkin's performance and costuming, however, were retained when Peter Sellers took back the role for Return in 1975. Despite speculation, Alan Arkin does not appear in Trail of the Pink Panther.

The film that launched the second Pink Panther series, The Pink Panther, starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau, directed by Shawn Levy, and produced by Robert Simonds, was released in February 2006. This is the first Panther film to be released by Columbia Pictures, which co-produced the film with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is set in the present day and introduces different main characters, therefore belonging to a different continuity. Martin also stars in the sequel, The Pink Panther 2, released in 2009.

Characters[edit]

Inspector Jacques Clouseau[edit]

Jacques Clouseau is a clumsy, incompetent, but zealous policeman and detective, who speaks English with a ludicrous French accent while other characters speak English, often with their own accents. Clouseau's accent is not emphasized in the first film; but from A Shot in the Dark onwards the exaggerated accent became part of the joke. It has been suggested that portraying the incompetent policeman as French is based on a British stereotype of the French police, or even the French population as a whole.

Peter Sellers, the actor portraying Clouseau, remarked that, in his opinion, Clouseau knew he was a buffoon, but had an incredible knack for survival. Sheer luck or clumsiness usually saves him, as in the first film wherein a farcical car chase around a fountain results in the collision of all the vehicles and the capture of the thieves. This approach accelerates, with Clouseau falling down stairs; falling into pools and fountains; causing fires and disasters; and even bombed repeatedly, an idea worked into Steve Martin's portrayal of the character. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, assassins from all over the world are sent to kill Clouseau, whereupon he moves from their target at just the right moment to ensure that the killers eliminate one another. In Trail of the Pink Panther, we see that during World War II, Clouseau fought in the French Resistance; but the flashbacks only serve to reiterate the fact that Clouseau can survive anything despite or, perhaps, due to his incompetence.

Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman, whose country is professedly his highest priority; has been prone to infatuation (often reciprocated) after being cuckolded by Sir Charles Litton; and is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as "Sir or Madame".

The role was originated and developed by Peter Sellers over the years, but has also been played by Alan Arkin (in Inspector Clouseau); Daniel Peacock and Lucca Mezzofonti as younger versions in flashbacks in Trail of the Pink Panther; Roger Moore (in a cameo appearance at the conclusion of Curse of the Pink Panther); and Steve Martin (in the 2006 Pink Panther film and its 2009 sequel).

Chief Inspector Charles LaRousse Dreyfus[edit]

Clouseau's superior, Charles Dreyfus, was introduced in A Shot in the Dark, wherein he held the rank of Commissioner. He is constantly driven to distraction by Clouseau's bungling, and is eventually driven insane. In The Return of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus holds the rank of Chief Inspector; but again becomes insane by the end of the film, which shows Dreyfus straitjacketed in a padded cell writing "Kill Clouseau" on the wall. As in A Shot in the Dark, Dreyfus initially suffers a variety of personal injuries (involving his gun and a cigarette lighter of a similar shape and accidentally cutting off his thumb with a cigar-cutter) before accidentally strangling his therapist while fantasizing Clouseau's death and then trying to assassinate Clouseau with a sniper's rifle. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus is about to be released from an asylum after a complete recovery; but within five minutes of Clouseau's arrival to speak to the board on Dreyfus' behalf, he suffers a variety of injuries and relapses. Thence Dreyfus escapes the asylum and kidnaps a scientist, forcing him to build a disintegrator ray later used to intimidate the rest of the world into attempting to assassinate Clouseau. Dreyfus appears to disintegrate at the end of Strikes Again; but subsequently, and without any explanation, re-appears in Revenge of the Pink Panther, and is re-instated Chief Inspector when Clouseau is mistakenly declared dead. Herbert Lom famously gave his character a pronounced tic which occurred under particular stress, and an accompanying childlike giggle when plotting Clouseau's murder.

In Son of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus (a Commissioner once again) deals with Clouseau's equally buffoonish son Jacques Gambrelli, but he is more tolerant of Gambrelli. At the end of the film, Dreyfus weds Clouseau's former lover, Maria Gambrelli (Jacques Gambrelli's mother), but is shocked to learn that Clouseau and Maria conceived twins: Jacques (Roberto Benigni) and Jacqueline Gambrelli (Nicoletta Braschi).

In the 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, Dreyfus (again as Chief Inspector) uses Clouseau as a decoy while he himself attempts to solve the crimes. Dreyfus merely views Clouseau as an idiot, and never attempts to have him killed; whereas Clouseau attacks his employer at one point, mistaking his identity. Later in the film, Dreyfus is dragged accidentally behind Clouseau's Smart Car and appears in the hospital, where Clouseau's bumbling causes him to fall out of a window. In the 2009 sequel, Dreyfus plays a much smaller role than in the previous film, and is less hostile towards Clouseau.

Dreyfus was played by Herbert Lom in the Blake Edwards films, and by Kevin Kline in the 2006 film. He was played by John Cleese in the 2009 sequel.

Cato Fong[edit]

Cato (spelled "Kato" in A Shot in the Dark) is Clouseau's manservant, and an expert in martial arts. It is unclear whether he believes Clouseau to be a great detective or whether he merely humors him. It is a running joke that he is instructed to attack Clouseau unexpectedly, to keep Clouseau's combat skills and vigilance sharp. Cato often takes these instructions to the point of ambushing Clouseau in his own house or at times when Clouseau obviously would prefer not to be disturbed. If they are interrupted during such an attack (as by a telephone call), Cato ceases to project the image of assailant and becomes a well-disciplined valet. Regardless of who comes off worse in the actual battle (and it is Clouseau who is more often humiliated, since Cato's ambushes usually do take him by surprise) Clouseau always gets his revenge on Cato by dealing him a sucker blow after it seems the fight is over.


In later films, Cato helps Clouseau on some cases, as in Hong Kong, when Clouseau takes advantage of his own assumed death to determine the identity of his would-be killer. Here, Cato wears spectacles as a disguise but collides with various objects when the spectacles impair his vision.

In Revenge, Cato, believing his master to be dead, runs a covert brothel in Clouseau's apartment: the entrance password was "Inspector Clouseau", which caused a humorous scene when the true Inspector Clouseau appeared. Cato opened another brothel in Curse of the Pink Panther, and converted Clouseau's apartment into a museum featuring all the disguises the inspector had worn over the years.

In the earlier series, Cato was played by Burt Kwouk. In the re-launch, the role of Cato was offered to Jackie Chan, but the character was later scrapped for fear that the Chinese stereotype was politically incorrect, and Cato was replaced by a new character, Gendarme Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno), assigned by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to watch over Clouseau. In a reversal of the Cato-Clouseau relationship, Clouseau often attacked Ponton unexpectedly, only to be stopped by a single blow.

François[edit]

François, Dreyfus' assistant, generally observes his boss' interactions with Clouseau (and subsequent emotional breakdowns) with placid bemusement. André Maranne, a French actor, played François in six Panther films. In Son of the Pink Panther, he was replaced by Dermot Crowley. In A Shot in the Dark, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther he is referred to as Sergeant François Duval whereas in the three sequels of the 1970s he is Sergeant François Chevalier. In the 2006 reboot, Philip Goodwin plays a similar character named Renard. Goodwin returned as Renard in the 2009 sequel.

Sir Charles Litton/The Phantom[edit]

"The Phantom" is a jewel thief, Clouseau's arch enemy (after Dreyfus) in several of the films and known to the public as Sir Charles Litton. He serves as the primary villain of the first film, at the end of which, and with help from Clouseau's wife and an exiled princess, he frames Clouseau for his past robberies and has him temporarily sent to prison. This ignites Clouseau's thirst for revenge in the third Sellers/Edwards film, in which the Pink Panther is stolen from a museum.

In the first film he was played by David Niven, and in Return by Christopher Plummer. In later films, an aging and frail Niven made cameo appearances in the role with his voice dubbed by impressionist Rich Little. In these later films, Litton is supposed to have been married to Clouseau's ex-wife after the events of the first Pink Panther, even though in Return his wife had been a different character, unacquainted with Clouseau before that film's events. In The Pink Panther 2, the diamond is stolen by a similar master thief, the Tornado, played by Johnny Hallyday.

Professor Auguste Balls[edit]

Professor Auguste Balls is an eccentric shop owner who supplies Clouseau with his numerous disguises. He was portrayed by Graham Stark in Revenge of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther, while Harvey Korman played him in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. Although Korman was the first actor to portray Balls his scenes in The Pink Panther Strikes Again were cut and were not used until Trail of the Pink Panther six years later.

Professor Balls has a wife, Martha (Liz Smith), and an assistant, Cunny (Danny Schiller), who make brief appearances.

Homages and references to the films[edit]

Film series statistics[edit]

FilmRelease DateReceptionGross
The Pink PantherJanuary 7, 196490%$10,878,107
A Shot in the DarkJune 23, 196493%$12,368,234
Inspector ClouseauJuly 19, 1968N/AN/A
The Return of the Pink PantherMay 21, 197588%$41,833,347
The Pink Panther Strikes AgainDecember 15, 197683%$33,833,201
Revenge of the Pink PantherJuly 19, 197882%$49,579,269
Trail of the Pink PantherDecember 17, 198225%$9,056,073
Curse of the Pink PantherAugust 12, 198329%$4,491,986
Son of the Pink PantherAugust 27, 199316%$2,438,031
The Pink PantherFebruary 10, 200622%$158,851,357
The Pink Panther 2February 6, 200912%$75,936,494

The Pink Panther character and animated cartoons[edit]

The Pink Panther cartoon character

The opening title sequence of the original 1963 The Pink Panther film was such a success with the United Artists executives that they decided to adapt the title sequence into a series of theatrical animated shorts. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, run by former Warner Bros. Cartoons creators David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng produced the opening sequences, with Freleng as director. United Artists commissioned a long series of The Pink Panther shorts, the first of which, 1964's The Pink Phink, won the 1964 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. By autumn 1969, the shorts were being broadcast[where?] during Saturday mornings on The Pink Panther Show; after 1969, new shorts were produced for both television broadcast and theatrical release. The animated Pink Panther character has also appeared in computer and console video games, as well as advertising campaigns for several companies. There has also been a short-lived animated series called Pink Panther and Pals (2010) which is aimed at younger children.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The diamond is called the "Pink Panther", because the flaw at its centre, when viewed closely, is said to resemble a leaping pink panther.

External links[edit]