Page 3 of 3   <      

Blake Edwards, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' director, dead at 88

Comic genius who created the ''Pink Panther'' and directed ''Breakfast at Tiffany's'' was 88.

"Days of Wine and Roses" was an unexpected project for Mr. Edwards, but he came to the film on the recommendation of Lemmon, who praised the director's ability to find the "bizarre, comedic side to tragedy." Both Lemmon and Lee Remick earned Academy Award nominations for their portrayals of alcoholics, and reviewers found Mr. Edwards's direction taut and gripping.

As the 1960s went on, Mr. Edwards's commercial viability seemed increasingly to depend on whether he directed a Pink Panther movie. His other films had little impact with critics or on the box office, including the comedy "The Party" (1968) with Sellers as a hapless Indian actor in Hollywood who destroys almost everything he touches.

After confrontations with studio bosses, Mr. Edwards lost control over the editing of his movies. Humiliated and angry, Mr. Edwards and his wife went into self-imposed exile in Gstaad, Switzerland.

"If I had continued to make box office hits, then I could have been an axe-murderer or a child-molester and there would still have been a place for me in Hollywood," he told the Times of London in 1982. "I like the old Chinese proverb: If you wait long enough by the river then the bodies of your enemies will float by. That used to console me through the dark patches. And then one day I realized that downstream from me there was this whole gang of people I'd been rude to, all waiting for me to float by."

Then as swiftly as his career had earlier tanked, Mr. Edwards returned to popular and critical acclaim in 1979 with "10." He followed with "S.O.B.," an acid farce based in large part of his own experiences. It featured a washed-up filmmaker (played by Richard Mulligan) who, in suicidal desperation, reshoots a poorly received "family film" as soft-core pornography.

Mr. Edwards caused a stir when he showed Andrews topless in "S.O.B." and then featured her in "Victor/Victoria" playing a woman impersonating a man impersonating a woman in the cabarets of Depression-era Paris. He directed Andrews in a 1995 Broadway adaptation of "Victor/Victoria," whose plot was based on a German film from the early 1930s.

His first marriage, to actress Patricia Walker, ended in divorce. Besides Andrews, whom he married in 1969, survivors include two children from his first marriage, Geoffrey Edwards and actress Jennifer Edwards; two Vietnamese orphans he adopted with Andrews, Amelia Edwards and Joanne Edwards; and a stepdaughter with Andrews, Emma Walton.Despite Mr. Edwards's public reputation as a comedy master, he suffered at times from severe depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, which he spoke about in Kim A. Snyder's 2001 documentary "I Remember Me." A longtime patient of psychoanalysis, he wrote two film scripts with his therapist, including "That's Life!," and made other films that explored the male psyche and sexual roles in society ("Skin Deep" and "Switch").

When he received his honorary Oscar, he saluted "friends and foes alike. ... I couldn't have done it without the foes."

<          3

© 2010 The Washington Post Company