The recommendations from Le Vacances de Monsier Hulot in Great Movies – 100 Years of Film, allowed me to revisit a fun film I haven’t seen in years.
Blake Edwards, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Robert Wagner…. this is a pretty good pedigree to start with, throw in the lovely Claudine Cardinale (who sadly had to have her lines dubbed) as well as Capucine, and you have the makings of what has endured as a classic.
David Niven plays Sir Charles, also known as The Phantom, the notorious burglar, who has been attending illustrious parties for years, finds his mark, robs them, and leaves a trademark glove behind.
Sellers is the clumsy, but well-meaning detective, Jacques Clouseau, who is assigned to bring the Phantom in, when he becomes convinced that Cardinale’s character, Princess Dahla will be Sir Charles’ next target, because of her diamond, the famous pink panther, so named because of a flaw at its center that matches the shape.
Unbeknownst to Clouseau, his wife Simone (Capucine) is romantically involved with Charles, and is aiding him. Then along comes Charles’ Americanized nephew, George (Wagner), who is not as innocent as his uncle believes, and who has his own designs on Simone, as well as thinking about joining up in the family business.
All of this is set in a chalet in Cortina, and it’s one bumbling and romantic blunder after another for the stalwart inspector, as he tries to romance his wife, with a poorly played violin, catch Sir Charles, and protect the pink panther diamond. The poor fella has his hands full.
Sellers is of course perfect in what has become the role the world knows him for, and loves. There’s an innocence to his performance. He’s not intentionally clumsy, it just happens, and he truly loves his wife, and has no idea that their room is adjacent to Sir Charles’ for a reason…
Niven is of course charming, and the supporting cast are great, but this is undeniably Sellers’ picture, and he makes it and the character his own.
I remember when I lived in Bermuda, and discovered these films, I would watch them a number of times, so much so, that during Grade 8, Clouseau made an appearance in my creative writing class. I had written a story, in fact I was quite good at it, and was often asked to read some of work aloud, so when this one came around I asked for help.
My friend Jeffrey helped me, and suggested that Clouseau come to the island to find the notorious kissing bandit (!! how scandalous !!!), it gave us the chance, through the story to flatter the girls we liked, and for me to do my Clouseau impression in class when asked to read the story in class, all ten pages and receive an outstanding grade on it, A+, of course.
Watching this film, brought all of that racing back to me, and I remember the movies and the story I wrote fondly, though the sheets of paper with those words on them are long gone, I smile at the thought of them, and watching Sellers on the screen, I gave him some silent thanks for helping my writing along.