|The Pink Panther|
20 March 1964 (US)
Intended as the first in a series of films based on Niven's character 'The Phantom', the popularity of Sellers' character, bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau led to Clouseau, not the Phantom, headlining the rest of the series. The film also introduced the cartoon character of the same name, in an opening credits sequence animated by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.
The Pink Panther was shot in Italy, Paris, and Los Angeles, California. It was originally released theatrically by United Artists, and is now available on VHS and DVD from MGM Home Entertainment. The Technirama film was shot in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1 in Technicolor. Promotional taglines for the initial release included "A Madcap Frolic Of Crime and Fun" and "You only live once, so see The Pink Panther twice!" The film is number 62 on Bravo's list of "100 Funniest Movies". The score was listed at #20 on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores. As the series had not yet taken shape, this is the only Pink Panther movie made by Blake Edwards which does not star Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, or Graham Stark.
As a child, Princess Dala receives a gift from her father, the Shah of Lugash: the Pink Panther, the largest diamond in the world. This huge pink gem has an unusual flaw: looking deeply into the stone, one perceives a tiny discoloration resembling a leaping pink panther – hence the name. As the camera moves in, this image comes to life and participates in the credits. When Dala is a young woman, rebels seize power in Lugash and then demand possession of the jewel, but the exiled princess refuses to hand it over.
Dala (Claudia Cardinale) relaxes on holiday at an exclusive skiing resort in Cortina d'Ampezzo, where noted British playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), who leads a secret life as a jewel thief called "The Phantom", has his eyes on the Pink Panther. His American playboy nephew, George (Robert Wagner), follows his uncle to the resort hoping to steal the jewel and blame it on the Phantom, not realizing that the Phantom is his uncle.
On the Phantom's trail is French police inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté, whose wife Simone (Capucine) is – unknown to him – the paramour of Charles and helper in the Phantom's crimes. Clouseau tries to stop the theft attempts, but he is so clueless and clumsy that when several attempts are made at a fancy-dress party, he looks everywhere but the right place. Throughout the film, scenes at the skiing resort's hotel show Madame Clouseau dodging her husband while trying both to carry out Sir Charles' plans and to avoid George, who is enamoured of her.
In spite of himself, the buffoonish inspector captures Sir Charles and his accomplices. Conviction looks inevitable until Sir Charles and Simone hatch a plan to frame Clouseau. The defense calls a surprised Clouseau to the stand as their lone witness. The barrister asks a series of questions that suggest Clouseau himself could be the Phantom. The unnerved Clouseau pulls his handkerchief out of his shirt pocket – revealing the jewel planted there by Madame Clouseau.
As Clouseau is being driven away to prison, a regretful Simone expresses fears that he will rot in prison. Sir Charles points out that "it takes years for people to rot; and when the Phantom strikes again, he'll be free as a bird." In the police car, the officers tell Clouseau that as "The Phantom", he is a "national hero" and a sex idol for millions of young women. When they ask him, with some deference, how he committed all those robberies, he smiles a little and says, "Well, you know... it wasn't easy."
The cartoon character of the Pink Panther then closes the film.
David Niven as Sir Charles Lytton
Peter Sellers as Insp. Jacques Clouseau
Robert Wagner as George Lytton
Capucine as Simone Clouseau
Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala
Brenda De Banzie as Angela Dunning
Colin Gordon as Tucker
John Le Mesurier as Defense attorney
James Lanphier as Saloud
Guy Thomajan as Artoff
Michael Trubshawe as Felix Townes
Riccardo Billi as Aristotle Sarajos
Meri Welles as Monica Fawn
Martin Miller as Pierre Luigi
Fran Jeffries as Greek cousin
Gale Garnett as the voice of Princess Dala (uncredited)
- All songs written by Henry Mancini, except where noted.
- "The Pink Panther Theme" - 2:35
# "It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)" (Instrumental) - 1:44
# "Royal Blue" - 3:09
# "Champagne and Quail" - 2:45
# "The Village Inn" - 2:34# "The Tiber Twist" - 2:47
- "It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)" (Vocal) (Henry Mancini - Johnny Mercer) - 1:56
# "Cortina" - 1:52
# "The Lonely Princess" - 2:25
# "Something for Sellers" - 2:45
# "Piano and Strings" - 2:34# "Shades of Sennett" - 1:22