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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Former Longtime Resident Leaves Comedic and Serious Film Legacy

• Life in Malibu Provided Inspiration and a Backdrop for Several of the Filmmaker’s Movies

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Screenwriter, director, producer, artist and longtime former Malibu resident Blake Edwards has died. He was 88.
Edwards was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on July 26, 1922, his stepfather’s father was silent film director J. Gordon Edwards.
The family moved to Los Angeles when Edwards was three. He grew up in the film industry, appearing in bit parts in numerous films as a child and young man.
During WW II, Edwards served in the US Coast Guard, where he was severely injured in a diving accident.
After Edwards recovered, he returned to the film industry. When he failed to receive studio backing for the first film he wrote—a western titled “Panhandle”—he financed it himself with help from his friend John Champion. The film debuted in 1948.
Edwards wrote extensively for radio in the 1950s. In 1954 he transitioned to television, writing and directing “Peter Gunn,” where he worked for the first time with composer Henry Mancini, who became a close friend and would score Edwards’ most memorable films.
Edwards continued to develop film projects. “Operation Petticoat,” starring Cary Grant, was a major success in 1959.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” regarded by many critics as Edwards’ greatest film, followed in 1961.
“The Pink Panther,” which introduced Edwards’ bumblingly incompetent Inspector Clouseau to the world.
By the late 1960s, Edwards reportedly had become increasingly disillusioned with Hollywood, leaving California to work for several years on projects in Europe with his second wife, actress Julie Andrews, whom he married in 1968.
The couple returned to Los Angeles in the early 1970s.
Edwards’ 1979 comedy “10,” featuring British comedic actor Dudley Moore and ingenue Bo Derek was reportedly inspired by his observations of beach life in Malibu.
Edwards directed Andrews in the 1981 comedy “S.O.B,” a scathing satire of the Hollywood film industry. The film was shot in part on location at their Malibu house, as were several of Edwards’ later films.
Andrews also starred in Edwards’ 1982 adaptation of the genderbending German comedy “Victor Victoria.” The film received seven Oscar nominations and went on to become a successful Broadway musical.
Edwards and Andrews were active in the Malibu community for many years, dividing their time between Malibu and their home in Switzerland.
Although Edwards may be primarily remembered for his numerous comedies, he directed six actors in Academy Award nominated performances: Andrews, Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren.
In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Edwards was a painter and sculptor, whose abstracted figurative works received critical acclaim.
Edwards was also a founding board member of Operation USA, a relief organization that provides aid to the survivors of disasters.
For more than 30 years Edwards assisted fundraising efforts for the organization. The proceeds from a recent show of Edwards’ paintings reportedly went to support relief efforts in Haiti.
Malibu friends and neighbors remember Edwards as kind, genuine and generous.
He is survived by his wife, five children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

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