Director Blake Edwards, 88, has passed. It’s become an HE tradition to always say something a little too honest on these occasions, so here goes. For the last 45 years Edwards has been celebrated as a master of slapstick, but I found most of his stuff laborious, in part because so many of his films (certainly beginning in the early ’70s) exuded a square establishment sensibility. A respected auteur, surely, but he always seemed to me like a schmaltzy, well-paid, Malibu-colony type of guy.
I never sensed, in short, that Edwards’ film were about anything more than (a) the fact that he had a certain instinct for comic timing and orchestrating pratfalls, a gift that arguably put him in the same realm as Mack Sennett (but nowhere near that of Buster Keaton), and (b) that he enjoyed livin’ the high life and therefore felt compelled for some reason to stock his films with evidence or reflections of this. And I always hated the way his films were lighted and shot in typical big-studio “house” style.
Edwards had a good run with Peter Sellers, of course, but Sellers’ greatest director friend/ally was Stanley Kubrick, not Edwards.
Truth be told, there are only two Edwards films I really and truly admire (as opposed to liking or tolerating). One is Experiment in Terror (’62), a creepy no-frills noir about a terrorized bank teller (Lee Remick) and a cop (Glenn Ford) trying to protect her. The other is SOB (1981), an inside-Hollywood satire that feels somewhat realistic (Edwards finally got down with this one) and is full of roman a clef characters (Robert Vaughn as Bob Evans, Marisa Berenson as Ali McGraw, Shelley Winters as Sue Mengers, etc.)
The Edwards films I regard as “fine,” “okay” and/or “relatively decent” are Breakfast at Tiffany’s (except for Mickey Rooney‘s awful performance), Days of Wine and Roses (a very good drama), A Shot in the Dark (moderately funny at times), What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (loved some of this), The Party (some brilliant portions), Wild Rovers (decent western), 10 (overrated but funny at times), and the low-budget That’s Life (Jack Lemmon facing old age and male menopause depression — an honest and decent film).