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The Pink Panther (1963)

The Pink Panther is a 1963 Technicolor American comedy film filmed in 70mm Super Technirama directed by Blake Edwards and co-written by Edwards and Maurice Richlin, starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner,Capucine, and Claudia Cardinale. The film introduced the cartoon character of the same name, in an opening credits sequence animated by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. 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 panther. (As the camera moves in, this image comes to life and participates in the opening 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. Several years later, Dala (Claudia Cardinale) relaxes on holiday at an exclusive ski resort in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Also staying is a noted British playboy, Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), who leads a secret life as a jewel thief called "The Phantom" and has his eyes on the Pink Panther. His unwitting American playboy nephew, George (Robert Wagner), follows his uncle to the resort, also hoping to steal the jewel and blame it on the Phantom. On the Phantom's trail is French police inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté, who doesn't know his wife Simone (Capucine) is the paramour of Charles and helper in the Phantom's crimes. Clouseau is so clueless and clumsy that while several theft attempts are made at a fancy-dress party, he looks everywhere but the right place. Meanwhile, Simone dodges her husband while trying to avoid George, who has grown enamored of her, and aid Charles, who has grown enamored of Dala and is ambivalent about carrying out the theft. During a costume party, Sir Charles and his nephew attempt to steal the diamond, only to find the jewel already missing from the safe. In spite of himself, the buffoonish inspector discovers the two in the act, resulting in a car chase throughout the town streets. Despite all odds, Sir Charles and his accomplice George are captured when all the vehicles collide with one another. Later, Simone informs Dala that Charles wished to call off the theft, and asks her to help in his defense. Dala then reveals that it was she herself who stole the diamond to avoid deportation back to Lugash, and that she has a plan to save Sir Charles from prison. At the trial, Charles' and George's convictions seem inevitable when the defense calls as their lone witness a surprised Clouseau. The barrister asks a series of questions that suggest Clouseau himself could be the Phantom; an unnerved Clouseau pulls out his handkerchief, from which drops the jewel, promptly rendering him unconscious from shock. As Clouseau is driven away to prison, he is mobbed by a throng of enamored women. Watching from a distance, a regretful Simone expresses fears he will rot in prison; Sir Charles reassures her that when the Phantom strikes again, Clouseau will be exonerated. Sir Charles, Simone, and George drive away to continue their life of crime as Dala leaves to return to her country. Meanwhile, in the police car, the officers express their envy that Clouseau is now the object of affection of young women everywhere. As they ask him with obvious admiration how he committed so many robberies, Clouseau's mood gradually changes: "Well, you know . . . it wasn't easy." The film ends by showing the panther, as a traffic warden, getting run over by the car carrying Clouseau and attempting to chase after it. He pulls himself together and closes the film, holding a "The End" title card. The film was "conceived as a sophisticated comedy about a charming, urbane jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton" (played by Niven); Peter Ustinov was "originally cast as Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his faithless wife in league with Lytton."[2] After Gardner backed out—the Associated Press reported in November 1962 it was because The Mirisch Company wouldn't meet all her demands—Ustinov also left the project, and Blake Edwards then chose Sellers to replace Ustinov. Janet Leigh turned the lead female role down as she would have been away from the United States too long. The film was initially intended as a vehicle for Niven, as evidenced by his top billing.[5] As Edwards shot the film, employing multiple takes of improvised scenes, it became clear Sellers, originally considered a supporting actor, was stealing the scenes and resulted in his continuation throughout the film's sequels. When presenting at a subsequent Oscar Awards ceremony, Niven requested his walk-on music be changed from the "Pink Panther" theme, as "that was not really my film."

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