NPR logo Blake Edwards: Not Always Funny

Blake Edwards: Not Always Funny

Blake Edwards, in 1977. Evening Standard/Getty Images hide caption

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Evening Standard/Getty Images

Blake Edwards, in 1977.

Evening Standard/Getty Images

This morning writer-director Blake Edwards died.  Mr. Edwards was most well known for his screwball humor, but for me, the movies that I really love, have some real anguish in them.  I know you're all dying to start humming The Pink Panther, but me, I'm singing Breakfast at Tiffany's "Moon River." (Neal and I had a little dueling music memorial a minute ago — maybe I'm a softie, but I'm a sucker for Audrey Hepburn, leaning with a capital "y" for "yearn" out the window, and wishing for her "huckleberry friend."  C'mon!!! Get out your hankies.)

One thing on which Neal and I agree firmly, is the brutal brilliance of 1962's Days of Wine and Roses.  Warning — this movie is a downer.  A study of alcoholism, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, it almost seems odd that the director who gave us Inspector Clouseau could have also given us Joe Clay.  But remember, Blake Edwards is also the man who told the Los Angeles Times that pain was important to comedy, citing his comedy mentor:

"Leo McCarey (the late comedy writer-producer-director) used to talk about breaking the pain barrier, where you're faced with so much pain it compounds itself and you can't take it anymore. So you laugh."

Comedy and pain are inextricably linked even in the person of the movie's star, Jack Lemmon, whose role in Wine and Roses changed the way the public, and the industry thought of him.  From Lemmon's New York Times obituary:

''The movie people put a label attached to your big toe — 'light comedy' — and that's the only way they think of you,'' Mr. Lemmon said in a 1984 interview. ''I knew damn well I could play drama. Things changed following 'Days of Wine and Roses.' That was as important a film as I've ever done.''

It bears repeating that this a very depressing movie.  However, here's a famous clip of Lemmon falling apart for your viewing, er... pleasure — in honor of the Blake Edwards, who, as much as he knew a good joke, also knew when it hurts.