Tonight: Peter Sellers and Elke Sommer, with George Sanders and Herbert Lom in Blake Edwards’ A Shot in the Dark.
Produced and directed by Blake Edwards, with a screenplay by Blake and William Peter Blatty, who would later write The Exorcist.
With a musical score by Henry Mancini, who did the music for most of Blake Edwards’ work in both TV and film.
A Shot in the Dark is the second in the Pink Panther series, and the first in which the Peter Sellers’ character, the bumbling, fumbling Inspector Clouseau, is the star.
The original, big budget The Pink Panther featured an all-star cast including David Niven, Robert Wagner, Capucine and Claudia Cardinale, along with Sellers, but it was Peter’s Inspector Clouseau who stole the show.
So producer-director Edwards was looking for a sequel and he found it in A Shot in the Dark, even though the Peter Sellers character is no where to be found in the original property.
A Shot in the Dark is based on a 1960 French play, A Idiota by Marcel Achard.
It was adapted by Harry Kurnitz for Broadway as A Shot in the Dark, and opened at the Booth Theater on October 18, 1961.
It ran 389 performances and closed on September 22, 1962.
The original cast included Walter Matthau, Julie Harris and William Shatner. Matthau won a Tony for his performance.
United Artists acquired the screen rights. And when Blake Edwards and William Blatty began working on the screenplay, they saw the possibility of turning this into a sequel to The Pink Panther.
In the original play, both French and on Broadway, the lead character was a nutty judge, but this was altered to fit the original Peter Sellers role.
None of the characters from either version of the play appears in the film.
Inspector Clouseau’s bumbling personality remains unchanged in this film, but it was in this sequel that Sellers gave him the exaggerated French accent that was to become the hallmark of the character.
It was inspired by a French hotel manager that Sellers met when he took off a few days from filming, to Blake Edwards consternation.
Sellers improvised a great deal of his dialog. He also made several actual mistakes, then corrected them on-camera.
Edwards invariably used those errors, making for fresh, authentic comedy.
Sophia Loren was originally cast in the role of Maria Gambrelli. When she was taken ill, Romy Schneider was cast. But there were scheduling conflicts and the part eventually went to German actress Elke Sommer.
This is also the film that first introduces Herbert Lom as Clouseau’s long suffering boss, commissioner Dreyfus. And Burt Kwouk as his servant Kato.
The film was shot at the MGM British Studios at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire and at Luton Hoo Estate, Luton, Bedfordshire, England.
The body count in the film: 14 people and 1 crow.
The frustrated Commissioner Dreyfus to Sellers: “What you’ve just said, Clouseau, qualifies you as the greatest prophet since Custer said he was going to surround all those Indians!”
A Shot in the Dark was released to theaters by United Artists on June 23, 1964.
The domestic gross was $12,368,000 in its initial release.
There were no Oscar nominations but the British Academy nominated the film for “Best British costume in a color production.”
Nothing for the Henry Mancini score.
The AFI listed the film as #48 of the 100 Best Comedies in 100 years in 2000.
The relationship between Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers deteriorated during the production to such an extent that, at the end of the picture, they vowed to never work together again.
But they eventually reconciled to collaborate successfully four years later on The Party and then on three more Pink Panther films in the 1970s.
There were later sequels made without Sellers (after he died), with Alan Arkin and Steve Martin, but not worth mentioning.
The character of Maria Gambrelli portrayed by Elke Sommer in tonight’s film reappears in Son of the Pink Panther played by Claudia Cardinale, who played Princess Dahla in the original The Pink Panther.
An ad for tonight’s film: “Meet the Inspector who was always on the job…in the bedroom…in the night club.. .in the nudist colony!”
So now–from 1964—Peter Sellers in the classic
A Shot in the Dark