Characters: The Pink Panther
Note: For characters specific to the animated shorts/series, go here.
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The Original Films
Regulars (7+ appearances)
Inspector Jacques Clouseau (becomes Chief Inspector after Dreyfus)
Played by: Peter Sellers (most of the original series), Alan Arkin (Inspector Clouseau), Roger Moore (Curse), Steve Martin (reboot films)
Debut appearance: The Pink Panther (1963)A French Surete detective who fancies himself the greatest detective in the world, as well as a martial arts expert and master of disguise. Egotistical and arrogant, he is (apparently) blind to his general incompetence in all of his chosen fields of expertise. However, he is so focused on upholding law and order that, more often than not, he is successful despite himself and those who would stand in his way. He is fanatically patriotic and sets the interests of France before everything else, having fought in the French Resistance during the WWII. Eventually becomes Chief Inspector in the original series, and he'll be the first to remind you of his full title.
"Well, until we meet again and the case is sol-ved!"
- Accidental Hero: He manages to accidentally save the world in Strikes Again after his concerted efforts to stop Dreyfus's scheme all fail. He also saves Simone Legree in Revenge because he and Cato are in the right place at the right time (they're trying to see into a night club just as baddies are spiriting her out of it).
- Breakout Character: Until Captain Jack Sparrow came along, there was no more spectacular example of this trope on film.
- Cassandra Truth: In Revenge, an escaped transvestite thief forces Clouseau to give up his clothes and the car he's driving. The thief drives into the trap Douvier's men have set up for Clouseau and is killed. The real Clouseau, forced to wear the thief's female clothing, is mistaken for the thief and captured by authorities who don't believe his story — especially as word spreads that Clouseau has been killed! Ultimately, he stops trying to convince others he's the real deal in favor of escaping the asylum he's sent to and from there turning the situation to his advantage (if everyone believes he's dead, then he can go undercover to figure out who wanted him dead...).
- Character Outlives Actor: Starting with Trail.
- Classical Antihero: He's terminally foolish and clumsy, but his sheer determination to win the day for good helps see him through time and time again.
- Clueless Detective and Inspector Oblivious: Depending on the situation, he's one or the other.
- Determinator: Clouseau will not quit! This is the reason why Dreyfus detests Clouseau, even if the former is ordered to let it go.
- Dreadful Musician: Another thing he isn't good at is playing the violin (in the first film).
- The Dulcinea Effect: Drives his actions in A Shot in the Dark.
- Flanderization: Clouseau's accent gets more impenetrable and the havoc the slapstick wreaks goes up exponentially as the original series progresses. However, his character doesn't suffer for this, and it didn't hurt the reception of the series with audiences.
- The Fool: Heavens, yes. His karma is a force to be reckoned with as a result.
- Funny Foreigner: A funny Frenchman, to be precise; his disguises as other nationalities are equally ridiculous.
- Genius Ditz: The Steve Martin version of Clouseau is actually prone to the occasional moments of lucidity.
- Iconic Outfit: Pictured. He first wears it in A Shot in the Dark.
- Idiot Hero: Very much the Trope Codifier.
- The Inspector
- Invincible Incompetent
- Iron Butt Monkey: Example — in Strikes Again, showing off on parallel bars on the second floor of a house sends him falling to the first floor. He gets up, dusts himself off and crows "Ah! That felt good!"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Clouseau is an arrogant man and believes enough in his own brilliance and rightness that he often misses the obvious. This also contributes to his chronic clumsiness. (Sellers himself saw Clouseau as a man who knows he's an idiot but is determined not to let anyone else find out.) But he is genuinely on the side of good, is chivalrous with women to the point of unfounded faith (he was betrayed by his own wife), conducts himself with all the dignity he can muster, and as Trail points out, he never gives up. As pointed out on the Karma Houdini page, it was perhaps this that made the character so sympathetic to audiences.
- The Klutz: Tellingly, his Establishing Character Moment in the original series has him taking a pratfall when he rests his hand on a still-spinning globe after declaring "We must find that woman!"
- Large Ham: Most of the time, owing to his need to command any important situation (and many unimportant ones). His grandiose gestures often backfire on him, though.
- He's even more of a ham when played by Steve Martin.
- La Résistance: He participated in the French Resistance in World War II according to Strikes Again, and there's a flashback to that time in Trail. In trying to blow up a bridge the Germans were crossing, he instead wound up in yet another non-fatal explosion.
- Malaproper and Poirot Speak - Clouseau's unique speech patterns stem from a combination of these tropes. His accent is so thick it verges on Just a Stupid Accent in the 1970s entries, and this occasionally leads to him apparently saying one word while intending another, because other characters do not understand it. He sometimes swaps words or consonant sounds in a phrase as well: "a rit of fealous jage", "Sir Charles Phantom, the notorious Lytton", etc.
- Master of Disguise: He fancies himself as this, but the results vary from disguise to disguise.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Subverted — it's revealed in Revenge that most people think his success is due to this, rather than his actually being The Fool.
- Police Are Useless: His introductory scene in Return is a particularly good example — his argument with a "blind" beggar who's the lookout for bank robbers allows them to rob the bank without any trouble. When the bank manager comes out of it to pursue them, he's the one Clouseau knocks out.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: In the reboot, Clouseau is portrayed as an insensitive lecher who blatantly stereotypes everyone he meets by nationality or race, and it's played for laughs. In the original series, Clouseau constantly refers to Cato in derogatory ways — i.e. "Cato, my little yellow friend, I'm home!" — and the Paper-Thin Disguise as an Asian that he wears in Revenge is similarly ridiculous, but that's more a case of Values Dissonance (and, perhaps, Clouseau's general foolishness) than this trope.
- Pornstache: In all incarnations.
- Put on a Bus: He's put on one halfway through Trail. Curse reveals that he was wooed by the jewel's new "owner", did a Face Heel Turn, and got Magic Plastic Surgery to resemble — and be played by — Roger Moore and live with her undisturbed.
- Significant Birth Date: As an in-joke in Trail, his birthday is said to be September 8. This is Peter Sellers' birthday.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: In the first movie.
- The Unintelligible: He is frequently asked to repeat himself due to other characters' inability to decipher his accent.
- What the Fu Are You Doing?: His "training sessions" with Cato.
- You Say Tomato: A standard part of Peter Sellers' Clouseau schtick from A Shot in the Dark onwards (he once tries to pick up a "massage" at the front desk of a hotel). And in the reboot, Steve Martin's Clouseau would like to buy a "damburger" and would also like to rent a "rhume" for the night.
Played by: Burt Kwouk
Debut: A Shot in the Dark (1964)Clouseau's Chinese manservant holds a variety of duties but chief among them is springing surprise martial arts attacks on his boss at any and all hours — not to mention places — as Clouseau wants to be prepared for anything he may encounter in the pursuit of justice.
- Battle Butler: Inverted in that his first duty is battling. (Beyond that, he is a butler, valet, and even chef for Clouseau.)
- Disguised in Drag: At the end of Return, Clouseau decides to have dinner at a Japanese restaurant to get a break from Cato's attacks. Cato manages to ambush him anyway — by masquerading as a female waitress.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: He's fully aware that he's this, but doesn't let Clouseau realize it. He admits in the Trail/Curse duet that he isn't completely unhappy that his boss has gone missing, as Cato was the one who usually got hurt in their fights, but having had that job so long, he does miss it a bit. (Between the two films, he even establishes a Clouseau museum in the old apartment.) When Clouseau, Jr.'s existence is revealed to the world in Son, Cato doesn't hesitate to offer his services to him.
- Iron Buttmonkey: He takes a lot of lumps in his job, but has his boss' resilience.
- Older Sidekick: To Clouseau, Jr. in Son.
- Refrigerator Ambush: How he makes his big entrance in Return. He does it again in Son.
- Some of My Best Friends Are X: Uses the phrase in Trail, but in an atypical context. Professor Balls leaves a rude answering machine message that calls him a "picaroon", a (made-up) term meaning "cheat". When Marie explains the meaning to him, Cato says he doesn't mind being called that — "Some of my best friends are picaroons!" (This includes his maternal grandmother, who runs a Miami Beach bingo parlor.)
- Spell My Name with an "S": His name was spelled as Kato in the end credits of A Shot in the Dark, but this was changed in all later appearances. This may or may not have been a case of Writing Around Trademarks with regards to the similar character of Kato in The Green Hornet.
- Undying Loyalty: To Clouseau.
Commissioner (later Chief Inspector before Clouseau) Charles LaRousse Dreyfus
Played by: Herbert Lom (original series), Kevin Kline (2006 reboot), John Cleese (2009 sequel)
Debut: A Shot in the Dark (1964)Clouseau's boss is one of the few people completely aware of the Inspector's bumbling ways, and thus deeply frustrated — to the point of madness, in the original series — by his tenacity. Notable as the only original series character besides Clouseau to appear in the reboot.
- Adaptational Heroism: While he is still portrayed as a Jerkass, in the Steve Martin films he lacks the Ax-Crazy tendencies from the Blake Edwards films and he never tries to kill Clouseau or becomes a criminal.
- Amusing Injuries: He endures everything from accidentally shooting off part of his nose in Return to a non-fatal explosion in Son. Even when his injuries put him in the hospital, as happens in Curse and Son, he can't escape trouble.
- Ax-Crazy: Becomes this after he accidentally chops off his thumb in Shot. He's especially crazy in Strikes Again.
- Big Bad: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
- Broken Ace: It's mentioned in Revenge that he was a very competent policeman himself before Clouseau arrived on the scene.
- Butt Monkey and from there Iron Buttmonkey: Example: Near the end of Curse, he manages to survive falling off a cliff (due to rocket launcher recoil) into the sea...backwards...in a wheelchair...with one leg in plaster. An old forum recap of this film at The Agony Booth noted that it would be really hard to swim under those conditions, but he apparently pulls it off.
- Da Chief: Starts out as merely this.
- Diabolical Mastermind: In Strikes Again.
- Driven to Madness: And from there...
- Driven to Villainy: He's a secondary villain in Shot, Return, and Curse, and the Big Bad in Strikes Again.
- Evil Is Hammy: When he becomes a Big Bad in Strikes Again, he's clearly loving every minute of being one.
- Face-Heel Turn: He might be a nasty person before he goes insane, but he is far from evil and can actually be quite pleasant when Clouseau isn't around. In the alternate continuity of the Steve Martin films, he is benign by comparison.
- Flanderization: Undergoes this in the original series. In A Shot in the Dark, he's simply Da Chief annoyed by Clouseau's antics. From Return onwards, he becomes a tic-ridden lunatic who only wants to kill Clouseau, even when the latter does nothing offending at all.
- Heel-Face Turn: He's recovered his sanity at the beginning of Strikes Again, although he quickly loses it, and again at the beginning of Revenge. Perhaps the work of the machine was undone with its destruction, as he, once he has recovered his sanity, actually manages to get his old job back again in Revenge.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Whenever he suffers his Amusing Injuries.
- Older Than They Look: If he was indeed born in 1900.
- Plot Hole: He's Chief Inspector again by Trail, despite everything he's done in the previous films! Who would be so foolish as to put someone so dangerous back in his old position? See also Snap Back / Unexplained Recovery below.
- Sanity Slippage: However, every day and in every way, he's getting better.
- Significant Birth Date: April 1, aka April Fools' Day, according to Curse.
- Snap Back / Unexplained Recovery: His presence in Revenge and the subsequent films, after apparently getting disintegrated at the end of Strikes Again.
- Take a Third Option: To maintain his Chief Inspector position in Curse, he has to help the investigation into Clouseau's disappearance via giving the computer vital information about him. But if he does that and Clouseau is found, he'll have to deal with the man he hates most in the world again. He invokes this trope as a result: He consults an imprisoned hacker to learn how to reprogram the computer, allowing him to give the information to it but with the result that it seeks out a detective with qualities opposite to those Clouseau supposedly has (remember, most people think Clouseau uses Obfuscating Stupidity).
- Throw the Dog a Bone: At the end of Son, he marries Maria Gambrelli.
- Twitchy Eye: He develops it as he's being Driven to Madness in Shot, and it remains a facial tic of his through the rest of the original series.
The Pink Panther
Debut: The Pink Panther (1964)The Animated Credits Opening created by DePatie/Freling Enterprises visualizes the pink, panther-shaped flaw in the titular diamond as an actual pink panther. This dapper anthropomorphic mute proved popular enough that he appears in most of the credit sequences in the series — the exceptions are A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau — and when he's not tangling with a caricature of Clouseau (or his successors in the later films), he's playing with the credits and even interacting with the live-action settings and characters. He was quickly spun off into his own series of animated shorts.
- Affectionate Parody: Impersonates various movie stars and characters in the openings to The Return of the Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
- Butt Monkey: In the opening of the first film only, where he's pursued by The Phantom's white glove.
- Nice Hat: Wears quite a few of them in the opening credits to Return of the Pink Panther.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Disguises himself as a lamp in the opening of Revenge of the Pink Panther. The Inspector does not notice and electrocutes himself when he tries to switch the light on.
- Series Mascot: He's so popular that from Return onward, he's always worked into the titles and title sequences even when the diamond isn't brought up at all in the plots.
- The Voiceless
Debut: A Shot in the Dark (1964)A caricature of Clouseau appearing in most Animated Credits Openings of the film series. He was spun off into his own animated series as well.
- Butt Monkey / Iron Buttmonkey
- Inspector Javert: He always seeks to arrest the Pink Panther, for whatever reason.
- The Voiceless
Recurring Characters (2- 6 appearances)
Sir Charles Lytton/The Phantom
Played by: David Niven (The Pink Panther, Trail of..., and Curse of..., albeit dubbed by Rich Little in the latter two), Christopher Plummer (The Return of...)
Debut: The Pink Panther (1963)An English gentleman who is also an internationally-notorious jewel thief. Famous for leaving a white, monogrammed glove as his calling card. He is the actual protagonist of the original film and has a parallel plot to Clouseau's in The Return of... Inspector Clouseau is his longtime nemesis, determined to prove the gentleman and the thief are one and the same. For his part, Sir Charles regards Clouseau with some respect, admiring his tenacity.
- Affably Evil: He might be Clouseau's archnemesis, but, despite a slightly ruthless streak, he is a pleasant person on the whole and holds Clouseau in very little contempt. (Dreyfus, on the other hand hates him, hates him, hates him!!!!)
- Gentleman Thief
- Heel-Face Turn: He settles down to enjoy a quiet life after the events of the first film. This doesn't mean that he won't dabble in the art of crookery again, though.
- Hypocritical Humor: In the first film, upon discovering that the Pink Panther has already been taken from a targeted safe: "Someone's being highly dishonest!"
- Same Language Dub: Niven was terminally ill by the time Trail and Curse were shot (they were his final films) and his voice was extremely weak, hence professional impersonator Rich Little dubbing all his dialogue in both.
Simone Clouseau (later Lady Lytton)
Played by: Capucine
Debut: The Pink Panther (1963)There are a lot of reasons Inspector Clouseau has never proven the link between Sir Charles and the Phantom, and one of the biggest is that he didn't realize until it was too late that his wife was one of the Phantom's associates. Between her first appearance and her return to the series with the Trail/Curse duet, she divorces Clouseau and marries Sir Charles, and they offer their help to Clifton Sleigh in his search for the missing detective. But do they have an ulterior motive in mind?
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In the first film.
- Heel-Face Turn: She feels sorry for Clouseau after she deceives him in the first film.
- Jerkass: She doesn't come across as a particularly pleasant woman, at least in Trail. While she cheated on Clouseau with gusto in the first film, she at least felt a pang of concern for him as he was arrested. In Trail, while her husband seems to have a grudging admiration for the Inspector, Simone does nothing but badmouth him and smugly assert she left Clouseau when she found "the man of her dreams" (meaning Lytton). Note all of this takes place when Clouseau is missing, presumed dead!
Played by: Robert Wagner
Debut: The Pink Panther (1963)Sir Charles Lytton's feisty American nephew.
- Affably Evil: Just like his uncle.
Played by: Elke Sommer (A Shot in the Dark), Claudia Cardinale (Son of...)
Debut: A Shot in the Dark (1964)A sweet, beautiful maid to the Ballon household, and the prime suspect in the murder of its chauffeur. Inspector Clouseau, who is attracted to her, is determined to prove her innocence and save her from the guillotine — unfortunately, as more murders involving the Ballons occur, she's always found at the scenes of the crimes! In Son of the Pink Panther, it's revealed that after the events of A Shot in the Dark she and Clouseau were briefly lovers and Jacques Gambrelli was the result of that union.
- Beta Couple: With Charles Dreyfus in Son.
- Girl of the Film: The first example of this in the series for Clouseau.
- Maid: Not French, mind you, but Italian (albeit played by German and French Tunisian actresses).
Played by: Graham Stark
Debut: A Shot in the Dark (1964)Clouseau's assistant in the investigation of the Ballon murders.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Trail reveals that he retired from the police force after the events of Shot, as he found working with Clouseau too "exciting".
Sergeant Francois Chevalier
Played by: Andre Maranne
Debut: A Shot in the Dark (1964)A pleasant, patient underling to both Dreyfus and, after his promotion at the end of The Return of the Pink Panther, Clouseau. He knows how inept Clouseau can be, but accidentally starts the trouble in A Shot in the Dark by assigning him to the Ballon case before realizing how important the case actually is.
- Beleaguered Assistant: So, which is worse — attending to the psychotic Dreyfus or the chaos-attracting Clouseau? A tough call indeed...
- Mr. Exposition: In the films from The Seventies onward, he not only briefs Dreyfus or Clouseau about the main plot, but also seemingly unrelated matters that turn out to be Chekhov's Guns (such as the escaped transvestite thief in Revenge). He's also a useful sounding board for both characters.
- Small Role, Big Impact: He's far from being a major character and is generally just Mr. Exposition for a few scenes. However, his assigning Clouseau to the Ballon case is the ultimate cause of Dreyfus going insane and Clouseau's rise to fame.
Professor Auguste Balls
Played by: Graham Stark (Revenge of... and Son of...), Harvey Korman (Strikes Again [unused scenes], Trail of... and Curse of...)
Debut: Officially, Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)Clouseau gets all of his brilliant disguises from this curious costume-shop owner, who has a Gonk of a wife and an odd assistant to boot. The flip-flopping between actors owes to the character originating as a Deleted Role in Strikes Again; when the deleted scenes were incorporated into Trail, Korman was brought back to shoot new scenes as the character.
- Amusing Injuries: He and his assistant acquire these in Revenge after a non-fatal explosion, but even wrapped up in bandages they still live to serve when Clouseau consults them to prepare for his trip to Hong Kong.
- Double Entendre: His name is an exceedingly goofy one even without the Bilingual Bonus (AC/DC would be proud).
- Large Ham: Professor Balls is one of the hammier supporting characters in the series, which makes sense given that he makes his living selling eccentric disguises that most people (besides, perhaps, Clouseau) wouldn't think to need — a hunchback costume complete with inflatable hump, anyone?
- Took a Level in Jerkass: In Trail and Curse, he's a lot nastier than in his other appearances. Granted, he's trying to get the absent Clouseau to pay a tab he ran up, but he leaves rude answering machine messages (and drops a few ethnic slurs with regards to Cato) and in Curse effectively forces Sgt. Sleigh into buying a bunch of ridiculous items he'd been holding for Clouseau. Some of this may be due to the alternating actors, as when he reappears in Son he's back to his rather pleasant self.
Played by: Joanna Lumley
Appears in: Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)A French television reporter who decides to interview Inspector Clouseau's old associates after he goes missing on his way to Lugash to investigate the latest theft of the Pink Panther diamond.
- Frying Pan of Doom: When she sneaks into Clouseau's apartment and is ambushed by Cato, she uses one of these to get the upper hand on him.
- Going for the Big Scoop: Not even the Mafia can dissuade her from her quest to find out what happened to Clouseau.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: She's not even mentioned in Curse; her actress is playing another character. Another reporter establishes at the start of the film that a year's passed since Clouseau vanished, so the trail Marie was following must have gone cold.
Sergeant Clifton Sleigh
Played by: Ted Wass
Appears in: Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)A year after Clouseau vanished, a supercomputer is tasked with finding the world's greatest detective to seek him out. But Dreyfus was in charge of giving the computer the neccesary information for said search, so he consulted an imprisoned hacker to learn how to reprogram it. The result? The computer gave up the name of the world's worst detective instead: a third-generation New York City cop who may be more pleasant than Clouseau, but no more competent.
- Blind Without 'Em: He needs some kind of aid to see much; usually he wears glasses, but in his Establishing Character Moment the situation goes from bad to worse when he loses one of his contact lenses.
- Clueless Detective: Just like the guy he's trying to find. And doesn't. Even though he shakes his hand.
- Idiot Hero: He does mean well and takes his job quite seriously.
- Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: His Establishing Character Moment has him bungling an undercover mission in which he's disguised — badly — as a female prostitute. A drunk man tries to proposition him; there's no way that a sober man would do the same.
- Nerd Glasses: The chunky black variety.
- Non-Action Guy: He spends a significant chunk of the movie fleeing bad guys and being rescued by other characters. When he has to help Juleta (an Action Girl) in a fight against ninja Mr. Chong, it's only through luck that he succeeds.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: For Clouseau. The main differences between the two are that Clifton doesn't have Clouseau's ego and confidence, and is more affable and eager to please. Sleigh's boss in New York is also a suspiciously similar substitute for Dreyfus.
Played by: Joanna Lumley
Appears in: Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)The pre-credits sequence of Curse reveals that this Spanish health spa owner hired a professional thief to steal the Pink Panther from Lugash. When Clouseau arrived at her villa in Valencia, just as the thief was presenting it to her and negotiating the fee, she killed the thief, and aimed her gun at Clouseau...and one year later, she is terribly concerned when she learns that Clifton Sleigh is headed her way.
- Aristocrats Are Evil
- Faux Affably Evil: She's a Rich Bitch, but can fake a pleasant facade if need be.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: Uses this to give Clouseau a new identity.
- Rich Bitch: She's haughty and ruthless.
- The Vamp: She turns her wiles on Inspector Clouseau...successfully.
Gendarme Jacques Gambrelli/Clouseau, Jr.
Played by: Roberto Benigni
Appears in: Son of the Pink Panther (1993)Inspector Clouseau had a brief love affair with Maria Gambrelli after the events of A Shot in the Dark, and she never revealed to him that he fathered a child by her. Ten years after Clouseau's disappearance, this young gendarme falls in Love at First Sight with the kidnapped Princess Yasmin of Lugash when his path accidentally crosses with those of her captors, and he comes to embrace his Secret Legacy as a bumbling hero to rescue her.
- The Dulcinea Effect: He doesn't realize that she's been kidnapped when he first meets and falls for Princess Yasmin; when he learns the truth, he becomes determined to rescue her.
- Idiot Hero: Just like his father.
- The Klutz
- Lamarck Was Right: While he's not as arrogant as his father, he's definitely inherited his clumsiness and nonstandard pronunciations...but also his resilience and determination. "That felt good!" (a line from Strikes Again) is practically his catchphrase.
- Like Father, Like Son
- Secret Legacy: He doesn't know that he's Clouseau's son until the events of the film. Maria hid his heritage from him (claiming his father was a musician who played the French horn) when she realized that he wanted to be a police officer, as she feared he would be discouraged if he learned that his clumsy, foolish father was one. But once she reveals the truth to him, he's not discouraged at all — if anything it further encourages him in his quest to save the princess.
The RebootClouseau and Dreyfus can be found under Regulars above.