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Film / The Pink Panther (1963)

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The Pink Panther is a 1963 comedy/mystery film directed and co-written by Blake Edwards, starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, and Claudia Cardinale.

Princess Dala (Cardinale) was given the incredibly valuable "Pink Panther" diamond by her father, the shah of Lugash. Eventually Dala was forced into exile after her father's death and the takeover of her country by a military junta. Now she's living in high style at a ski resort in the Italian Alps, but the government of Lugash still wants their diamond back. There's also a mysterious jewel thief, "The Phantom", who is believed to be after the Pink Panther. Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers), of the French Sûreté, is on the trail of the Phantom and has come to the resort with his wife Simone (Capucine) in the hope of catching the elusive thief. However, luckily for the Phantom, Clouseau is an idiot bumbler.

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Meanwhile, charming English gentleman Sir Charles Lytton (Niven) is also staying at the ski resort. Sir Charles becomes smitten with the gorgeous Princess Dala, who falls for him in return. What Dala doesn't know is that Sir Charles is the Phantom and is after the Pink Panther. And what Clouseau doesn't know is that Simone is Charles's lover and his partner in crime. Things are complicated further when Charles's American nephew George (Wagner) shows up at the resort unexpectedly, looking for money from his rich uncle.

Started one of the most famous movie franchises of all time. First of six "Pink Panther" films starring Sellers, whose Inspector Clouseau became the Breakout Character and the focus of the series starting with the second film, A Shot in the Dark. There was a misbegotten seventh film (Curse of the Pink Panther) produced two years after Sellers' 1980 death using outtake footage, two more films in 1983 and 1993 that also bombed, and finally a reboot starring Steve Martin, with two films in 2006 and 2009. In addition to all those movies, the opening credit sequence inspired the last great series of The Golden Age of Animation, The Pink Panther cartoon series.

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Tropes:

  • And Starring: Has "introducing Fran Jeffries" (to which the titular cartoon panther adds his own name), followed by "and with Claudia Cardinale."
  • Animated Credits Opening: Arguably the Trope Codifier, it put DePatie-Freleng Enterprises on the map and spun off an entire cartoon franchise of its own. (You can watch it here).
  • Artistic License – Law: At the end of the first film, Sir Charles says that even though Clouseau has been falsely convicted of being the Phantom, he'll be set free again the next time the Phantom strikes. In reality, unless Sir Charles was caught during his next robbery and confessed to having framed Clouseau, nothing of the sort would happen. The police would almost certainly assume that either he had an accomplice who they failed to catch, or that the new theft was the work of a copycat. Either way, Clouseau would still be sitting in jail.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Not so much a case of "wins" as "ends up better off than the good guy," but at the climax of the first film, Sir Charles Lytton successfully frames Clouseau for the diamond theft, and steals his wife to boot. On the other hand, Clouseau ends up in police protection, chased by a mob of women convinced he is the sexiest jewel thief in the world. When a policeman asks him how "he" pulled off all those robberies, he glances back at the women and says thoughtfully, "Well, you know, it wasn't easy."
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Sir Charles and Simone in the first film, with George as more of a secondary villain than a dragon. It's pretty downplayed — they are both so affably evil and both seem to genuinely like Clouseau in later films.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Honestly, Simone does not treat her husband well.
  • Breakout Character: Clouseau is one of the all-time great examples. The Pink Panther cartoon character also counts.
  • Calling Card: The Phantom's monogrammed white glove.
  • The Casanova: The guests of Princess Dala say that Sir Charles Lytton has this reputation, which seems to be justified: Simone, Clouseau's wife, is his lover and he tries to charm Princess Dala.
  • Chase Scene: Features a lengthy car-chase.
  • Chekhov's Exhibit: The Pink Panther diamond, kept in a glass case.
  • Closet Shuffle: Simone has to desperately scramble to keep Clouseau from discovering both Charles and George once the two of them manage to get separately stuck in Clouseau's room.
  • Clueless Detective: Clouseau became the archetypal example.
  • Companion Cube: A very drunk Dala starts talking to the tiger rug in her suite.
  • Cuckold: Clouseau, although he's as oblivious to this as he is to most other things.
  • Detectives Follow Footprints: The little detective does this to follow the Pink Panther in the cartoon intro; the Panther sweeps up his footprints with a broom.
  • Dynamite Candle: Clouseau mistakes the party fireworks for candles, causing havoc.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • About 3/4th of The Pink Panther is everyone trying to sleep with everyone with a somewhat goofy Frenchman mentioning a jewel thief. It even extends to the title sequence, with the animated Pink Panther being a Screwy Squirrel who keeps interfering with the film's credits, and the Inspector only briefly appearing over Peter Sellers's credit.
    • And of course, anyone who comes to this movie after watching the other films, or after having heard of Inspector Clouseau and The Pink Panther through Popcultural Osmosis, might be surprised to find that David Niven and Claudia Cardinale are the stars of the film, and Peter Sellers is only a supporting player.
    • We briefly see Clouseau wearing a raincoat and hat, but they're not the same as his Iconic Items (the raincoat here is more light tan than beige, and the hat is a darker grey).
    • Neither Chief Inspector Dreyfus nor Cato Fong appear here, both debuting as Iconic Sequel Characters in the next film.
  • Establishing Character Moment: A classic one for Inspector Clouseau.
    Clouseau: (spins a floor globe) We MUST find that woman! (tries to stop the globe with his hand, but can't get a grip and he falls over)
  • Gentleman Thief: Sir Charles Lytton, who steals diamonds for fun. David Niven was good at this, having played a Gentleman Thief a quarter-century before in Raffles.
  • In Love with the Mark: Sir Charles finds himself falling in love with Princess Dala after spending the night with her, inadvertently breaking the first cardinal rule of thievery note . He later admits to Simone that he's even considered calling off the theft of the Panther diamond for Dala's sake. This passes though, as he decides to go through with the theft anyway.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Henry Mancini, everybody.
  • It Wasn't Easy: Clouseau's last line, after he's asked how he stole all those jewels and after he decides he likes the attention.
  • Karma Houdini: Sir Charles, Simone, and George all get away. Easier to take as they're all so charming, and Charles says that Clouseau will get sprung soon enough.
  • Masquerade Ball: The climactic theft of the diamond takes place at an ornate costume ball.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: A prologue with a 10-year-old Dala receiving the Pink Panther diamond, before the film skips to the present day.
  • Mirror Routine: George and Charles, each trying to crack a safe from opposite sides, each wearing identical gorilla costumes.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: The Phantom does this early in the movie to steal a jewel.
  • Monster Fangirl: Clouseau might be going to prison, but he's got a lot of screaming girl fans.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Fran Jeffries, in a skin-tight black outfit, performing the song at the ski lodge.
  • No More for Me: The random drunk guy trying to cross the street during the climactic car chase. After seeing the Phantoms, Clouseau, and the police keep going back and forth in ridiculous costumes, he just gets a chair to sit down and watch.
  • Phantom Thief: The Phantom steals diamonds.
  • Qurac: The fictional "Lugash", from which Princess Dala is in exile, appears to be of this type.
  • Race Lift: The very white Claudia Cardinale playing a vaguely Indian princess, made weirder by the fact that a real Indian girl plays the same character in the prologue.
  • Same Language Dub: Claudia Cardinale's lack of English fluency led to all her dialogue being dubbed by actress/singer Gale Garnett.note 
  • Scenery Porn: The ski scenes, shot in Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Italian Alps, are pretty breathtaking.
  • Sex Comedy: A lot of bed-hopping.
  • Suspicious Spending: How Clouseau is framed as the Phantom at the end; when his wife's huge amounts of Suspicious Spending are pointed out, he's convicted of thieving to maintain her lifestyle. In truth, of course, she's one of the thieves.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Clouseau in this first film, a goofy but loveable nincompoop blundering his way through the hunt for the Phantom.
  • Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction: That is one goddamn huge diamond.
  • Two Men, One Dress: One of the disguises worn by the police at a costume party is a two person zebra costume.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The Clouseaus are written as this. It would have been more blatant with Peter Ustinov and Ava Gardner, who were originally slated for the roles.
  • We Have the Keys: Clouseau is about to shoot the lock off of a door, when Tucker says "Don't do that, old man" and casually opens the unlocked door.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Sir Charles lures Princess Dala to his room and she gets drunk on champagne. She passes out and he puts her into his bed. She wakes up the next morning not remembering anything.
  • Yodel Land: Look, a snowy Alpine ski resort.
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