Another famous French policeman II

I had introduced you to Inspector Jacques Closeau. Before I begin with more details about his life and work (or more correctly, antics), let me make an important clarification.

Despite its use in the titles of most of the films of the series, the “Pink Panther” is not the Clouseau character, but a large and valuable fictitious diamond of the same name which is the “MacGuffin” — (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin or “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction”) — of the first film in the series.The phrase reappears in the title of the fourth film, The Return of the Pink Panther, in which the diamond (and its theft) is again the centre of the plot. This film also marked Sellers’ return to the role after a gap of ten years, which may have contributed to some confusion between the character and the diamond. The phrase has been used for all the subsequent films in the series, even when the jewel does not figure into the plot (it has only appeared in six of the eleven films in the series).

However, the title is remembered due to the an animated opening sequence featuring the Pink Panther character, set to that familiar jazz-based theme music by Henry Mancini, which has become one of the most recognised soundtracks ever. This appeared in every film except the second and third.

Now, lets begin with the first of the series – The Pink Panther (1963).

Princess Dala, when a child, receives the Pink Panther, the largest diamond in the world as a gift from her father, the Shah of Lugash. This pink gem has an unusual flaw: looking deeply into the stone, one perceives a tiny discoloration resembling a leaping pink panther – hence the name.  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.

Dala (Claudia Cardinale) relaxes on holiday at an exclusive skiing resort where British playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), who leads a secret life as a jewel thief called “The Phantom”, has his eyes on the gem. His American playboy nephew, George (Robert Wagner), follows his uncle to the resort hoping to steal the jewel and blame it on the Phantom, not realizing that the Phantom is his uncle.

On the Phantom’s trail is Clouseau (Peter Sellers), whose wife Simone (Capucine) is – unknown to him – Charles’ paramour and helper in the Phantom’s crimes. The inspector tries to stop the theft attempts, but he is so clueless that when several attempts are made at a fancy-dress party, he looks everywhere but the right place.

However, Closeau manages to capture Sir Charles and George when they both try to steal the diamond during a costume party. After a long car chase though the streets, it ends with all of the vehicles colliding with one another. Later, Simone discovers that Dala herself stole the diamond from her own safe over her fears of being deported back to Lugash. She offers to help the princess by taking possession of the diamond and decides to help out Sir Charles and George when they are put on trial for the theft. Conviction looks inevitable until Sir Charles and Simone hatch a plan – Well thats all I can say about the plot. For the rest, see the picture yourself.

A sampling of the dialogues…..

Inspector Clouseau: Simone! Where is my Surété-Scotland-Yard-type mackintosh?

[At a costume ball, a police sergeant costumed as a zebra drinks from the punch bowl]
Inspector Clouseau: Any more behaviour like this and I’ll have your stripes!

Princess Dala: [tipsy from champagne] When I went on my first zsrafari… frazari… wild animal hunt.

Sir Charles Lytton: [dressed in gorilla suit] Come back. It’s me.

Sir Charles: [dressed as a gorilla] Hi George. Any idea how we get out of here?
George: [dressed as a gorilla] I don’t know. I’ve been all over this place. I’ve been up this street, up that one, up that one. How are we gonna get out here?
Sir Charles: Why don’t you try the high road up there?
George: Okay. I’ll take the high road, you take the low road. So long, Uncle Charles.
Sir Charles: Ciao, George.

Sir Charles seems to have the better lines… but as I said, he was supposed to be the hero, but turned out to be upstaged by Closeau….

To be continued….

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