The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther is a series of comedy films featuring the bungling French police detective Jacques Clouseau that began in 1963 with the release of the film of the same name. The role was originated by, and is most closely associated with, Peter Sellers. Most of the films were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards, with theme music composed by Henry Mancini.

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 pink diamond which is first shown in the first film in the series.[1] The phrase reappears in the title of the fourth film, The Return of the Pink Panther, in which the theft of the diamond is again the center of the plot; that film also marked the return of Sellers to the role after a gap of ten years, which may have contributed to some confusion between the character and the diamond. The phrase was used for all the subsequent films in the series, even when the jewel did not figure into the plot (the diamond has only appeared in six of the eleven films in the series).

The first film in the series had an animated opening sequence, created by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and set to the theme music by Henry Mancini, which featured the Pink Panther character. This character, designed by Hawley Pratt, was subsequently the subject of its own series of animated cartoons which gained its greatest fame when aired on Saturday mornings as The Pink Panther Show. The character would be featured in the opening of every film in the movie series except A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau.


Films and themes

As of 2011, eleven Pink Panther films have been made:

Film Year Notes
The Pink Panther 1963 Although centered on David Niven, Peter Sellers was so popular that the resulting series would be built on Clouseau rather than the Phantom/Sir Charles Lytton.
A Shot in the Dark 1964 Released less than a year after The Pink Panther, Clouseau returns to bumble his way through a murder investigation. This also marks the first appearance of both Herbert Lom's Charles Dreyfus and Burt Kwouk's Cato.
Inspector Clouseau 1968 This film stars Alan Arkin as Clouseau, and does not have any other recurring characters (Dreyfus, Cato, the Phantom, etc.) from the rest of the series. Although produced by the Mirisch Corporation, Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini were not involved in the making of this film.
The Return of the Pink Panther 1975 Not only does this mark the return of the famous "Pink Panther" diamond, but also the successful return of Peter Sellers as Clouseau (along with Edwards, Mancini, Dreyfus, and Cato). Sir Charles Lytton is portrayed by Christopher Plummer.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again 1976 Dreyfus' insanity reaches a pinnacle, as he tries to intimidate the rest of the world into killing Clouseau.
Revenge of the Pink Panther 1978 This film pits Clouseau against the French Connection. This is the last film in which Sellers played Clouseau; he died two years after its release.
Trail of the Pink Panther 1982 Features Peter Sellers as Clouseau using unused material from Strikes Again, this was intended as a tribute to Sellers, but after its release, Sellers' widow Lynne Frederick successfully sued Edwards and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's memory. David Niven and Capucine reprise their original roles.
Curse of the Pink Panther 1983 Inspector Clouseau and The Pink Panther diamond, both of which had gone missing in Trail, are pursued by the bumbling American detective, Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass). Clouseau returns in an amusing cameo played by an uncredited Roger Moore after having plastic surgery to disguise his identity. Although intended to spawn a new series of misadventures for Sergeant Sleigh, the film's dismal box office performance and critical drubbing led to a Panther hibernation for the next decade.
Son of the Pink Panther 1993 Roberto Benigni tries to revive the series by portraying Gendarme Jacques Gambrelli, Inspector Clouseau's illegitimate son by Maria Gambrelli (the murder suspect from A Shot in the Dark). Once again, many former Panther co-stars return. Although intended to relaunch the series with a new lovable bumbling hero, Son became the final installment in the original Panther series.
The Pink Panther 2006 This relaunches a new Pink Panther series starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau and Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. Not a remake of the original film, this forms a new starting point for a contemporary series, introducing the Clouseau and Dreyfus characters along with the famous diamond to a new generation.
The Pink Panther 2 2009 The sequel to Steve Martin's 2006 film. Martin reprises his role, but John Cleese replaces Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

Although the two most recent[when?] Pink Panther films starred Steve Martin, most of the films in the series starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau and were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards. The popular jazz-based theme music was composed by Henry Mancini. In addition to the credits sequences, the theme often accompanies any suspenseful sequence in the first film and in subsequent films using the character.

Mancini's other themes for the first film include an Italian-language set-piece called "Meglio Stasera" whose purpose seems primarily to introduce young actress Fran Jeffries. Portions of an instrumental version also appear in the film's musical score several times. Other segments include "Shades of Sennett", a "honky tonk" piano number introducing the film's climactic chase scene through the streets of Rome. Most of the remaining tracks on the soundtrack album are early 1960s orchestral jazz pieces, matching the style of the era. Although variations of the main theme would be reprised for many of the Pink Panther series entries, as well as the cartoon series, Mancini composed a different theme for A Shot in the Dark that was later adopted by the animated spin-off series, The Inspector.

The Pink Panther of the title is a diamond supposedly containing a flaw which forms the image of a "leaping panther", which can be seen if held up to light in a certain way. This is explained in the beginning of the first film, and the camera zooms in on the diamond to reveal the blurry flaw, which focuses into the Panther (albeit not actually leaping) to start the opening credits sequence (this is also done in Return). The plot of the first film is based on the theft of this diamond. The diamond reappears in five other films in the series (The Return of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. It also comes in the 2006 reintroduction of Inspector Clouseau also called The Pink Panther and its sequel The Pink Panther 2). The name "the Pink Panther" became attached to Inspector Clouseau, in much the same way that Frankenstein has been used in film titles to refer to Dr. Frankenstein's creation or The Thin Man was used in a series of detective films.

A Shot in the Dark, a film which was not originally intended to feature Inspector Clouseau, is the first of two films in the series (the other being Inspector Closeau) that features neither the diamond nor the distinctive animated Pink Panther in the opening credits and ending. Many critics, including Leonard Maltin, regard this film as the best in the series.

In the original Pink Panther movie, the main focus was on David Niven's role as Sir Charles Lytton, the infamous jewel thief nicknamed "the Phantom", and his plan to steal the Pink Panther from its owner. The Inspector Clouseau character plays only a supporting role as Lytton's incompetent antagonist, and provided slapstick comic relief to a movie that was otherwise a subtle, lighthearted crime drama, a somewhat jarring contrast of styles which is typical of Edwards' films. The popularity of Clouseau caused him to become the main character in subsequent Pink Panther films, which were more straightforward slapstick comedies.

Mancini's theme, with variations in arrangement, is used at the start of all but the first two of the subsequent films.

The first five Peter Sellers–Blake Edwards films were released by United Artists. Trail, Curse, and Son were released by MGM/United Artists. DVD rights to The Return of the Pink Panther are now[when?] controlled by Universal Pictures' Focus Features division, in partnership with British production company ITC Entertainment and successor-in-interest ITV Global Entertainment Ltd. Focus Features issued this film on DVD for Region 1.

ITC originally intended to make an Inspector Clouseau television series, but Blake Edwards convinced the production company to back a feature film first, and later a series if the film should prove successful. The film exceeded expectations by becoming the most profitable film of 1975. United Artists quickly bought out ITC's investment and work immediately started on the next feature film.

Although official, the 1968 film Inspector Clouseau is generally not considered by fans to be part of the Pink Panther canon since it did not involve Sellers or Edwards. Some elements of Arkin's performance and costuming, however, were retained when Peter Sellers took back the role for Return in 1975. Despite speculation, Alan Arkin does not appear in Trail of the Pink Panther.

The film that launched the second Pink Panther series, The Pink Panther, starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau, directed by Shawn Levy, and produced by Robert Simonds, was released in February 2006. This is the first Panther film to be released by Columbia Pictures, which co-produced the film with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is set in the present day[when?] and introduces different main characters, therefore belonging to a different continuity. Martin also stars in the sequel, The Pink Panther 2, released in 2009.


Inspector Jacques Clouseau

  • First appearance: The Pink Panther (1963)
  • Appearances: All Panther films except Son of the Pink Panther

Jacques Clouseau is a bumbling simpleton of a policeman and detective. He inexplicably speaks in English with a ludicrous French accent, while other characters speak English, often with their own accents. Clouseau's accent is far less pronounced in the first film; from A Shot in the Dark onwards the exaggerated accent became part of the joke. It has been suggested that portraying the incompetent policeman as French is based on a British stereotype of the French police, or even the French population as a whole.

Peter Sellers, the actor portraying Clouseau, remarked that in his opinion, Clouseau knew he was a buffoon; but Clouseau has an incredible knack for survival. Sheer luck or clumsiness usually saves him. In the first film, a farcical car chase around one of Rome's fountains results in the loud collision of all the vehicles (off-camera, witnessed only by a bemused pedestrian), resulting in the capture of the thieves (both of whom were wearing gorilla costumes). This approach accelerates, with Clouseau falling down stairs; falling into pools and fountains; causing fires and disasters; and even being blown up with bombs repeatedly throughout the series. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, assassins from all over the world are sent to kill Clouseau; he bends down to tie his shoelace, falls over, etc., at just the right moment to ensure that the killers eliminate one another. In Trail of the Pink Panther, we see in one of the flashbacks that during World War II, Clouseau even fought in the French Resistance movement against the German occupation, but the flashbacks again only serve to reiterate the fact that Clouseau can survive anything despite or, perhaps, due to his incompetence.

Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman; his country is professedly his highest priority. He has been prone to infatuation (which is often reciprocated) ever since being cuckolded by Sir Charles Lytton. He is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as "Sir or Madame".

The role was originated and developed by Peter Sellers over the years, but has also been played by Alan Arkin (in Inspector Clouseau), Daniel Peacock and Lucca Mezzofonti as younger versions in flashbacks within Trail of the Pink Panther, Roger Moore (a cameo appearance as Clouseau after plastic surgery at the conclusion of Curse of the Pink Panther), and Steve Martin (in the 2006 Pink Panther film and its 2009 sequel).

Chief Inspector Charles LaRousse Dreyfus

  • First Appearance: A Shot in the Dark (1964)
  • Appearances: All Panther films except the 1963 film and Inspector Clouseau.

Clouseau's superior, Charles Dreyfus, was introduced in A Shot in the Dark, where he held the rank of Commissioner. He is constantly driven to distraction by Clouseau's bungling, to the point where he accidentally stabs himself in the chest with a letter-opener, and eventually is driven murderously insane. In The Return of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus holds the rank of Chief Inspector, instead of Commissioner. As before, he goes crazy by the end of the film, which ends with Dreyfus straitjacketed in a padded cell writing "Kill Clouseau" on the wall with a crayon held between his toes. As in A Shot in the Dark, Dreyfus initially suffers a variety of personal injuries (involving his gun and a cigarette lighter of a similar shape and accidentally cutting off his thumb with a cigar-cutter in the shape of a miniature guillotine) before accidentally strangling his therapist while fantasizing of Clouseau's death and then trying to assassinate Clouseau with a sniper's rifle. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus is about to be released from the asylum after making a complete recovery, but within five minutes of Clouseau's arriving (to speak to the board on Dreyfus' behalf), he suffers a variety of injuries and relapses back into murderous insanity. Dreyfus breaks out of the insane asylum and kidnaps a scientist, forcing him to build a disintegrator ray; the device is then used to intimidate the rest of the world into attempting to assassinate Clouseau. Dreyfus appears to disintegrate at the end of Strikes Again; but subsequently, and without any explanation, he is found in the asylum again at the onset of Revenge of the Pink Panther, and he is allowed to return to his position as Chief Inspector when Clouseau is mistakenly declared dead. Herbert Lom famously gave his character a pronounced tic which occurred when he was under particular stress and an accompanying child-like giggle when plotting Clouseau's murder.

In Son of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus (a Commissioner once again) deals with Clouseau's equally buffoonish son Jacques Gambrelli. Compared to his treatment of Clouseau, Dreyfus is more tolerant of Gambrelli. At the end of the film, Dreyfus weds Clouseau's former lover, Maria Gambrelli (Jacques Gambrelli's mother). At the wedding reception, Dreyfus is shocked to learn that Clouseau and Maria actually conceived twins: Jacques and Jacqueline Gambrelli.

In the 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, Dreyfus (again as Chief Inspector) uses Clouseau as a decoy while he himself attempts to solve the crimes. Dreyfus merely views Clouseau as an idiot, and never attempts to have him killed; whereas Clouseau attacks his employer at one point, mistaking his identity. Later in the film, Dreyfus is dragged accidentally behind Clouseau's Smart Car. Dreyfus ends up in the hospital, where Clouseau's bumbling causes him to fall out of a window. However in the 2009 sequel, Dreyfus plays a much smaller role compared to his role in the previous film. He is also comparatively less hostile towards Clouseau, agreeing to officiate at his wedding in the end.

Dreyfus was played by Herbert Lom in the Blake Edwards films, and by Kevin Kline in the 2006 film. He was played by John Cleese in the 2009 sequel replacing Kline.

Cato Fong

  • First Appearance: A Shot in the Dark (1964)
  • Appearances: All Panther films except the 1963 film, Inspector Clouseau, and the 2006-2009 films.

Cato (spelled "Kato" in A Shot in the Dark) is Clouseau's house boy, and an expert in martial arts. It is unclear whether he believes Clouseau to be a great detective or whether he merely humors him. It is a running joke that he is instructed to unexpectedly attack Clouseau, to keep Clouseau's combat skills and vigilance sharp. Unfortunately, Cato takes these instructions far too seriously, repeatedly ambushing Clouseau in his own house, with hilarious results. If they are interrupted during such an attack (as by a telephone call), Cato ceases to project the image of assailant and becomes a well-disciplined valet.

In later films, Cato helps Clouseau on some cases, including one in Hong Kong. Here, Cato wears glasses to be inconspicuous, but ends up running into various objects because of his now-impaired vision.

In Revenge, Cato, believing his master to be dead, ran a covert brothel in Clouseau's apartment. The password used to get into the brothel was " Inspector Clouseau" which caused a humorous scene when the true Inspector Clouseau showed up. Cato opened another brothel in Curse of the Pink Panther, and converted Clouseau's apartment into a museum featuring all the disguises the inspector had worn over the years.

Cato was played by Burt Kwouk. The role of Cato was offered to Jackie Chan during the relaunch's development. Ultimately, however, the character was scrapped completely, for fear that the Chinese stereotype was too politically incorrect for modern audiences. Cato was replaced by a new character, Gendarme Gilbert Ponton, played by Jean Reno, assigned by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to watch over Clouseau. In a reversal of the setup with Cato, Clouseau often attacks Ponton unexpectedly; Ponton always wins their fights, as opposed to Cato. The fights featuring Cato were always more destructive and longer than those featuring Ponton.


François, Dreyfus' assistant, generally observes his boss's interactions with Clouseau (and subsequent emotional breakdowns) with placid bemusement. André Maranne, a French actor, played François in six Panther films, and in Son of the Pink Panther, he was replaced by Dermot Crowley (as Maranne had died in 1992). He later becomes Clouseau's assistant. In A Shot in the Dark, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther he is referred to as Sergeant François Duval whereas in the three sequels of the 1970s, he is Sergeant François Chevalier. In the 2006 reboot, Philip Goodwin plays a similar character named Renard. Goodwin returned as Renard in the 2009 sequel.

Sir Charles Lytton/The Phantom

"The Phantom" is a jewel thief; Clouseau's archenemy (after Dreyfus) in several of the films; and known to the public as Sir Charles Lytton. He leaves a "calling card" at the scene of every crime: a white glove with a stylized letter "P". He serves as the primary villain of the first film and Clouseau's main target, but at the end, Lytton, with help from Clouseau's wife and a corrupt princess, frames Clouseau for his past robberies and has him temporarily sent to prison, igniting Clouseau's thirst for revenge in the third Sellers/Edwards film, in which the Pink Panther is stolen from a museum in Lugash and Lytton is the main suspect. In the first film he was played by David Niven, and in Return by Christopher Plummer. In later films, an aging and frail Niven made cameo appearances in the role with his voice dubbed by impressionist Rich Little. In these later films, Lytton is supposed to have been married to Clouseau's ex-wife all along (that is, after the events of the first Pink Panther), even though in Return his wife had clearly been a different character, unacquainted with Clouseau prior to that film's events. In The Pink Panther 2, the diamond is stolen by a similar master thief, the Tornado, played by Johnny Hallyday.

Professor Auguste Balls

Professor Auguste Balls is an eccentric shop owner who supplies Clouseau with his numerous disguises. He was portrayed by Graham Stark in Revenge of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther, while Harvey Korman played him in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. Korman was the first actor to portray Balls; however, his scenes in The Pink Panther Strikes Again were cut from the final film, only to be reused in Trail of the Pink Panther six years later.

Professor Balls has a wife, Martha (Liz Smith) and an assistant, Cunny (Danny Schiller).

Homages and references to the films

  • In The Life and Death of Peter Sellers great homage is paid to the character of Clouseau in scenes played by Geoffrey Rush, and also the story covers Sellers' relationship with Blake Edwards, notably where Sellers describes his relationship with Edwards via Clouseau dressed as the Swedish sailor from Revenge of the Pink Panther
  • In the Taiwanese series Hi My Sweetheart, the Pink Panther is an essential point in the series ambient, and appearing a lot of times in the form of plushes or several other items. Also the male protagonist takes the name of "Da lung" in reference to the Pink Panther song.
  • In an episode of the anime series Lupin the Third, entitled "Black Panther" (American-dub title "My Birthday Pursuit"), master criminal and title character Lupin attempts to steal the Black Panther diamond as a birthday gift for his girlfriend/rival Fujiko. Normally, Lupin has to deal with the interfering Inspector Zenigata, but in this episode, Zenigata is aided by a clearly Clouseau-inspired character, Inspector Conaiseau. Conaiseau is even assisted by a Cato-inspired character, Hageito. Also within the episode, Lupin and Conaiseau both infiltrate a nudist colony, much like Clouseau does in A Shot in the Dark. Also, as a note of interest, the Black Panther diamond, when light shines on it at a certain angle, shows within it a black version of the Pink Panther cartoon character. This "toon" seems to give the diamond a life of its own, as whenever it is unexpectedly dropped, the diamond appears to run off like a loose panther, with the "toon" visible to the audience as it does so.
  • In an episode of the animated series Jackie Chan Adventures, entitled "Enter… the Viper", Jackie Chan and his niece Jade must protect the "Pink Puma" diamond from a female jewel thief called Viper.
  • In The Simpsons episode "This Little Wiggy", an announcer on Chief Wiggum's television is heard saying "We now return to The Return of the Pink Panther Returns, starring Ken Wahl as Inspector Clouseau".
  • In The Simpsons season five episode "Homer the Vigilante" the Springfield Cat Burglar character is based on the Phantom. When he burgles the Simpsons house, the background music resembles the Pink Panther music, and he leaves a calling card at the scene of the crime. He steals the world's largest cubic zirconia from a museum, much like the Phantom stealing the Pink Panther diamond. When he is captured he turns out to be a suave, David Niven-like character.
  • In an ad for Apple's iPhone, Inspector Clouseau is seen briefly answering his telephone.
  • Cato appears in the movie Inspector Gadget during the Minions Anonymous meeting.
  • The Team Rocket theme from the Pokémon anime is similar in style and structure to the Pink Panther theme, possibly because of the mischievous nature of Team Rocket's behavior.[citation needed]

Film series statistics

Film Release Date Reception Gross
The Pink Panther December 19, 1963 88% $10,878,107
A Shot in the Dark June 23, 1964 100% $12,368,234
Inspector Clouseau July 19, 1968 N/A N/A
The Return of the Pink Panther May 21, 1975 88% $41,833,347
The Pink Panther Strikes Again December 15, 1976 82% $33,833,201
Revenge of the Pink Panther July 19, 1978 81% $49,579,269
Trail of the Pink Panther December 17, 1982 27% $9,056,073
Curse of the Pink Panther August 12, 1983 23% $4,491,986
Son of the Pink Panther August 27, 1993 18% $2,438,031
The Pink Panther February 10, 2006 23% $158,851,357
The Pink Panther 2 February 6, 2009 13% $75,936,494

The Pink Panther character and animated cartoons

The Pink Panther cartoon character

The opening title sequence of the original 1963 The Pink Panther film was such a success with the United Artists executives that they decided to adapt the title sequence into a series of theatrical animated shorts. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, run by former Warner Bros. Cartoons creators David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng produced the opening sequences, with Freleng as director. United Artists commissioned a long series of The Pink Panther shorts, the first of which, 1964's The Pink Phink, won the 1964 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. By fall 1969, the shorts were being broadcast Saturday mornings on The Pink Panther Show; after 1969, new shorts were produced for both television broadcast and theatrical release. The animated Pink Panther character has also appeared in computer and console video games, as well as advertising campaigns for several companies.


  1. ^ The diamond is called the "Pink Panther" because the flaw at its centre, when viewed closely, is said to resemble a leaping pink panther.

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