The Pink Panther (1963 film)

The Pink Panther is a 1964 American comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and distributed by United Artists. It was written by Maurice Richlin and Blake Edwards. It is the first installment in The Pink Panther franchise. Its story follows inspector Jacques Clouseau as he travels from Rome to Cortina d'Ampezzo to catch a notorious jewel thief known as "The Phantom" before he is able to steal a priceless diamond known as "The Pink Panther". The film stars David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine and Claudia Cardinale.

The Pink Panther
Pink panther63.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBlake Edwards
Produced byMartin Jurow
Screenplay by
Music byHenry Mancini
CinematographyPhilip Lathrop
Edited byRalph E. Winters
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
March 18, 1964
(United States)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$10.9 million (North America)[1]

The film was produced by Martin Jurow and was released on March 18, 1964, it grossed $10.9 million worldwide.[2] It was positively reviewed and has a 90% approval rating based on 31 votes on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

In 2010, the film was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."[4][5]


As a child in Lugash, Princess Dala receives a gift from her father, the Maharajah: the "Pink Panther", the largest diamond in the world. This huge pink gem has an unusual flaw: by looking deeply into the stone, one perceives a tiny discoloration resembling a leaping panther. Twenty years later, Dala (now played by Claudia Cardinale) has been forced into exile following her father's death and the subsequent military takeover of her country. The new government declares her precious diamond the property of the people and petitions the World Court to determine ownership. However, Dala refuses to relinquish it.

Dala goes on holiday at an exclusive ski resort in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Also staying there is English playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven)—who leads a secret life as a jewel thief called "the Phantom"—and has his eyes on the Pink Panther. His brash American nephew George (Robert Wagner) arrives at the resort unexpectedly. George is really a playboy drowning in gambling debts, but poses as a recent college graduate about to enter the Peace Corps so his uncle continues to support his lavish lifestyle.

On the Phantom's trail is French police detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers), whose wife Simone (Capucine) is having an affair with Sir Charles. She has become rich by acting as a fence for the Phantom under the nose of her amorous but oblivious husband. She dodges him while trying to avoid her lover's playboy nephew, who has decided to make the seductive older woman his latest conquest. Sir Charles has grown enamored of Dala and is ambivalent about carrying out the heist. The night before their departure, George accidentally learns of his uncle's criminal activities.

During a costume party at Dala's villa in Rome, Sir Charles and his nephew separately attempt to steal the diamond, only to find it already missing from the safe. The Inspector discovers both men at the crime scene. They escape during the confusion of the evening's climactic fireworks display. A frantic car chase through the streets of Rome ensues. Sir Charles and George are both arrested after all the vehicles collide with one another in the town square.

Later, Simone informs Dala that Sir Charles wished to call off the theft and asks her to help in his defense. Dala then reveals that she stole the diamond herself, to avoid turning it over to the new government of her homeland. However, the Princess is also smitten with Sir Charles and has a plan to save him from prison. At the trial, the defense calls as their sole witness a surprised Inspector Clouseau. The barrister (John Le Mesurier) asks a series of questions that suggest Clouseau himself could be the Phantom. An unnerved Clouseau pulls out his handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from his brow, and the jewel drops from it.

As Clouseau is taken away to prison, he is mobbed by a throng of enamored women. Watching from a distance, Simone expresses regret, but Sir Charles reassures her that when the Phantom strikes again, Clouseau will be exonerated. Sir Charles invites George to join them on the Phantom's next heist in South America. Meanwhile, on the way to prison, the Roman police express their envy that Clouseau is now desired by so many women. They ask him with obvious admiration how he committed all of those crimes; Clouseau considers his newfound fame and replies, "Well, you know... it wasn't easy."

The film ends after the police car carrying Clouseau to prison runs over a traffic warden—the cartoon Pink Panther from the animated opening credits. He gets back up, holding a card reading THE END.


Capucine as Simone Clouseau in the trailer for the film
Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala in the trailer for the film

Cast notes

  • Niven portrayed "Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman", a character resembling the Phantom, in the film Raffles in 1939.


The film was "conceived as a sophisticated comedy about a charming, urbane jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton". Peter Ustinov was "originally cast as Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his faithless wife in league with Lytton".[7] After Gardner backed out because The Mirisch Company would not meet her demands for a personal staff,[8][9] Ustinov also left the project, and Blake Edwards then chose Sellers to replace Ustinov.[7] Janet Leigh turned down the lead female role, as it meant being away from the United States for too long.[10]

The film was initially intended as a vehicle for Niven, as evidenced by his top billing.[11] As Edwards shot the film, employing multiple takes of improvised scenes—it became clear that Sellers, originally considered a supporting actor, was stealing the scenes and thus resulted in his continuation throughout the film's sequels. When presenting at a subsequent Academy Awards ceremony, Niven requested his walk-on music be changed from the "Pink Panther" theme, stating, "That was not really my film."[12][full citation needed]

The film was shot in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Rome and Rocca di Papa; Paris, France; and Los Angeles, U.S., using the Technirama process in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. According to the DVD commentary by Blake Edwards, the chase scene at the piazza (filmed at Piazza della Repubblica in Rocca di Papa) was an homage to a similar sequence 26 minutes into Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940).

Fran Jeffries sang the song "Meglio stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight)" in a scene set around the fireplace of a ski lodge. The song was composed by Henry Mancini, with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Italian lyrics by Franco Migliacci.[9]


The movie was a popular hit, earning estimated North American rentals of $6 million.[13]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Seldom has any comedian seemed to work so persistently and hard at trying to be violently funny with weak material"; he called the script a "basically unoriginal and largely witless piece of farce carpentry that has to be pushed and heaved at stoutly in order to keep on the move."[14] Variety was much more positive, calling the film "intensely funny" and "Sellers' razor-sharp timing ... superlative."[15]

In a 2004 review of The Pink Panther Film Collection, a DVD collection that included The Pink Panther, The A.V. Club wrote:[16]

Because the later movies were identified so closely with Clouseau, it's easy to forget that he was merely one in an ensemble at first, sharing screen time with Niven, Capucine, Robert Wagner and Claudia Cardinale. If not for Sellers' hilarious pratfalls, The Pink Panther could be mistaken for a luxuriant caper movie like Topkapi ... which is precisely what makes the movie so funny. It acts as the straight man, while Sellers gets to play mischief-maker.

The film holds an approval rating of 88% on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 32 reviews with an average rating of 7.32/10.[17] The website’s critical consensus says: “Peter Sellers is at his virtuosically bumbling best in The Pink Panther, a sophisticated caper blessed with an unforgettably slinky score by Henry Mancini.”.

The American Film Institute listed The Pink Panther as No. 20 in its 100 Years of Film Scores.


The Pink Panther
Soundtrack album by
RecordedSeptember 16–18, 1963
LabelRCA Victor
ProducerJoe Reisman

The soundtrack album was released on RCA Victor, and consisted of music composed, conducted, and arranged by Henry Mancini, performed by his orchestra. In 2001, the soundtrack album was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. In 2005, the score was listed at #20 on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.

The distinctive tenor saxophone of Plas Johnson is heard on the main title theme music.

Track listingEdit

Side one
1."The Pink Panther Theme"Henry Mancini2:37
2."It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)" (instrumental version)Henry Mancini1:46
3."Royal Blue"Henry Mancini3:11
4."Champagne and Quail"Henry Mancini2:45
5."The Village Inn"Henry Mancini2:36
6."The Tiber Twist"Henry Mancini2:50
Side two
1."It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)" (vocal version)Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer1:57
2."Cortina"Henry Mancini1:55
3."The Lonely Princess"Henry Mancini2:28
4."Something for Sellers"Henry Mancini2:49
5."Piano and Strings"Henry Mancini2:38
6."Shades of Sennett"Henry Mancini1:26

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "The Pink Panther (1963)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Pink Panther". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  3. ^ The Pink Panther (1963), retrieved 2020-02-14
  4. ^ Morgan, David (December 28, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back' among 25 film registry picks". CBS News. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
  5. ^ Barnes, Mike (December 28, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b "The Pink Panther (1964): Overview". Turner Classic Movies. WarnerMedia. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  8. ^ Thomas, Bob (November 17, 1962). "Stars' Salaries The Biggest Gripe". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Associated Press. p. 5. Retrieved September 2, 2010 – via Google News.
  9. ^ a b The Pink Panther at the American Film Institute Catalog
  10. ^ Barnes, David (1997). "Janet Leigh Interview". Retrosellers. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011.
  11. ^ Morley, Sheridan (1985). The Other Side Of The Moon: The Life of David Niven. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060154707.
  12. ^ Neal Gabler, opening comments from Reel Thirteen, WNET-TV.
  13. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964". Variety. Penske Business Media. January 6, 1965. p. 39. Retrieved July 17, 2018. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
  14. ^ Crowther, Bosley (April 24, 1964). "Screen: Sellers Chases a Jewel Thief; Pink Panther' Opens at Music Hall". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  15. ^ Variety Staff (December 31, 1963). "The Pink Panther". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  16. ^ Tobias, Scott (April 5, 2004). "The Pink Panther Film Collection". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  17. ^ "The Pink Panther (1963)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 17, 2018.

Further reading

External linksEdit