Liz Smith: Remembering The Classics of Blake Edwards

Blake Edwards

And more from our Liz: Ryan and Scarlett did somebody stray? …. Vanessa Redgrave’s “Daisy” extended on Broadway

“YOU CAN always tell what kind of a person a man thinks you are by the earrings he gives you. I must say, the mind reels!”

That was Audrey Hepburn in her most iconic role—Holly Golightly, the chic but slightly shady heroine of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” directed by Blake Edwards.

Mr. Edwards died last week, leaving his wife, Julie Andrews and five children. Had Mr. Edwards directed only “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” he’d still have a place in film history, given the commercial and pop culture success of that movie. (Audrey in her little black dress sets the standard for elfin elegance, even today.)

But of course, Mr. Edwards had many successes to his credit, including the famous collaboration with Peter Sellers on the “Pink Panther” movies, stark drama such as “Experiment in Terror” and “Days of Wine and Roses,” and the cross-dressing classic “Victor/Victoria” (This smash hit garnered Oscar nominations for his wife, Miss Andrews, for Lesley Ann Warren as the perpetually shrieking and frustrated showgirl, and for Robert Preston, as “Toddy”— the gay nightclub owner.)

Director Edwards elevated Bo Derek and her cornrows to instant (if relatively fleeting) international fame in “10” and stuck it to Hollywood in “S.O.B,” in which he persuaded Julie Andrews to bare her pert, perfect breasts.

In fact, “S.O.B” came about because of another Blake Edwards/Julie Andrews movie, 1970’s “Darling Lili.” This musical, co-starring Rock Hudson, was charming, if rather lengthy. (And hugely expensive.) It turned out to be a great big flop, and pretty much put the kibosh on Julie’s days as a major box office star—which were already teetering. The magnetic pull of her wholesome image peaked with “The Sound of Music.” Times had changed.

Industry reaction to the film—and to Edwards himself–was so brutally negative that the director vowed to show up the money-mad phonies in Hollywood, and wrote a script based on his own bitter experiences after the failure of “Darling Lili.” “S.O.B” was a hit, and probably Blake Edward’s wittiest film. (Edwards also did a lot of sharp, tough writing for TV series such as “Richard Diamond: Private Detective” and “Peter Gunn.”)

On December 27, Turner Classic Movies will pay tribute to Blake’s career, running six of his movies consecutively. Our condolences to his children and to his divine, and incredibly devoted wife of 41 years, Miss Andrews. (In real life, Julie has a salty tongue and a strong personality. One criticized her husband’s films at their peril.)

* * *

THE BOX-OFFICE lure of Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines has encouraged the producers of the Broadway revival, “Driving Miss Daisy” to extend the show through April 9th and issue a statement: “The overwhelming response to this production has been beyond our expectations.” Playwright Alfred Uhry remarked that this production and cast have been “a dream.”

So, you don’t have to rush to the Golden Theater on West 45th street for tickets. But walking briskly is still advised. April will be here before you know it.

* * *

OH, DEAR! Only a couple of days ago we remarked on the civil and scandal-free upcoming divorce of Scarlett Johannson and Ryan Reynolds. Now there are rumors that Mr. Reynolds had a fling with his “Green Lantern” co-star Blake Lively. No comment from any of the parties, natch. It’s just none of our business.

Scarlett is resting in Jamaica at an ultra-exclusive resort, with several girlfriends. All very “Sex and the City.”

P.S. Ryan Reynolds’ rep has officially denied that Miss Blake Lively had anything to do with the separation. Whew! My faith is restored. And we also hear that Miss Scarlett and Mr. Reynolds had a “friendly” dinner in New York City on Friday. Let’s not get our hopes up, but still…

* * *

IN BRITAIN, there is raging success on TV titled “Downtown Abbey,” a kind of “Upstairs, Downstairs” for years 2000 plus. This TV show had Britons staying home at night in droves. And it is returning to help snow-smothered Brits forget their troubles on Boxing Day. (That’s the day after Christmas, in case you have forgotten.)

So, I ask, can U.S. networks and or cable let themselves fall behind? Hey, HBO, what about it?

Incidentally, if you remember the English class wars that have pitted the aristocracy against the “little people” for decades under the Union Jack, just think back one minute to the long ago past, in 1971. At that time, “Upstairs, Downstairs” ran for 68 episodes. It was seen by billions of people all over the world, except in Russia where they thought it was an evil idea.

Today, Russia is the most class-conscious country in the world. Either you’re a member of the Russian oligarchy (some say Mafia) or you are a nobody.

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Just as a conductor takes the notes of a composer and turns them into a masterpiece, a director takes a storyline and the words of writers and turns them into a masterpiece and sometimes conductors and directors in the process become masterpieces as well.  Blake Edwards was definitely a masterpiece. As is his wife who is not really so salty or strong but merely spontaneously expressive as someone put it once about someone else equally seemingly salty and strong. Their finest work was their marriage which was one of the rare marriages of Hollywood that not only worked but lasted.  A toast to that as well as condolences.

  2. avatar Bonnie O says:

    A comedic film with a twist is Sunset staring Bruce Willis and James Garner.  And, yes, Garner is Wyatt Eyrp in 1920s Hollywood.  Willis plays Tom Mix.  Although this Blake Edward’s film received little recognition …. I liked it very much.  May he rest in peace.

  3. avatar Andy Budgell says:

    For anyone who is interested, “Downton Abbey” will premiere in North America on PBS in January. I’m looking forward to it as I love Maggie Smith.
    I’m really hoping to get to see “Driving Miss Daisy” before it concludes its run in April. I love Vanessa and still haven’t had a chance to see her onstage. I got to see James Earl Jones with Dame Elizabeth in “Love Letters” but I always said that I’d need to see him again because I don’t think I took my eyes off Elizabeth once!

    Happy Holidays, Miss Smith! I hope you’re feeling better.

    • avatar Jay Gentile says:

      Thank you so much for the head’s up. I bought U/D on DVD — the whole mammoth collection — and I’m interested in this British import too. Happy Holidays!