The Pink Panther is a classic in more than one sense. When we hear the name Pink Panther, we all probably immediately jump to that famous theme song that we have all hummed in one context or another. Most people who were kids in the 70s, 80s, and 90s will also immediately recall The Pink Panther as an iconic Saturday morning cartoon character. But it’s so much more than that. The cartoon came to be as a spin-off of the wildly successful film franchise which began in 1963. It introduced Inspector Clouseau, possibly the most prominent figure of both 1960s slapstick comedy and bumbling detectives. As portrayed by Peter Sellers, he’s a character whose face we just can’t forget (unless we’ve recently seen Lolita (1962) and are therefore trying to forget it because, well, yeesh!).
Sustainability, staying-quality, timelessness – call it what you will, The Pink Panther is a treasure that is not soon to be forgotten. The original film went on to spawn eight sequels, a number of animated short films, and a cartoon series. Then there was the rather unfortunate Steve Martin reboot, which produced two of its own films that most fans entirely dismiss. In 2014, there was talk of another reboot that would utilize live-action and animation, but so far nothing concrete has come of this. But that’s okay – there’s enough Pink Panther material to keep us laughing for decades to come. Here are 15 fun facts about the franchise of which you may not be aware.
15. David Niven’s Character Was Originally The Star
The Pink Panther was originally conceived as a story about a jewel thief who was having an affair with the wife of the detective pursuing him. First, David Niven was cast as the thief. Next, Peter Sellers was cast as Detective Jacques Clouseau, and everything changed. Sellers began improvising some scenes with director Blake Edwards, and The Pink Panther began to take on a life of its own, with Sellers as its oxygen. The role of the detective was greatly expanded, with the role of the thief greatly diminishing. By the time the film hit the big screen, it had turned into a Clouseau story. It was the film that turned Sellers into a star. Meanwhile, Niven was being a bit of a sore loser. He had, after all, expected the film to be his own ticket to stardom. At The Oscars that year, Niven requested the theme music not be played during his entrance.
14. Peter Sellers Nearly Died Getting Into Shape
Though Sellers had been around in Hollywood prior to The Pink Panther, he saw snagging the leading role in this film as an opportunity to reinvent himself as a handsome leading man. Actually, it was a bit of an obsession for him. He had been somewhat overweight throughout his whole life and didn’t have a traditional leading man face. Looking to get into shape, Sellers began abusing diet pills. This dangerous behavior is likely the reason he suffered a series of heart attacks leading up to the film’s release. He is also rumored to have had his teeth straightened and capped. Handsome or not, Sellers definitely made a name for himself through the franchise and went on to star in four more Pink Panther films.
13. David Niven’s Unfortunate Groin Frostbite
In order to better perform on the slopes in the ski scene, a producer suggested Niven take an afternoon off to practice. Not realizing the ski suit he would be wearing on set was more for show than realism, Niven opted to wear it while practicing. It was a lot thinner than what one would typically wear in freezing conditions and did not hold up. Halfway down the hill, he began noticing symptoms of frostbite in his genital area. He hurried to the bottom of the hill, cupping his groin. He was then ushered into the hotel and told to dip his “pale blue acorn” (as he called it in his autobiography) into a glass of whiskey until it thawed. Presumably, he always dressed weather-appropriate thereafter.
12. The Bubble Bath Scene Burned And Blinded
Nothing looks more luxurious and relaxing than a big screen bubble bath. The more bubbles, the better. Our minds probably all immediately jump to Scarface, but there’s are a number of other famous bubble bath scenes, such as The Lost Boys, and Pretty Woman. But The Pink Panther has a pretty memorable one, as well. If for no other reason – because the actors suffered for it. An industrial foaming agent was used to make those magnificently full-bodied bubbles, and as a result, Wagner and Capucine got chemical burns. Wagner also had to go underwater for the scene, a moment which led to temporary blindness. So, if you’ve ever wondered why your baths just don’t seem as foamy as Mrs. Clouseau’s, don’t sweat it!
11. The Animated Pink Panther Took On An Unexpected Life
As you may recall, the title The Pink Panther has nothing to do with an animated cat. The film is actually named for the coveted jewel central to the film’s plot. As a unique flaw, if you hold the pink diamond under the light at just the right angle, we are told, you can see a cat. As a play on this, the opening credits featured an animated pink panther that would go on to become a very familiar face to the public. The sequel, A Shot In The Dark, is the only film in the franchise that does not feature this opening quirk. It had been being written before the first film hit theaters, and the producers had been unaware of how popular that little cat was going to become.
10. The Pink Panther Was A Short Film Before It Was A TV Cartoon
Due to the colossal popularity of the animated cat in the opening sequence of the first film, the production studio immediately commissioned a series of animated short films. The first one, aptly titled “The Pink Panther,” won the 1964 Academy Award for the Best Animated Short. In it, the panther sabotages the plans of a housepainter, The Little Man. Knowing he wants to paint the house blue, the panther paints it pink. Simple, but effective. This prompted the legacy we all know and love today. A grand total of 124 animated shorts were produced between 1964 and 1980, with 92 being released theatrically. Eventually, they all appears on The Pink Panther Show, a Saturday morning cartoon that began in 1969. All of the made-for-TV cartoons were part of The All New Pink Panther Show. These were also eventually released in theaters, between 1978 and 1980.
9. Sellers Wrote Romance of The Pink Panther But It Never Got Made
Peter Sellers co-penned a script with Moloney titled, Romance of the Pink Panther, and submitted a draft of it in 1979. It would follow Clouseau falling in love with “The Frog”, a daring cat burglar. At the end, he was to retire from the police force, marrying The Frog and joining her in a life of crime. Clive Donner signed on to direct in 1980, and Sellers and Moloney completed a rewrite of the script just days before Sellers’ sudden death of heart failure. Dudley Moore was asked to replace Sellers as Clouseau in the new film, but he declined. Ultimately, the studio ended up producing Trail of the Pink Panther in 1982. It functioned as a transitional film and incorporated outtakes of Sellers from the 1976 film, The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
8. Not All Of The Films Feature A Diamond-Theft Plot
Though “Pink Panther” (which refers to a diamond with a unique flaw) is a term used in most of the movie titles, only six of the eleven stories actually feature the diamond theft plot. These are: The Pink Panther, The Return Of The Pink Panther, Trail Of The Pink Panther, Curse Of The Pink Panther, the remake The Pink Panther, and the remakes’ sequel Pink Panther 2. The second film, A Shot in the Dark, is the only film that does not feature “Pink Panther” in the title, or the animated panther in the opening sequence. This is likely because it had been being worked on while the first film was in production, and the producers were unaware of how iconic The Pink Panther would become. Apparently, it was not even originally meant to reuse the Clouseau character!
7. The 1 ½ Hour Animated Special Was Terribly Received
Throughout the 1970s, the popularity of The Pink Panther continued to grow. Several more films had been released, and NBC was airing the Pink Panther animated series as part of the regular Saturday morning cartoon line-up. The cartoon was a massive hit, and the animated panther had himself achieved stardom. Deciding to bank on the ongoing success, NBC sought to expand. Hence, in 1976, The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show was born. No, it’s not just you – that’s a mouthful! And maybe the title wasn’t the only problem because the event absolutely bombed. The length was padded with live-action segments that featured a comedian telling kid-approved jokes. In 1977, NBC hurried back to the 30-minute fully animated format.
6. The Last Cartoon Was Produced in 1980
After the failed 90-minute format, the cartoon returned to its original 30-minute format and it stayed that way until 1980 when the last cartoon was produced. After 1980, the series was syndicated and began airing on various channels. This final episode was titled “Supermarket Pink” and it featured the Pink Panther being pursued by an employee (The Little Man) at the supermarket. There was, however, an animated special produced in 1981. “Pink at First Sight” was the last of three such specials and the only one to be produced by Marvel Productions. The special celebrated Valentine’s day and features the Pink Panther getting himself into trouble with a jealous husband after he steals the heart of his wife.
5. Two Pink Panther Films Featured Animation By Marvel Productions
Both Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) feature opening and closing credits animated by Marvel Productions. This was a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment Group circa 1981-1996 (later renamed New World Animation). It produced animation for a variety of cartoons and movies, including the 1980s The Incredible Hulk series, and The Transformers: The Movie. In Curse of the Pink Panther, the studio delivered a simple, yet punchy, post-credit scene. In it, the panther steals the famous jewel but realizes it’s too heavy to carry. He slips off-screen, and the sound of the diamond dropping and shattering is heard.
4. Janet Leigh Turned Down The Lead Female Role In The First Film
The role of Simone Clouseau took some time to cast. The director’s first choice was Ava Gardner, but he reconsidered after she demanded her own villa, a personal chauffeur and hairdresser, and that the production be moved from Rome to Madrid. After firing Gardner, he set his eyes on Psycho star, Janet Leigh. She ended up turning down the role because the Rome shoot would take her away from her new husband, and require her to pull her two children (one of whom is the now famous actress Jaime-Lee Curtis) out of school. Finally, Audrey Hepburn recommended French actress/model Capucine, and she became Mrs. Clouseau. The Pink Panther is just one notch in her legacy. Sadly, the famed beauty committed suicide in 1990, at the age of 57. Meanwhile, Leigh did not star in any films in 1963 but returned to the big screen in 1966 after only a short hiatus.
3. The Original Sequel Remains The Best Pink Panther Film
Despite the commercial and critical success achieved by the original film, its sequel, A Shot In The Dark, is the most-well-received. It far exceeded its predecessor – even without the pink panther diamond… or cartoon. It’s one of those very rare occasions in which a sequel outdoes an original, making it all the more notable. Sellers reprised the role of Clouseau for the first time in it, this time, investigating a murder. Although it did not feature the famed diamond, the animated cat was featured on the cover of the eventual video release. The film holds 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was a greater commercial success than The Pink Panther.
2. The Pink Panther Reboot Bombed
What do you get when you mix a classic slapstick film franchise with an acclaimed comedian who holds an Honorary Academy Award? Garbage, apparently. Film critic Roger Ebert tore the 2006 remake apart, giving it 1.5 stars. He stated: “I had rather not see Steve Martin, who is himself inimitable, imitating Sellers.” The plot was recognizable: the coach of a French soccer team is killed, and his famous Pink Panther ring goes missing; the characters were just way off – and what was Beyonce doing there? That was, well, confusing. Despite the evidenced failure, a sequel was produced in 2009… And also bombed. Not surprisingly, it was even LESS well-received. Holding a whopping 12% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s the epitome of poor judgment. Read the room guys!
1. Altogether, The Pink Panther Films Have Grossed $165 Million
The original film franchise was made up of nine films, but there has also been a two-film reboot and a cartoon legacy. Give the people what they want, and you shall be rich. That $165 million is not even adjusted for inflation. It didn’t matter that Peter Sellers was previously best known for his oh-so-creepy role as Clare Quilty in Lolita, it didn’t matter that the thief was the intended lead role – Sellers’s Clouseau stole the hearts of the director, producers, and viewers alike. He became the heart of The Pink Panther (alongside that little cartoon cat), and people just kept going back for more. His death was a tragic blow for the film franchise, which cobbled together unused footage of him to piece together the unfortunate 1982 film, Trail of the Pink Panther. But hey, they tried. Altogether, he starred in eight of the films and will forever be remembered as the bumbling detective that never gave up.
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