Inspector Jacques Clouseau ([ʒak klu.zo]) is a fictional character in Blake Edwards's farcical The Pink Panther series. He is portrayed by Peter Sellers in the original series, and also by Alan Arkin in the 1968 film Inspector Clouseau and, in a cameo, by Roger Moore (credited as Turk Thrust II) in the 1983 film Curse of the Pink Panther. In the 2006 remake and its 2009 sequel, he is played by Steve Martin.
|Inspector Jacques Clouseau|
|The Pink Panther and The Inspector character|
|First appearance||The Pink Panther|
Clouseau's likeness also appears in the Pink Panther animated cartoon shorts and segments and was known as "the Inspector". More recent animated depictions from the 1970s onward were redesigned to more closely resemble Sellers, and later Martin.
Clouseau is an inept and incompetent police detective in the French Sûreté, whose investigations quickly turn to chaos. His absent-mindedness almost always leads to destruction of property: while interviewing witnesses in The Pink Panther Strikes Again, he falls down a set of stairs, gets his hand caught in a medieval knight's gauntlet, then a vase; knocks a witness senseless, destroys a priceless piano, and accidentally causes a Scotland Yard superintendent to be shot in the backside. Despite his lack of judgment and skill, Clouseau always solves his cases and finds the correct culprits, entirely by accident. He is promoted to Chief Inspector over the course of the series, and is regarded by background characters as France's greatest detective...until they encounter him directly. His incompetence, combined with his luck and his sometimes correct interpretations of the situation, frustrate his direct superior (former Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus) so intensely that he is quickly transformed into a homicidal psychotic fixated on eliminating Clouseau. Clouseau appears convinced of his own expertise and intelligence, but does show some awareness of his limits, and attempts to appear elegant and refined regardless of the latest calamity he has just caused. For example, in The Pink Panther Strikes Again he carries a bag of groceries toward his apartment but, while walking through a common hallway in the building, the bag breaks and releases a granular substance onto the floor. Just then a neighbor appears from a nearby doorway and sees Clouseau and the mess on the hallway floor. Clouseau sees the neighbor and, in a pathetic effort to make it appear that the mess on the floor was not accidental, Clouseau begins to dance on the mess as if he is deliberately rehearsing a "soft shoe" shuffle. As a police detective, Clouseau also insists upon wearing elaborate disguises and aliases that range from the mundane (a worker for the phone company) to the ludicrously preposterous (a buck-toothed hunchback with an oversize nose); but even in these ridiculous disguises he can't hide his characteristic inanity.
Chief Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman; later films reveal he had fought in the French Resistance during the Second World War. He has been prone to infatuation (often reciprocated) ever since the first film, in which his antagonist cuckolds him. He is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as "Sir or Madam". Sellers maintained that Clouseau's ego made the character's klutziness funnier, in the attempt to remain elegant and refined while causing chaos. As rendered by Sellers, Clouseau's faux French accent became more exaggerated in successive films (for example, pronouncing "room" as "reum"; "Pope" as "Peup"; "bomb" as "beumb"; and "bumps" as "beumps" or "bimps"), and a frequent running gag in the movies was that even French characters had difficulty understanding what he was saying. Much of that humour was lost in the French dubbing, wherein the French post-synchronization gave Clouseau an odd-sounding, nasal voice. Clouseau's immense ego, eccentricity, exaggerated French accent, and prominent mustache were derived from Hercule Poirot, the fictional Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. In his earliest appearances, Clouseau is slightly less inept and exaggerated; but in his first appearance he believes himself a skilled violinist, but plays out of tune, and often appears clumsy at his moments of highest dignity.
The Pink Panther (1963)
Jacques Clouseau makes his first appearance as the Inspector in the 1963 film The Pink Panther, which was released in the United States in March 1964. In this 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 diamond; while the Clouseau character plays a supporting role as Lytton's incompetent antagonist, and provides slapstick comic relief. In this film, Clouseau's wife Simone (Capucine), is secretly Sir Charles's lover and accomplice, and departs with him at the end of the film after they have framed Clouseau for the theft of the Pink Panther, although Lytton notes that he will clear Clouseau's name when the Phantom's next crime is committed.
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
A Shot in the Dark (1964) was based upon a stage play that originally did not include the Clouseau character. In this film, Sellers began to develop the exaggerated French accent that later became a hallmark of the character. The film also introduces two of the series regular characters: his superior, Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), who is driven mad by Clouseau's blundering of the investigation; and his long-suffering Chinese manservant, Cato (Burt Kwouk), who is expected to improve Clouseau's martial arts skills by attacking him at random.
Sellers stepped away from playing the character following this movie, but returned in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) and its sequels.
Inspector Clouseau (1968)
When the character returned for the film Inspector Clouseau (1968), he was portrayed by American actor Alan Arkin; Edwards was not involved in this production. The film's title credits, animated by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, feature their Inspector character from the series of short cartoons under that name.
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)
The 1968 film does appear to have influenced the Clouseau character when Sellers returned to the role in 1975's The Return of the Pink Panther, particularly in the character's mode of dress. According to DVD liner notes for Return of the Pink Panther, Sellers and Edwards originally planned to produce a British television series centered on Clouseau, but this film was made instead. The opening credits were animated by Richard Williams, featuring Clouseau once again seeking to retrieve the Pink Panther diamond after it is stolen by someone posing as the Phantom, Sir Charles Lytton. The roles of Sir Charles and Lady Lytton are recast, now played by Christopher Plummer and Catherine Schell (with Schell actually playing a different Lady Lytton than Capucine's Simone).
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again continues the story from the end of The Return of the Pink Panther, featuring the now insane Dreyfus creating a crime syndicate and constructing a doomsday weapon with the intention of using it to blackmail the world to kill Clouseau. Unused footage from this film was used to include Sellers in Trail of the Pink Panther. The opening credits were again animated by Richard Williams.
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
After the success of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Edwards and Sellers reunited for their final film, Revenge of the Pink Panther, which ignores Dreyfus's "death" in the previous film (and his attempt to blackmail the world) and has Clouseau investigating a plot to kill him after a transvestite criminal is killed in his place. The movie was a box office success and led to several more films after Sellers died in 1980; biographies of Sellers such as Peter Sellers—A Celebration reveal that he was involved in the pre-production of another Clouseau film, The Romance of the Pink Panther, at the time of his death.
Trail of The Pink Panther (1982)
Blake Edwards attempted to continue telling Clouseau's story despite losing his lead actor. The 1982 film Trail of the Pink Panther utilized outtakes and alternative footage of Sellers as Clouseau in a new storyline in which a reporter (played by Joanna Lumley) investigates Clouseau's disappearance. In the process, she interviews characters from past Clouseau films (including the Lyttons, played by the returning David Niven and Capucine), and also meets Clouseau's equally inept father (played by Richard Mulligan).
Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)
The immediate sequel to Trail, Curse of the Pink Panther, reveals that Clouseau underwent plastic surgery to change his appearance; the character appears on screen briefly in the form of a joke cameo appearance by Roger Moore, billed as "Turk Thrust II". David Niven and Capucine again reprise their original Pink Panther roles as the Lyttons, now also joined by the returning Robert Wagner as nephew George Lytton. Neither Trail nor Curse were box office moneymakers, and the series was retired for about a decade due to a long suing session between Edwards and MGM over the films release date.
Son of the Pink Panther (1993)
Despite the failure of Curse, Edwards attempted to revive the series a decade later with Son of the Pink Panther, in which it is revealed that Clouseau had illegitimate children by Maria Gambrelli (played by Elke Sommer in A Shot in the Dark, although recast in this film as Claudia Cardinale, who played the Princess in The Pink Panther). Clouseau's son, Jacques Jr., was portrayed by Roberto Benigni, and has a twin sister, Jacqueline, played by Nicoletta Braschi. Jacques Jr. attempts to follow in his father's police footsteps, but is revealed to have inherited his ineptitude. Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk made their final appearances as Dreyfus and Cato in this film.
The Pink Panther (2006)
Steve Martin's portrayal of Clouseau in the reboot 2006 film has Clouseau as a bumbling Gendarme hired by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to serve as the visible investigator into a high-publicity murder, so that Dreyfus can carry out his own investigation without risking repercussions of failure; but Martin's Clouseau is considerably older than Sellers's, and although the 2006 film was placed prior to the events of the first Pink Panther film, the time frame has been advanced to the present day. Although foolish, Martin's Clouseau is able to locate the Pink Panther diamond and solve the case by knowledge, and observation, of obscure data. A running gag in this and the following film has Clouseau randomly attacking his partner, Gilbert Ponton, only to be countered each time. This is similar to a gag in the original films with Clouseau's original sidekick Cato Fong, although this gag was reversed with Cato attacking Clouseau.
The Pink Panther 2 (2009)
When a series of rare and historical artifacts are stolen by the mysterious Il Tornado, Clouseau is assigned to a "dream team" of international investigators to recover the artifacts and the Pink Panther. Despite appearing to be bumbling and clumsy as usual, Clouseau once again displays surprising cleverness through his unorthodox methods. For example, he replaces the Pink Panther with a near perfect fake, reasoning that if The Tornado were the culprit, he would have been able to tell that the Pink Panther was a fake. He also causes several problems for Dreyfus, as usual. The film culminates in his marriage to Nicole Durant, Dreyfus's secretary.
Portrayers in film
- The Pink Panther (1963)
- A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) – the fourth film chronologically
- The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
- Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
- Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) – released posthumously; utilized unused footage from previous films
- Son of the Pink Panther (1993) – in photographs; the ninth film chronologically
- Inspector Clouseau (1968) – the third film chronologically
- Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) – cameo appearance; the eighth film chronologically