The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther is a British- American media franchise primarily focusing on a series of comedy-mystery films featuring an inept French police detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The franchise began with the release of the classic Pink Panther film in 1963. The role of Clouseau was originated by and is most closely associated with Peter Sellers. Most of the films were written and directed by Blake Edwards, with theme music composed by Henry Mancini. Elements and characters inspired by the films were adapted into other media, including books, comic books and animated series.

The Pink Panther
The Pink Panther animated character is often used to represent the franchise
Created byMaurice Richlin
Blake Edwards
Original workThe Pink Panther (1963)
Films and television
Short film(s)See List of The Pink Panther cartoons and List of The Inspector cartoons
Animated series
Television special(s)
Video game(s)
Original music"The Pink Panther Theme"
"Meglio stasera"

The first film in the series derives its name from the eponymous pink diamond that has an enormous size and value. The diamond is called the "Pink Panther" because the flaw at its center, when viewed closely, is said to resemble a leaping pink panther. 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 centre of the plot. The phrase was used for all the subsequent films in the series, even when the jewel did not figure in the plot. The jewel ultimately appeared in six of the eleven films.

The first film in the series had an animated opening sequence, created by DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, featuring "The Pink Panther Theme" by Mancini, as well as the Pink Panther character. This character, designed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng, was subsequently the subject of his own series of animated cartoons which gained its highest profile 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.

Original film series

The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther (1963), the original film of the series, centred on the Phantom/Sir Charles Lytton, portrayed by David Niven. Peter Sellers's performance was so popular that the resulting series was built on the Clouseau character, rather than the Phantom character. Niven's and Sellers's co-stars included Capucine, Robert Wagner, and Claudia Cardinale.

A Shot in the Dark

A Shot in the Dark (1964) was released less than a year after The Pink Panther, and was the first to feature the Clouseau character as the main protagonist of the film, investigating a murder. This film marked the first appearance of many of the tropes and supporting characters long associated with the series, including Commissioner Dreyfus (portrayed by Herbert Lom), his assistant François (portrayed by André Maranne), and Clouseau's manservant, Cato (portrayed by Burt Kwouk). It also co-starred Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Graham Stark, Tracy Reed and Douglas Wilmer.

Inspector Clouseau

The 1968 film Inspector Clouseau stars Alan Arkin as Clouseau, and does not feature any other recurring characters from the rest of the series. Although it was produced by the Mirisch Corporation (who owned the rights to the character), few people associated with the earlier films such as Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards, and composer Henry Mancini were involved in the making of this film; as a result, Inspector Clouseau is not usually considered a true Pink Panther film.

The Return of the Pink Panther

More than a decade after his previous portrayal, Peter Sellers returned as Clouseau in 1975's The Return of the Pink Panther. The film marked the return of the famous "Pink Panther" diamond as well as most of the creative team associated with the prior films, including director Blake Edwards, composer Henry Mancini, Herbert Lom as Dreyfus and Burt Kwouk as Cato. David Niven did not reprise the role of Sir Charles Lytton; Lytton is portrayed by Christopher Plummer; the film also co-starred Catherine Schell, Peter Arne, and Graham Stark.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again

In The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Dreyfus' insanity reached its zenith, as he tried to blackmail the rest of the world into killing Clouseau. With co-stars Leonard Rossiter, Lesley-Anne Down and Colin Blakely, and featuring a cameo by Omar Sharif.

Revenge of the Pink Panther

Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) pitted Clouseau against the French Connection. It is the last in which Sellers played Clouseau. He died two years after its release. With co-stars Robert Webber, Dyan Cannon, Tony Beckley and Robert Loggia.

The Romance of the Pink Panther

The Romance of the Pink Panther was to be the 6th film in the franchise, to be written by Peter Sellers.[1] Due to hostility between Sellers and Blake Edwards, Edwards would not have directed the film. The basic plot was to involve Inspector Clouseau becoming smitten with a cat burglar called "The Frog", played by Pamela Stephenson.[2] Two drafts were written before Sellers' death, each with different endings. Shortly afterwards, it was suggested that Dudley Moore should play Clouseau, but Blake Edwards chose to introduce a new character in the series to replace Clouseau.

Trail of the Pink Panther

Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) was the first Pink Panther film made after Peter Sellers' death in 1980. Sellers' role is created by using scenes cut from Strikes Again as well as flashbacks from the previous Pink Panther films. This movie was intended as a tribute to Sellers, but after its release, Sellers' widow Lynne Frederick successfully sued Edwards and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for tarnishing her late husband's memory. David Niven and Capucine reprise their original roles from the first Pink Panther film. Trail was a critical and commercial failure.

Curse of the Pink Panther

1983's Curse of the Pink Panther is the first to feature a different lead character, bungling American detective, Sgt. Clifton Sleigh, portrayed by Ted Wass. Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther diamond, both of which had gone missing in Trail, are pursued by Sleigh. Clouseau returns, after having plastic surgery to disguise his identity, in a cameo played by Roger Moore (who is credited as Turk Thrust II). Although intended to spawn a new series of misadventures for Sergeant Sleigh, the film's dismal box-office performance and critical drubbing, along with a series of back-and-forth suing between MGM and Edwards led to a decade-long hiatus of the series. This was eventually settled out of court in 1988, around the time Edwards came up with one final film idea that would ultimately become the unofficial series finale.

Son of the Pink Panther

In 1993's Son of the Pink Panther, Blake Edwards tried one last time to revive the series, this time by casting Roberto Benigni as 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 – Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, and Graham Stark, and a star of the original 1963 film, Claudia Cardinale. Although intended to relaunch the series with the bumbling Jacques as a lead, Son failed critically and commercially and became the final installment in the original Pink Panther series. It was also the final film for both Edwards and composer Henry Mancini, the former retiring from directing, writing, and producing, and the latter passing away the following year.

Reboot film series

The Pink Panther (2006)

This reboot launches a new series starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau and Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. Not a remake of the original film, it 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. This, like the one before it, was heavily panned by critics. Unlike the 2006 film, however, it also failed to find an audience, which led to the indefinite cancellation of the short-lived reboot.


20th century film series

Most of the films in the series starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau and were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards. The 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.

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 cartoon Panther (though 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 several later films in the series, The Return of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther, and Curse of the Pink Panther. It also appears in the revival of the Inspector Clouseau character in the much later Steve Martin films The Pink Panther (2006), and its sequel The Pink Panther 2 (2009). 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 Clouseau, is the first of two films in the series (the other being Inspector Clouseau) 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 film, released in 1963, the main focus was on David Niven's role as Sir Charles Litton, the infamous jewel thief nicknamed "the Phantom," and his plan to steal the Pink Panther. Inspector Clouseau was only a secondary character as Litton's incompetent antagonist and provided slapstick comic relief to an otherwise subtle, lighthearted caper film, a somewhat jarring contrast of styles which is typical of Edwards's 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. 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 reprise for many of the Pink Panther series entries, as well as the cartoon series, Mancini composed different theme music for A Shot in the Dark; this was later adopted by the animated spin-off series, The Inspector.

Although official, the live-action film Inspector Clouseau (1968) starring Alan Arkin, is generally not considered by fans to be part of the series canon, since it involved neither Sellers nor Edwards. Some elements of Arkin's performance and costuming, however, were retained when Peter Sellers resumed the role of Clouseau for Return in 1975. Despite speculation, Alan Arkin does not appear in Trail of the Pink Panther.

2000s film series

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

Recurring characters

Character Film
The Pink Panther A Shot in the Dark Inspector Clouseau The Return of the Pink Panther The Pink Panther Strikes Again Revenge of the Pink Panther Trail of the Pink Panther Curse of the Pink Panther Son of the Pink Panther The Pink Panther The Pink Panther 2
Inspector Jacques Clouseau Peter Sellers Alan Arkin Peter Sellers Peter Sellers (outtakes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again) Roger Moore (cameo) Peter Sellers

Picture cameo

Steve Martin
Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus Herbert Lom Herbert Lom Kevin Kline John Cleese
Cato Fong Burt Kwouk Burt Kwouk
Sergeant François Chevalier/François Duval André Maranne André Maranne Dermot Crowley
Sir Charles Lytton/The Phantom David Niven Christopher Plummer David Niven, Rich Little (voice)
Professor Auguste Balls Harvey Korman (deleted scene) Graham Stark Harvey Korman (previously unseen footage) Harvey Korman Graham Stark
Simone Clouseau/Lady Simone Lytton Capucine Capucine
George Lytton Robert Wagner Robert Wagner
Hercule LaJoy Graham Stark Graham Stark
Maria Gambrelli Elke Sommer Claudia Cardinale
Gendarme Gilbert Ponton Jean Reno
Nicole Durant Emily Mortimer
Renard Philip Goodwin

Recurring cast members

Actor Film
The Pink Panther A Shot in the Dark Inspector Clouseau The Return of the Pink Panther The Pink Panther Strikes Again Revenge of the Pink Panther Trail of the Pink Panther Curse of the Pink Panther Son of the Pink Panther The Pink Panther The Pink Panther 2
Graham Stark Hercule LaJoy Pepi Bavarian Innkeeper Prof. Auguste Balls Hercule LaJoy Waiter Prof. Auguste Balls
David Lodge Georges Duval Mac
Douglas Wilmer Henri LaFarge Police Commissioner
Claudia Cardinale Princess Dala Maria Gambrelli
Joanna Lumley Marie Jouvet Countess Chandra
Robert Loggia Al Marchione Bruno Langois
Peter Arne Colonel Sharki Colonel Bufoni
Julie Andrews Maid (deleted scene) Ainsley Jarvis (singing voice) Charwoman
Eric Pohlmann Bergesch The Fat Man
Geoffrey Bayldon Gutch Dr. Claude Duval
Tutte Lemkow Kazak dancer Frenchie LeBec
John Bluthal Blind Beggar Guard at Cemetery


Film Producer Director Screenwriter Production Designer Cinematographer Editor Composer
The Pink Panther Martin Jurow Blake Edwards Maurice Richlin & Blake Edwards Fernando Carrere Philip H. Lathrop Ralph E. Winters Henry Mancini
A Shot in the Dark Blake Edwards Blake Edwards & William Peter Blatty Michael Stringer Christopher Challis
Inspector Clouseau Lewis J. Rachmil Bud Yorkin Tom Waldman & Frank Waldman Arthur Ibbetson John Victor-Smith Ken Thorne
The Return of the Pink Panther Blake Edwards & Tony Adams Blake Edwards Frank Waldman & Blake Edwards Peter Mullins Geoffrey Unsworth Alan Jones Henry Mancini
The Pink Panther Strikes Again Harry Waxman
Revenge of the Pink Panther Frank Waldman & Ron Clark & Blake Edwards Ernest Day
Trail of the Pink Panther Frank Waldman & Tom Waldman & Blake Edwards & Geoffrey Edwards Dick Bush
Curse of the Pink Panther Blake Edwards & Geoffrey Edwards Ralph E. Winters
Son of the Pink Panther Blake Edwards & Madeline Sunshine & Steve Sunshine Robert Pergament
The Pink Panther Robert Simonds Shawn Levy Len Blum & Steve Martin & Michael Saltzman Lilly Kilvert Jonathan Brown George Folsey, Jr. Christophe Beck
The Pink Panther 2 Harald Zwart Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber & Steve Martin Rusty Smith Denis Crossan Julia Wong


Title Clouseau actor Release date Rotten Tomatoes Budget Gross
The Pink Panther Peter Sellers December 18, 1963 90% N/A $10,878,107
A Shot in the Dark Peter Sellers June 23, 1964 93% N/A $12,368,234
Inspector Clouseau Alan Arkin February 14, 1968 N/A N/A N/A
The Return of the Pink Panther Peter Sellers May 21, 1975 89% $5 million $41,833,347
The Pink Panther Strikes Again Peter Sellers December 15, 1976 83% $6 million $33,833,201
Revenge of the Pink Panther Peter Sellers July 19, 1978 78% $12 million $49,579,269
Trail of the Pink Panther Peter Sellers (outtake footage) December 17, 1982 25% $6 million $9,056,073
Curse of the Pink Panther Ted Wass (as Sergeant Sleigh, an American bumbling detective) August 12, 1983 29% $11 million $4,491,986
Son of the Pink Panther Roberto Benigni (as Officer Gambrelli, Clouseau's illegitimate son) August 27, 1993 6% $28 million $2,438,031
The Pink Panther Steve Martin February 10, 2006 21% $80 million $158,851,357
The Pink Panther 2 Steve Martin February 6, 2009 12% $70 million $75,936,494
  • In a 1978 episode of the anime series Lupin the Third, titled "Black Panther" (American-dub title "My Birthday Pursuit"), Lupin attempts to steal the Black Panther diamond as a birthday gift for his girlfriend. Inspector 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.
  • The Simpsons: in the season five episode "Homer the Vigilante" (1994), when the Springfield Cat Burglar burgles the Simpsons's house, the background music resembles the Pink Panther theme, and 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 another season five episode, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much," when it was revealed the waiter's injuries were self-inflicted due to his clumsiness and not a result of Freddie Quimby assaulting him, the waiter proclaims "This is an outrage! I am not a clumsy Clouseau-esque waiter!" before tripping over a chair and falling out of the window into an open-roof truck filled with rat traps. In the 1998 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." (Wahl had actually retired from acting by that time.)
  • Cato appears in the 1999 movie Inspector Gadget during the Minions Anonymous meeting.
  • In a 2000 episode of the animated series Jackie Chan Adventures, titled "Enter the Viper", Jackie Chan and his niece Jade must protect the "Pink Puma" diamond from a female jewel thief called Viper.
  • In The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) great homage is paid to the character of Clouseau in scenes played by Geoffrey Rush, and also the story covers Sellers's 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 2005 Family Guy episode Breaking Out Is Hard to Do, there is a chase scene through Asiantown which is a parody of the original chase scene near the end of Revenge of the Pink Panther, using the same music. The Pink Panther appears in two other episodes, where he claims that being pink is hell, and another where he dies due to inhaling a fatal amount of fiberglass (in reference to when he appeared in Owens Corning fiberglass advertisements).
  • In the Taiwanese series Hi My Sweetheart (2009), 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 the 2012 30 Rock episode "Standards and Practices," Jack (Alec Baldwin) hires a man named Kato to attack him at random. As with Inspector Clouseau, these attacks take place in his apartment.
  • In the 2016 movie Why Him?, Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) observes that Laird Mayhew (James Franco) (millionaire boyfriend to his daughter) and Laird's best friend and butler, Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key) engage in random attack/defense interactions that are reminiscent of Inspector Closeau/Cato surprise attacks to keep him alert. Neither Laird nor Gustav are aware of the Pink Panther reference.


On March 31, 2014, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced plans to develop a new live-action/animated Pink Panther film, which it said would be directed by David Silverman and produced by Walter Mirisch and Julie Andrews (who, in addition to her career accomplishments, is Blake Edwards' widow). This film would not focus on Inspector Clouseau, but it will instead focus on the Pink Panther cartoon character.[3] As of 2019, the film is still in development.[4]


The opening title sequence in 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 Isadore "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. This was the first (and to date only) time a studio's first work won an Oscar.[5]

By the autumn of 1969, the shorts were being broadcast on NBC[6] during Saturday mornings on The Pink Panther Show; after 1969, new shorts were produced for both television broadcast and theatrical release. A number of sister series also joined the Pink Panther character on movie screens and on the airwaves, including The Inspector, featuring a comical French police officer based on the Jacques Clouseau character.

Traditionally mute, the Pink Panther was given the voice of actor Matt Frewer for a 1993-1996 animated TV series..

The animated Pink Panther character has also appeared in computer and console video games, as well as advertising campaigns for several companies, most notably for Owens Corning Fiberglass insulation. There was also a short-lived animated series called Pink Panther and Pals (2010) which is aimed at younger children. In 2014, MGM announced (see above) that it was planning an animation / live-action hybrid film reboot of the franchise,[7] to be directed by David Silverman and produced by Walter Mirisch and Julie Andrews.[8]

The animated Pink Panther character also appeared in a short animated segment on the educational TV series Sesame Street, demonstrating his karate skills to carve the letter K out of a block of stone, only for it to crumble quickly afterwards.

See also

  • "Pink Panthers", which was the name given by Interpol to a group of Montenegrin thieves who successfully executed several jewel heists starting in 1993.
  • 'The Pink Panthers', a name used for several different LGBT rights organizations in North America since the 1970s.


  1., Romance of the Pink Panther - the Never Released Pink Panther Movie.
  2. Bach, Steven (1985). Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate. New York: New American Library. p. 262. ISBN 0451400364.
  3. "MGM To Make New Live-Action/CG 'Pink Panther' Movie".
  4. Elysa Gardner (March 2, 2015). "Julie Andrews, 79, finds new favorite things". USA TODAY. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  5. "The Pink Phink.", April 13, 2013.
  6. "The Pink Panther Show.", April 14, 2014.
  7. George Wales (2 April 2014). "Pink Panther getting animated reboot". Total Film. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  8. Koch, Dave (April 14, 2014). "Pink Turns 50! Let's Celebrate!". Big Cartoon News. Archived from the original on April 15, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
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