Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bring Me Giants

When Blake Edwards died some time ago, it was a sad moment for anyone who loved the Pink Panther movies featuring Peter Sellers as bumbling Inspector Clouseau. Only three of those flicks are worth watching -- The Pink Panther (1963), A Shot in the Dark (1964), and The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) -- each directed and co-written by Edwards, with great theme music by Henry Mancini. I’ve always liked A Shot in the Dark best. It goes without saying, however, that the 2006 Pink Panther remake with Steve Martin as Clouseau was a fiasco and the 2009 sequel even worse. No one could equal Peter Sellers as Clousseau. But can this really be the same Steve Martin who was once so incredibly funny and edgy on Saturday Night Live? Martin has committed an even more egregious crime against art, however. Case in point: his inept 1987 Cyrano De Bergerac modernization, Roxanne. Like Sellers’ Clousseau, Cyrano should never have been played by anyone but Jose Ferrer, who was immortalized by his performance in the 1950 original film. Edmund Rostand’s brilliant drama is laid to waste in Roxanne. Carl Foreman’s 1950 screenplay has few peers; only Casablanca, and that for wit alone, comes to mind. Here are a few of my favorite lines:

CYRANO: Clown! King of Clowns! Leave the stage at once!
MONTFLEURY: Sir, I will not allow you to insult me in this manner.
CYRANO: Really? In what manner would you prefer?

CYRANO: Think of me./ Me whom the plainest woman would despise./ Me with this nose of mine that marches on/ Before me by a quarter of an hour./Whom should I love? Why of course it must be/ The woman in the world most beautiful.

CYRANO: Oh, no, young sir. You are too simple. Why, you might have said a great many things. Why waste your opportunity? For example, thus: AGGRESSIVE: I, sir, if that nose were mine, I'd have it amputated on the spot. PRACTICAL: How do you drink with such a nose? DESCRIPTIVE: 'Tis a rock, a crag, a cape! A cape? Say rather, a peninsula!...ELOQUENT: When it blows, the typhoon howls, and the clouds darken! DRAMATIC: When it bleeds, the Red Sea…These, my dear sir, are things you might have said, had you some tinge of letters or of wit to color your discourse. But wit? Not so, you never had an atom. And of letters, you need but three to write you down: A, S, S. Ass!
VICOMTE DE VALVERT: Insolent puppy, dolt, bunpkin, fool!
CYRANO : How do you do? And I, Cyrano Savinien Hercule de Bergerac.

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