Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Pink Panther and The Jews

And The To Do List: As time goes by (as it tends to do), Abq Jew finds himself thinking more and more about less and less.

This past week, in addition to worrying about neo-Nazism in America and the rise of the Alt-Right under the current, temporary governmental administration (they all are!), Abq Jew has been contemplating The Meaning of The Pink Panther in the context, of course, of The Meaning of Life.

For those of you, his loyal readers, who are too young to remember, Abq Jew hereby assumes the responsibility to tell you that
The Pink Panther is a series of comedy-mystery films featuring an inept French police detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The series began with the release of The Pink Panther (1963). The role of Clouseau was originated by, and is most closely associated with, Peter Sellers
Most of the films were directed and co-written 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.
Here is the picture that started Abq Jew to thinking. It appeared, naturally enough (through execution of a complex algorithm that no one really understands), on his Facebook timeline.

Abq Jew must admit: What is left of his brain does not work nearly as well as it once used to, and there are plenty who would say (with but a little bit of liquid or other encouragement) that it didn't ever work too well.

So it took Abq Jew a couple of seconds. Then he got it.

Here is a hint (if you need it). Or pure musical enjoyment if you don't.

What, Abq Jew has begun to wonder, will he pass down to his children (and grandchildren, and to all future generations)? Things - money, real estate, and musical instruments - may count but for a small portion of their inheritance.

Love of Jews and Judaism and Israel counts for a lot - you know, civilization.

As does love of art, music, theater, dance - you know, culture.

Also honesty, integrity, a fierce sense of right and wrong. Plus compassion and mercy for all of God's creatures.

And a sense of humor.

Which (Abq Jew claims) makes everything else possible. And thus - Abq Jew is very proud to announce that, upon being shown The Pink Panther's To-Do List -

His children got it.

But Abq Jew hears you ask -

What is Jewish about The Pink Panther?

Let's start with Peter Sellers.

Sellers was born on 8 September 1925, in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth. His parents were Yorkshire-born William "Bill" Sellers (1900–62) and Agnes Doreen "Peg" (née Marks, 1892–1967).  
Peg Sellers was related to the pugilist Daniel Mendoza (1764–1836), whom Sellers greatly revered, and whose engraving later hung in his office. At one time Sellers planned to use Mendoza's image for his production company's logo. 
In 1935 the Sellers family moved to North London and settled in Muswell Hill. Although Bill Sellers was Protestant and Peg was Jewish, Sellers attended the North London Roman Catholic school St. Aloysius College, run by the Brothers of Our Lady of Mercy.
The family was not rich, but Peg insisted on an expensive private schooling for her son. 
According to biographer Peter Evans, Sellers was fascinated, puzzled, and worried by religion from a young age, particularly Catholicism, while Roger Lewis believed that soon after entering Catholic school, Sellers "discovered he was a Jew—he was someone on the outside of the mysteries of faith". 
Later in his life, Sellers observed that while his father's faith was according to the Church of England, his mother was Jewish, "and Jews take the faith of their mother." 

Moving on ... let's talk more about some of the people associated with The Pink Panther. Who were they and whatever happened to them?

First, about the 1963 film itself -
The film was "conceived as a sophisticated comedy about a charming, urbane jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton". Peter Ustinov was "originally cast as Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his faithless wife in league with Lytton". 
After Gardner backed out ... Ustinov also left the project, and Blake Edwards then chose Sellers to replace Ustinov. Janet Leigh turned down the lead female role ....
The film was initially intended as a vehicle for [David] Niven, as evidenced by his top billing. 
As Edwards shot the film, employing multiple takes of improvised scenes - it became clear that Sellers, originally considered a supporting actor, was stealing the scenes and thus resulted in his continuation throughout the film's sequels.
When presenting at a subsequent Oscar Awards ceremony, Niven requested his walk-on music be changed from the "Pink Panther" theme, stating, "That was not really my film."
Other interesting film facts -
  • Peter Sellers died of a heart attack on July 24, 1980, at age 54.
  • Claudia Cardinale is still alive and speaking. She didn't speak in the film.
  • But someone spoke for her - Gale Garnett (still alive), known for her hit, We'll Sing in the Sunshine."
  • In 1967, Lew Wasserman of Universal (there's your Jewish connection!) convinced Robert Wagner (still alive) to make his television series debut in It Takes a Thief (1968-70), thus completing Wagner's comeback.
  • And then there's Capucine (Germaine Hélène Irène Lefebvre). In 1957, Capucine was "discovered" by film producer Charles K Feldman (another Jewish connection!). On March 17, 1990, Capucine jumped to her death from her eighth-floor apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she had lived for 28 years, having reportedly suffered from illness and depression for some time.
  • Finally, there's Fran Jeffries (Frances Ann Makris), who was "introduced" in the film for the sole purpose of singing Meglio Stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight; music by Henry Mancini, English lyrics by Johnny Mercer) while dancing provocatively around a fireplace. She died of multiple myeloma on December 15, 2016, at the age of 79.

So here is Abq Jew's main point about The Pink Panther and The Jews  -

Everything (in the film and in real life)
could have turned out differently.
But it didn't. But they didn't.

Which leads to the overall sense of meaningful happiness - in spite of all life's tragedies - that makes the tales of The Pink Panther so ... well, enjoyable.

That makes our lives so enjoyable - in spite of everything. 

There's the very Jewish sense that (as John Lennon put it) -

Abq Jew holds to this belief in spite of the fact that it is very clearly and very obviously not true. And he is proud to have passed this belief on to his children.

As we enter the Hebrew month of Elul - a time for us to reflect, contemplate, and repent, as we prepare for the High Holy Days - let us keep in mind that life should be so much more than a to-do list.

And let us begin the New Year with meaningful happiness.

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