A Shot in the Dark (1964)

101 mins | Mystery, Comedy | June 1964

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HISTORY

Following the successful French production of Marcel Achard’s 1960 stage play, L’idiote, American writer Harry Kurnitz adapted the story for U.S. audiences. Under the title A Shot in the Dark, the show debuted 18 Oct 1961 at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, where it played for nearly a year before launching a national tour. Just one day after its final Broadway bow, the 23 Sep 1962 LAT indicated that Anatole Litvak planned to direct a motion picture version starring Sophia Loren. A 19 Nov 1962 DV item announced that the Mirisch Corporation had hired Alan Coppel to write the script. Although filming was expected to start the following spring, it was not until 9 May 1963 that DV reported the casting of Peter Sellers in the leading role.
       According to a 28 Oct 1963 DV brief, Litvak left the picture due to illness, and the 30 Sep 1963 DV announced the recent hiring of Blake Edwards, who would serve the dual role of director and producer. A 19 Jun 1964 NYT article claimed that Edwards only agreed to work on the project on condition he be allowed to make “drastic revisions.” Having just completed photography on The Pink Panther (1964, see entry), Edwards decided to refashion the script as a vehicle for Sellers to reprise his role as the bumbling police inspector, “Jacques Clouseau.” After five weeks of rewrites, the updated draft bore little resemblance to Kurnitz’s source material. The 11 Nov 1963 DV reported that Walter Matthau, who was signed to repeat his character from the stage, left ... More Less

Following the successful French production of Marcel Achard’s 1960 stage play, L’idiote, American writer Harry Kurnitz adapted the story for U.S. audiences. Under the title A Shot in the Dark, the show debuted 18 Oct 1961 at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, where it played for nearly a year before launching a national tour. Just one day after its final Broadway bow, the 23 Sep 1962 LAT indicated that Anatole Litvak planned to direct a motion picture version starring Sophia Loren. A 19 Nov 1962 DV item announced that the Mirisch Corporation had hired Alan Coppel to write the script. Although filming was expected to start the following spring, it was not until 9 May 1963 that DV reported the casting of Peter Sellers in the leading role.
       According to a 28 Oct 1963 DV brief, Litvak left the picture due to illness, and the 30 Sep 1963 DV announced the recent hiring of Blake Edwards, who would serve the dual role of director and producer. A 19 Jun 1964 NYT article claimed that Edwards only agreed to work on the project on condition he be allowed to make “drastic revisions.” Having just completed photography on The Pink Panther (1964, see entry), Edwards decided to refashion the script as a vehicle for Sellers to reprise his role as the bumbling police inspector, “Jacques Clouseau.” After five weeks of rewrites, the updated draft bore little resemblance to Kurnitz’s source material. The 11 Nov 1963 DV reported that Walter Matthau, who was signed to repeat his character from the stage, left the picture in light of the changes. Production was moved to Nov 1963, with locations set in Paris, France, and London, England.
       Just weeks before filming began, the 25 Oct 1963 DV reported that Sophia Loren was recovering from throat surgery in Milan, Italy. Three days later, she was deemed “too ill to work,” and the Mirisch Corp. began to search for her replacement. Shirley MacLaine was reportedly considered, but the role went to Romy Schneider.
       According to a 29 Nov 1963 DV production chart, principal photography was underway on 18 Nov 1963 at the MGM British Studios in England. On 27 Nov 1963, Var reported that Elke Sommer had stepped in for Romy Schneider, who had not yet completed her assignment on Good Neighbor Sam (1964, see entry). A 17 Jan 1964 LAT article confirmed that Sommer used $100,000 of her paycheck to “buy her way out” of two German film commitments in order to sign a three-year contract with MGM.
       The 23 Jun 1964 DV identified Bryan Forbes as the actor who plays “Charlie,” the locker attendant at “Camp Sunshine.” Forbes is credited onscreen by the pseudonym “Turk Thrust.”
       Following production, Sellers immediately went on to film Kiss Me, Stupid (1964, see entry) for the Mirisch Corp., during which time he suffered a series of heart attacks. Ray Walston was hired to re-shoot his role, and its Jul 1964 release date was postponed. Originally scheduled for Christmas, A Shot in the Dark was bumped up to take its place in the summer of 1964. The picture opened 23 Jun 1964 at the Astor and Trans-Lux East Theatres in New York City, earning what the 29 Jun 1964 DV cited as a combined opening day gross of $68,000. According to the 2 Jun 1964 LAT, the Los Angeles, CA, engagement was set to begin 15 Jul 1964 at the Vogue and Fine Arts Theatres. Prior to its release, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre honored Sellers by cementing his hands and feet outside the venue.
       While the 22 Jun 1964 DV review noted that the film’s proximity to the spring 1964 release of The Pink Panther may have diminished the “spontaneous novelty” of Clouseau’s antics, critics generally praised the character’s return, as well as the performances of Sellers and Sommers, and its positive reception led to a joint production deal between Blake Edwards and the Mirisch Corp. AFI ranked the picture #48 on its list of 100 Years…100 Laughs.
       A decade later, Sellers reteamed with Edwards to portray Clouseau in three additional installments of the “Pink Panther” series: The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978, see entries).
       Opening credits are incorporated into an animated sequence depicting the various mishaps of Inspector Jacques Clouseau. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Nov 1962
p. 1.
Daily Variety
9 May 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Oct 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1964
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1962
Section N, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jan 1964
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1964
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
19 Jan 1964
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
24 Jun 1964
p. 28.
New York Times
14 Oct 1964
p. 51.
Variety
27 Nov 1963
p. 7, 18.
Variety
15 Apr 1964.
p. 2, 69.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Blake Edwards Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Titles created by
ANIMATION
Anim production
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play A Shot in the Dark by Harry Kurnitz (New York, 18 Oct 1961) and the play L'idiote by Marcel Achard (Paris, 23 Sep 1960).
SONGS
"Shadow of Paris," words and music by Henry Mancini and Robert Wells.
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1964
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 June 1964
Los Angeles opening: 15 July 1964
Production Date:
began 18 November 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch-Geoffrey Productions
Copyright Date:
23 June 1964
Copyright Number:
LP28602
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
101
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Paris Maria Gambrelli, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Ballon's French parlormaid, is accused of killing her Spanish lover. Inspector Jacques Clouseau, accidentally assigned to the case, believes her innocent despite all the facts indicating that she is guilty. Dreyfus, Clouseau's superior, removes him from the case and arrests Maria, but, on the following day, Dreyfus learns that certain influential people wish Clouseau back on the case. Reassigned, Clouseau releases Maria and before long finds her with the gardener's dead body. Again arrested for murder, Maria is quickly released by Clouseau, who still believes in her innocence. He follows her to a nudist camp where Dudu, the Ballon's first maid, is found murdered and Maria again comes under suspicion. Lafarge, the Ballon's majordomo, is then murdered. Maria is once more arrested, and Clouseau is again removed from the case. Dreyfus reassigns the case to Clouseau, who releases Maria and takes her nightclubbing. In the course of the evening, four innocent people are killed, around the oblivious Clouseau, as a result of unsuccessful attempts on his life. The inspector gathers the six remaining suspects together in the Ballon house. They begin to accuse one another until the lights go out, and Maria and Clouseau find themselves alone. All six attempt to flee in Clouseau's car, which has been wired with a bomb intended for him. The car explodes and Clouseau has, in his own way, solved the case by the elimination of the suspects. Dreyfus goes insane because he is the real murderer, having committed the crimes to discredit the bumbling detective and thereby remove him from his staff--only to have him emerge a ... +


In Paris Maria Gambrelli, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Ballon's French parlormaid, is accused of killing her Spanish lover. Inspector Jacques Clouseau, accidentally assigned to the case, believes her innocent despite all the facts indicating that she is guilty. Dreyfus, Clouseau's superior, removes him from the case and arrests Maria, but, on the following day, Dreyfus learns that certain influential people wish Clouseau back on the case. Reassigned, Clouseau releases Maria and before long finds her with the gardener's dead body. Again arrested for murder, Maria is quickly released by Clouseau, who still believes in her innocence. He follows her to a nudist camp where Dudu, the Ballon's first maid, is found murdered and Maria again comes under suspicion. Lafarge, the Ballon's majordomo, is then murdered. Maria is once more arrested, and Clouseau is again removed from the case. Dreyfus reassigns the case to Clouseau, who releases Maria and takes her nightclubbing. In the course of the evening, four innocent people are killed, around the oblivious Clouseau, as a result of unsuccessful attempts on his life. The inspector gathers the six remaining suspects together in the Ballon house. They begin to accuse one another until the lights go out, and Maria and Clouseau find themselves alone. All six attempt to flee in Clouseau's car, which has been wired with a bomb intended for him. The car explodes and Clouseau has, in his own way, solved the case by the elimination of the suspects. Dreyfus goes insane because he is the real murderer, having committed the crimes to discredit the bumbling detective and thereby remove him from his staff--only to have him emerge a hero. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.