Obituary: film producer Blake Edwards
On December 16 2010, 88 year-old film producer Blake Edwards died after severe illness in Santa Monica, USA. A good forty years ago, Blake Edwards came for the first time, together with his wife Julie Andrews and their five children, to Gstaad. Both were so enthralled with the village that two years later they bought their own chalet. For a few years, the three younger kids were sent to school in Saanenland, which made their contact to the village and its people all-the-more intensive.
Some of Blake's most famous scripts were written on his desk in his chalet in Gstaad. It was there that he had his best and funniest ideas for his numerous films, which nearly all ended up being worldwide successes. It was here in Gstaad where he had his most brilliant ideas.
Approximately fifteen years ago, he wrote his famous musical Victor-Victoria in Gstaad. It was due to be put on stage on Broadway in New York but Blake broke his leg the evening before his departure. Without further ado he made everybody who worked on the musical come to Gstaad – from the stage designer to the world famous composer Henry Mancini who had already written the song Moon River for the classic 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s'. In this way the preparation work which usually takes a few weeks was transferred to Gstaad and became a perfect reason for Blake and Julie to stay longer than planned in Saanenland; it was an incident they spoke about for many years after.
Even an scene of the legendary Pink Panther movies was shot in Gstaad. Peter Sellers, the lead actor in these movies, fell in love with Gstaad during these shootings and also bought spontaneously a chalet where he enjoyed spending much of his spare time. Some scenes of the film The Tamarind Seed with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif, were also shot in Saanenland and after that Omar was seen more often in Gstaad.
In 1990 Blake and Julie had the idea to organize a film music festival in Gstaad. Blake was bubbling over with ideas for the CINEMUSIC festival during legendary meetings in their living room. His amazing contacts in the world of movies brought amongst others world stars such as Liza Minelli, Quincy Jones, Michel Legrand, Zucchero and many more to Gstaad.
Until recently it was not well known that Blake was also a fantastic painter of impressionist art and that he also modelled and casted many bronze statues. At the insistence of his family, the shy and humble Blake showed his art for the first time in January 2010 in one of the biggest art galleries in Los Angeles . The exhibition was well-received by the professional world and the public.
In 2004 Blake was awarded an honorary Oscar for his life's work. Even though he was already in a wheel chair he showed humor and made a show act which went around the world.
Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews did much for Gstaad and they have carried the name of their adopted home town all around the world. Numerous famous people from the world of movies went in and out their chalet. Indeed it is a shame that the commune of Saanen never managed to give Blake and Julie the keys to the city. As voluntary ambassadors for Saanenland they certainly deserved it.