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The following is a list of characters from The Pink Panther feature film series.
Inspector Jacques Clouseau
- First appearance: The Pink Panther (1963)
- Appearances: All Panther films except Son of the Pink Panther (not counting picture cameo)
Jacques Clouseau is a clumsy, incompetent, but zealous policeman and detective who speaks English—with a ludicrous French accent—while other characters speak English, often with their own accents. Clouseau's accent is not emphasized in the first film, but from A Shot in the Dark onwards, the exaggerated accent became part of the joke. It has been suggested that portraying the incompetent policeman as French is based on a British stereotype of the French police or even the French population as a whole.
Peter Sellers, the actor portraying Clouseau, remarked that, in his opinion, Clouseau knew he was a buffoon, but had an incredible knack for survival. Sheer luck or clumsiness usually saves him, as in the first film wherein a farcical car chase around a fountain results in the collision of all the vehicles and the capture of the thieves. This approach accelerates, with Clouseau falling down stairs, falling into pools and fountains, causing fires and disasters, and even being bombed repeatedly, an idea worked into Steve Martin's portrayal of the character. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, assassins from all over the world are sent to kill Clouseau, whereupon he moves from their target at just the right moment to ensure that the killers eliminate one another. In Trail of the Pink Panther, we see that during World War II, Clouseau fought in the French Resistance, but the flashbacks only serve to reiterate the fact that Clouseau can survive anything despite of, or perhaps due to, his incompetence.
Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman whose country is professedly his highest priority, has been prone to infatuation (often reciprocated) after being cuckolded by Sir Charles Litton, and is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as "Sir or Madame."
The role was originated and developed by Peter Sellers over the years but has also been played by Alan Arkin (in Inspector Clouseau), Daniel Peacock and Lucca Mezzofonti (as younger versions in flashbacks in Trail of the Pink Panther), Roger Moore (in a cameo appearance at the conclusion of Curse of the Pink Panther), and Steve Martin (in the 2006 Pink Panther film and its 2009 sequel).
Chief Inspector Charles LaRousse Dreyfus
- First Appearance: A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- Appearances: All Panther films except the first film and Inspector Clouseau.
Clouseau's superior, Charles Dreyfus, was introduced in A Shot in the Dark, wherein he held the rank of Commissioner. He is constantly driven to distraction by Clouseau's bungling and is eventually driven insane. In The Return of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus holds the rank of Chief Inspector—but again becomes insane by the end of the film—which shows Dreyfus straitjacketed in a padded cell, writing "Kill Clouseau" on the wall (with his toes). As in A Shot in the Dark, Dreyfus initially suffers a variety of personal injuries (involving his gun and a cigarette lighter of a similar shape and accidentally cutting off his thumb with a cigar cutter)---before accidentally strangling his therapist while fantasizing Clouseau's death, then trying to assassinate Clouseau with a sniper's rifle. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus is about to be released from an asylum after a complete recovery; however, within five minutes of Clouseau's arrival to speak to the board on Dreyfus' behalf, he suffers a variety of injuries, causing him to relapse. Thence Dreyfus escapes the asylum and kidnaps a scientist, forcing him to build a disintegrator ray later used to intimidate the rest of the world into attempting to assassinate Clouseau. Dreyfus appears to disintegrate at the end of Strikes Again, but subsequently (and without any explanation) re-appears in Revenge of the Pink Panther and is reinstated Chief Inspector when Clouseau is mistakenly declared dead. Herbert Lom famously gave his character a pronounced tic which occurred under particular stress...and an accompanying childlike giggle when plotting Clouseau's murder.
The Dreyfus character seems to get a quasi-reboot at the beginning of each new film as he mysteriously re-appears as Clouseau's superior, most often without explanation, after committing various heinous crimes. At the conclusion of A Shot in the Dark he is revealed to have murdered 10 people in his zeal to rid himself of Clouseau (and confesses so), yet he returns as Chief Inspector in Return of the Pink Panther. By the end of that film he has committed another murder (Colonel Sharki, having intended to shoot Clouseau) and winds up in an insane asylum, only to be briefly released at the start of the next installment The Pink Panther Strikes Again. The character appears to be killed off completely at the end of that film but again inexplicably returns in the sequel.
In Son of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus (a Commissioner once again) deals with Clouseau's equally buffoonish son Jacques Gambrelli, but he is more tolerant of Gambrelli. At the end of the film, Dreyfus weds Clouseau's former lover Maria Gambrelli (Jacques Gambrelli's mother) but is shocked to learn that Clouseau and Maria conceived twins: Jacques (Roberto Benigni) and Jacqueline Gambrelli (Nicoletta Braschi).
In the 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, Dreyfus (again as Chief Inspector) uses Clouseau as a decoy while he himself attempts to solve the crimes. Dreyfus merely views Clouseau as an idiot and never attempts to have him killed, whereas Clouseau attacks his employer at one point, mistaking his identity. Later in the film, Dreyfus is dragged accidentally behind Clouseau's Smart Car and appears in the hospital, where Clouseau's bumbling causes him to fall out of a window. In the 2009 sequel, Dreyfus plays a much smaller role than in the previous film and is less hostile towards Clouseau.
- First appearance: A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- Appearances: All Panther films except the first film, the 1968 film Inspector Clouseau and the 2006–2009 films.
Cato (spelled "Kato" in A Shot in the Dark as a tribute to Kato in the Green Hornet television series) is Clouseau's manservant, and an expert in martial arts. It is unclear whether he believes Clouseau to be a great detective or whether he merely humors him. It is a running joke that he is instructed to attack Clouseau unexpectedly, to keep Clouseau's combat skills and vigilance sharp. Cato often takes these instructions to the point of ambushing Clouseau in his own house or at times when Clouseau obviously would prefer not to be disturbed. If they are interrupted during such an attack (as by a telephone call), Cato ceases to project the image of assailant and becomes a well-disciplined valet. Regardless of who comes off worse in the actual battle (and it is Clouseau who is more often humiliated, since Cato's ambushes usually do take him by surprise) Clouseau always gets his revenge on Cato by dealing him a sucker blow after it seems the fight is over.
In later films, Cato helps Clouseau on some cases, as in Hong Kong, when Clouseau takes advantage of his own assumed death to determine the identity of his would-be killer. Here, Cato wears spectacles as a disguise but collides with various objects when the spectacles impair his vision.
In Revenge, Cato, believing his master to be dead, runs a covert brothel in Clouseau's apartment: the entrance password is "Inspector Clouseau", which causes a humorous scene when the true Inspector Clouseau appears. Cato opens another brothel in Curse of the Pink Panther, and converts Clouseau's apartment into a museum featuring all the disguises the inspector has worn over the years.
In the earlier series, Cato was played by Burt Kwouk. In the re-launch, the role of Cato was offered to Jackie Chan, but the character was later scrapped for fear that the Chinese stereotype would be offensive, and Cato was replaced by a new character, Gendarme Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno), assigned by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to watch over Clouseau. In a reversal of the Cato-Clouseau relationship, Clouseau often attacks Ponton unexpectedly, only to be stopped by a single blow.
François, Dreyfus' assistant, generally observes his boss' interactions with Clouseau (and subsequent emotional breakdowns) with placid bemusement. André Maranne, a French actor, played François in six Panther films. In Son of the Pink Panther, he was replaced by Dermot Crowley. In A Shot in the Dark, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther he is referred to as Sergeant François Duval whereas in the three sequels of the 1970s he is Sergeant François Chevalier. In the 2006 reboot, Philip Goodwin plays a similar character named Renard. Goodwin returned as Renard in the 2009 sequel.
Sir Charles Lytton/The Phantom
"The Phantom" is a jewel thief, Clouseau's archenemy (after Dreyfus) in several of the films and known to the public as Sir Charles Lytton. He serves as the primary villain of the first film, at the end of which (and with help from Clouseau's wife and an exiled princess) he frames Clouseau for his past robberies and has him temporarily sent to prison. This ignites Clouseau's thirst for revenge in the third Sellers/Edwards film, in which the Pink Panther is stolen from a museum.
In the first film he was played by David Niven, and in Return by Christopher Plummer. In later films, an aging and frail Niven made cameo appearances in the role, with his voice dubbed by impressionist Rich Little. In these later films, Lytton is supposed to have been married to Clouseau's ex-wife after the events of the first Pink Panther, even though in Return, his wife had been a different character, yet seemingly familiar with Clouseau (seeing through, and laughing at, his disguises). In The Pink Panther 2, the diamond is stolen by a similar master thief, "the Tornado" (Johnny Hallyday).
Professor Auguste Balls
Professor Auguste Balls is an eccentric shop owner who supplies Clouseau with his numerous disguises. He was portrayed by Graham Stark in Revenge of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther, while Harvey Korman played him in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. Although Korman was the first actor to portray Balls, his scenes in The Pink Panther Strikes Again were cut and were not used until Trail of the Pink Panther six years later.
Professor Balls has a wife, Martha (Liz Smith), and an assistant, Cunny (Danny Schiller), who make brief appearances.