Chief Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman
Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau (formerly Inspector) is a fictional character in Blake Edwards‘ farcical The Pink Panther series. In most of the films he was played by Peter Sellers, but one film starred Alan Arkin and another featured an unaccredited Roger Moore. In the 2006 Pink Panther revival and its 2009 sequel, he is played by Steve Martin.
Clouseau as The Inspector is also the main character in a series of short animated cartoons as part of The Pink Panther Show. More recent animated depictions from the 1970s onward were redesigned to more closely resemble Sellers, and later Martin.
Clouseau is an inept and incompetent police detective in the French Sûreté, whose investigations are marked by disorder. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), an attempt to interview witnesses leads to him falling down stairs, getting his hand caught in a medieval knight‘s gauntlet, then a vase; knocking a witness senseless, destroying a priceless piano, and accidentally shooting another officer. Nevertheless, Clouseau successfully solves his cases and finds the correct culprits, entirely by accident. He is promoted to Chief Inspector over the course of the series, and is regarded by background characters as France’s greatest detective, until they encounter him directly. His incompetence, combined with his luck and his periodically-correct interpretations of the situation, eventually transform his direct superior (former Chief Inspector Dreyfus) into a homicidal psychotic. He appears convinced of his own intelligence, but does show some awareness of his limits, and attempts to appear elegant and refined regardless of what calamity he has just caused. Clouseau also insists upon elaborate costumes and aliases that range from the mundane (a worker for the phone company) to the preposterous (a bucktoothed hunchback with an oversized nose); but these are usually overcome by his characteristic mannerisms.
Chief Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman; later films reveal he had fought in the French Resistance during the Second World War. He has been prone to infatuation (often reciprocated) ever since the first film, in which his antagonist cuckolds him. He is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as “Sir or Madam”. Sellers maintained that Clouseau’s ego made the character’s klutziness funnier, in the attempt to remain elegant and refined while causing chaos. As rendered by Sellers, Clouseau’s French accent became more exaggerated in successive films (for example, pronouncing “room” as “reum”; “Pope” as “Peup”; “bomb” as “beumb”; and “bumps” as “beumps” <or “bimps”>), and a frequent running gag in the movies was that even French characters had difficulty understanding what he was saying. Much of that humour was lost in the French dubbing, wherein the French post-synchronization gave Clouseau an odd-sounding, nasal voice. Clouseau’s immense ego, eccentricity, exaggerated French accent, and prominent mustache were derived from Hercule Poirot, the fictional Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. In his earliest appearances, Clouseau is slightly less inept and exaggerated; but in his first appearance he believes himself a skilled violinist, but plays out of tune, and often appears clumsy at his moments of highest dignity.