Peter Sellers
British comedian & actor
Peter Sellers
Richard Henry Sellers, CBE, known as Peter Sellers, was a British film actor, comedian and singer. He is best known for his appearances in the BBC Radio comedy series The Goon Show, a number of comic songs that were radio favourites, and for his many film characterisations, among them Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series of films. Born in Portsmouth, Sellers made his stage debut at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, when he was two weeks old.
Biography
Peter Sellers's personal information overview.
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Photo Albums
Popular photos of Peter Sellers
News
News abour Peter Sellers from around the web
ARTS, BRIEFLY; Trisha Brown Wins Gish Prize
NYTimes - over 5 years
A Gish for Trisha: the modern dance choreographer Trisha Brown has won this year's Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, an award worth about $300,000 that was named after the silent film actresses. The trust that administers the award, given to artists for ''groundbreaking impact in their chosen fields,'' said Ms. Brown had ''transformed'' modern dance
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Twilight's Kellan Lutz shows off his rippling muscles in GQ and celebrates by ... - Daily Mail
Google News - over 5 years
No doubt his roommates have to be on their guard in case the tough star attacks them by jumping out of the closet like Cato in Peter Sellers' hilarious Pink Panther films. Are we lost? Sharni pulled out her map as they looked for landmarks as they
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Five Things You Need to Know Today: Sept. 1 - Patch.com
Google News - over 5 years
STRANGELOVE": The Peter Sellers classic will be played tonight at the Kelley Library's Lancaster Room starting at 6:30 pm 5. REMEMBERING 9/11: Starting next Monday, we'll be featuring a week-long series of content as the 10-year anniversary of 9/11
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Funniest Movies Ever - Screen Junkies
Google News - over 5 years
So double tape your funny bone and open yourself up to the list: Peter Sellers at his comedic best. Here he takes physical comedy to surprising ends and easily predictable ends but makes both laugh out loud funny. When physical comedy transcends the
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Our Idiot Brother [Review] - Widescreen Warrior.com
Google News - over 5 years
It's an interesting inclusion as the film, as the star of those movies, Peter Sellers, would draw acclaim for playing an idiotic character who was confused for a wise man in Being There. Rudd's Ned is not a character on par with Sellers' Chauncy
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Jacqui Smith could do us all a community service by emigrating to Outer Mongolia - Daily Mail
Google News - over 5 years
You can imagine it as a scene from a Peter Sellers film. A former Home Secretary reclines in the comfort of a mullion-windowed mansion, praising a liberal penal policy and day-release work for convicts. Indeed, drawls this former
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The BBC canteen really is awful, say fed-up staff - Mirror.co.uk
Google News - over 5 years
For years the grub provided cheeky material for stars including Ronnie Corbett, Peter Sellers, Terry Wogan and Les Dawson. Sellers quipped on the Goon show in 1954: “Lunch is now being served in the BBC canteen. Doctors are standing by
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Sellers as you never see him - The Australian
Google News - over 5 years
... Alec Guinness doing eight characters in Kind Hearts and Coronets, Eddie Murphy playing the title role and every member of the prof's family in The Nutty Professor -- a feat matched by Geoffrey Rush in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (Thursday,
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Jason Segel - interview - The Vine
Google News - over 5 years
I remember there's an episode of the Muppet show featuring Peter Sellers. And Scooter walks in and says "five minutes to curtain, Mr Sellers!" And Peter Sellers is wearing a viking cap. And Peter Sellers says "oh, I don't know what to do out there
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Captain America: The First Avenger (12A) - NME.com (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Screenwriters: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (Prince Caspian, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers). There are two things you have to ask yourself when reviewing a film like Captain America: The First Avenger. Of primary concern is just how much
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Smart, Patchy, Sweet 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' - Wall Street Journal
Google News - over 5 years
A special pleasure of the movie medium is watching actors play double or multiple roles: Lee Marvin in "Cat Ballou," Jeremy Irons in "Dead Ringers," Peter Sellers doing three characters in "Dr. Strangelove," Alec Guinness doing eight in "Kind Hearts
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Sanjay Dutt gets inspired by Steve Martin? - IndiaFM
Google News - over 5 years
Though it is unlikely that the makers have picked up rights from Steve Martin's franchise (which itself was inspired by Peter Sellers' riotous comedy from the 60s), revelation of Dutt as an idiot cop who believes himself to be pretty smart leads one
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10 Best British Comedy Actors - Screen Junkies
Google News - over 5 years
Peter Sellers- This late actor, best known for his portrayal of the bumbling French detective Inspector Clouseau, Peter Sellers was one of the greatest British comedy actors to have ever graced the silver screen. However, he was also capable of acting
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Little Italy hosts hilarious, offbeat Peter Sellers caper, 'After the Fox' - Baltimore Sun (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
This wayward, crackpot caper stars Peter Sellers as an Italian master crook. To Sellers' Aldo Vennucci, crime is only an afterthought, while family pride is everything. Aldo can devise a jailbreak with a snap of his fingers, but he is, above all else,
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New This Week - Baltimore City Paper
Google News - over 5 years
Neil Simon wrote the screenplay, Peter Sellers stars, and Vittorio de Sica (Bicycle Thieves) directs. But the film is sprawling and only intermittently funny, while the ditzy female characters are tiresome. The plot follows Sellers as master criminal
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Peter Sellers
    FIFTIES
  • 1980
    Age 54
    A memorial service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 8 September 1980—what would have been Sellers's 55th birthday.
    More Details Hide Details Close friend Lord Snowdon read the twenty-third Psalm, Harry Secombe sang "Bread of Heaven" and the eulogy was read by David Niven. Spike Milligan appealed to her on behalf of Sellers's three children, but she refused to increase the amount. Sellers's only son, Michael, died of a heart attack at 52 during surgery on 24 July 2006, twenty-six years to the day after his father's death. In 1982 Blake Edwards tried to continue with Romance of the Pink Panther and offered the role of Clouseau to Dudley Moore, who turned it down. Edwards subsequently released Trail of the Pink Panther, which was composed entirely of deleted scenes from his past three Panther films. Vincent Canby of The New York Times said of the Pink Panther films, "I'm not sure why Mr. Sellers and Mr. Lom are such a hilarious team, though it may be because each is a fine comic actor with a special talent for portraying the sort of all-consuming, epic self-absorption that makes slapstick farce initially acceptable—instead of alarming—and finally so funny." Film critic Elvis Mitchell has said that Sellers was one of the few comic geniuses who was able to truly hide behind his characters, giving the audience no sense of what he was really like in real life. A feature of the characterisations undertaken by Sellers is that, regardless of how clumsy or idiotic they are, he ensured that they always retain their dignity.
    He was taken to the Middlesex Hospital, London, and died just after midnight on 24 July 1980, aged 54.
    More Details Hide Details Following Sellers's death, fellow actor Richard Attenborough said that Sellers "had the genius comparable to Chaplin", while the Boulting brothers considered Sellers as "a man of enormous gifts; and these gifts he gave to the world. For them, he is assured of a place in the history of art as entertainment." Burt Kwouk, who appeared as Cato in the Pink Panther films stated that "Peter was a well-loved actor in Britain... the day he died, it seemed that the whole country came to a stop. Everywhere you went, the fact that Peter had died seemed like an umbrella over everything". Director Blake Edwards thought that "Peter was brilliant. He had an enormous facility for finding really unusual, unique facets of the character he was playing". Sellers's friend and Goon Show colleague Spike Milligan was too upset to speak to the press at the time of Sellers's death, while fellow Goon Harry Secombe said "I'm shattered. Peter was such a tremendous artist. He had so much talent, it just oozed out of him"; in dark humour, referring to the missed dinner the Goons had planned, he added, "Anything to avoid paying for dinner". Secombe later declared to journalists "Bluebottle is deaded now". Milligan later said that "it's hard to say this, but he died at the right time." The Daily Mail described Sellers as "the greatest comic talent of his generation as well as a womanising drug-taker who married four times in a fruitless search for happiness", a "flawed genius" who, once he latched on to a comic idea, "loved nothing more than to carry it to extremes."
    On 21 July 1980 Sellers arrived in London from Geneva.
    More Details Hide Details He checked into the Dorchester hotel, before visiting Golders Green Crematorium for the first time to see the location of his parents' ashes. He had plans to attend a reunion dinner with his Goon Show partners Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, scheduled for the evening of 22 July. On the day of the dinner, Sellers took lunch in his hotel suite and shortly afterwards collapsed from a heart attack.
    Sellers's final performances were a series of advertisements for Barclays Bank. Filmed in April 1980 in Ireland, he played Monty Casino, a Jewish con-man.
    More Details Hide Details Four adverts were scheduled, but only three were filmed as Sellers collapsed in Dublin, again with heart problems. After two days in care—and against the advice of his doctors—he travelled to the Cannes Film Festival, where Being There was in competition. Sellers was again ill in Cannes, returning to his residence in Gstaad to work on the script for his next project, Romance of the Pink Panther. He agreed to undergo an angiogram at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, to see if he was able to undergo open-heart surgery. Spike Milligan later considered that Sellers's heart condition had lasted fifteen years and had "made life difficult for him and had a debilitating effect on his personality". Sellers's fourth marriage to Frederick collapsed soon after. Sellers had recently started to rebuild his relationship with his son Michael after the failure of the latter's marriage. Michael later said that "it marked the beginning of an all-too-brief closeness between us". Sellers admitted to his son that "he hated so many things he had done", including leaving his first wife, Anne, and his infatuation with Sophia Loren.
    In March 1980 Sellers asked his fifteen-year-old daughter Victoria what she thought about Being There: she reported later that, "I said yes, I thought it was great.
    More Details Hide Details But then I said, 'You looked like a little fat old man'.... he went mad. He threw his drink over me and told me to get the next plane home." His other daughter Sarah told Sellers her thoughts about the incident and he sent her a telegram that read "After what happened this morning with Victoria, I shall be happy if I never hear from you again. I won't tell you what I think of you. It must be obvious. Goodbye, Your Father." Sellers's last film was The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, a comedic re-imagining of the eponymous adventure novels by Sax Rohmer; Sellers played both police inspector Nayland Smith and Fu Manchu, alongside Helen Mirren and David Tomlinson. The production of the film was troublesome before filming started, with two directors—Richard Quine and John Avildsen—fired before the script had been completed. Sellers also expressed dissatisfaction with his own portrayal of Manchu with his ill-health often causing delays. Arguments between Sellers and director Piers Haggard led to Haggard's firing at Sellers's instigation and Sellers took over direction, using his long-time friend David Lodge to direct some sequences. Tom Shales of The Washington Post described the film as "an indefensibly inept comedy", adding that "it is hard to name another good actor who ever made so many bad movies as Sellers, a comedian of great gifts but ferociously faulty judgment. "Manchu" will take its rightful place alongside such colossally ill-advised washouts as Tell Me Where It Hurts, The Bobo and The Prisoner of Zenda".
    In 1980 he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his role in Being There, and also earned three other Golden Globe nominations in the same category.
    More Details Hide Details Turner Classic Movies calls Sellers "one of the most accomplished comic actors of the late 20th century." In his personal life, Sellers struggled with depression and insecurities. An enigmatic figure, he often claimed to have no identity outside the roles that he played. His behaviour was often erratic and compulsive, and he frequently clashed with his directors and co-stars, especially in the mid-1970s when his physical and mental health, together with his alcohol and drug problems, were at their worst. Sellers was married four times, and had three children from his first two marriages.
  • 1979
    Age 53
    Later in 1979, Sellers starred opposite Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas and Jack Warden in the black comedy Being There as Chance, a mindless, emotionless gardener addicted to watching TV.
    More Details Hide Details In a BBC interview in 1971, Sellers had said that more than anything else, he wanted to play the role, and successfully persuaded the author of the book Jerzy Kosinski to allow him and director Hal Ashby to make the film, provided he could write the script. During filming, to remain in character, Sellers refused most interview requests and kept his distance from the other actors. Sellers considered Chance's walking and voice the character's most important attributes, and in preparing for the role, he worked alone with a tape recorder, or with his wife, and then with Ashby, to perfect the clear enunciation and flat delivery needed to reveal "the childlike mind behind the words". Sellers described his experience of working on the film as "so humbling, so powerful", and co-star Shirley MacLaine found Sellers "a dream" to work with. Sellers's performance was universally lauded by critics and is considered by critic Danny Smith to be the "crowning triumph of Peter Sellers's remarkable career". Critic Frank Rich wrote that the acting skill required for this sort of role, with a "schismatic personality that Peter had to convey with strenuous vocal and gestural technique... A lesser actor would have made the character's mental dysfunction flamboyant and drastic... His intelligence was always deeper, his onscreen confidence greater, his technique much more finely honed": in achieving this, Sellers "makes the film's fantastic premise credible". The film earned Sellers a Best Actor award at the 51st National Board of Review Awards; the London Critics Circle Film Awards Special Achievement Award, the Best Actor award at the 45th New York Film Critics Circle Awards; and the Best Actor – Musical or Comedy award at the 37th Golden Globe Awards.
    Upon its release in May 1979, the film was well received; Janet Maslin of The New York Times observed how Sellers divided "his energies between a serious character and a funny one, but that it was his serious performance which was more impressive."
    More Details Hide Details However, Philip French, for The Observer, was unimpressed by the film, describing it as "a mess of porridge" and stating that "Sellers reveals that he cannot draw the line between the sincere and the sentimental".
    In 1979, Sellers starred alongside Lynne Frederick, Lionel Jeffries and Elke Sommer in Richard Quine's The Prisoner of Zenda.
    More Details Hide Details He portrayed three roles, including King Rudolf IV and King Rudolf V—rulers of the fictional small nation of Ruritania—and Syd Frewin, Rudolf V's half-brother.
  • 1978
    Age 52
    He would make similar references throughout his life: when he appeared on The Muppet Show in 1978, a guest appearance that earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Variety or Music, he chose not to appear as himself, instead appearing in a variety of costumes and accents.
    More Details Hide Details When Kermit the Frog told Sellers he could relax and be himself, Sellers replied:
  • 1977
    Age 51
    On 20 March 1977, Sellers suffered a second major heart attack during a flight from Paris to London; he was subsequently fitted with a pacemaker.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers returned from his illness to undertake Revenge of the Pink Panther; although it was a commercial success, the critics were tiring of Inspector Clouseau. Julian Upton expressed the view that the strain behind the scenes began to manifest itself in the sluggish pace of the film, describing it as a "laboured, stunt-heavy hotchpotch of half-baked ideas and rehashed gags." Sellers too had become tired of the role, saying after production, "I've honestly had enough of Clouseau—I've got nothing more to give". Steven Bach, the senior vice-president and head of worldwide productions for United Artists, who worked with Sellers on Revenge of the Pink Panther, considered that Sellers was "deeply unbalanced, if not committable: that was the source of his genius and his truly quite terrifying aspects as manipulator and hysteric". He refused to seek professional help for his mental issues. Sellers would claim that he had no personality and was almost unnoticeable, which meant that he "needed a strongly defined character to play".
  • 1976
    Age 50
    In March 1976 Sellers began dating actress Lynne Frederick, whom he married on 18 February 1977.
    More Details Hide Details Biographer Roger Lewis documents that of all of Sellers's wives, Frederick was the most poorly treated; Julian Upton likened it to a boxing match between a heavyweight and a featherweight, a relationship that "oscillated from ardour to hatred, reconciliation and remorse." Peter Evans claims that Milligan detested his friend's choice of partner and believed she was to blame for his increasing alcohol and cocaine dependency.
    During the filming from February to June 1976, the already fraught relationship between Sellers and Blake Edwards had seriously deteriorated.
    More Details Hide Details Edwards says of the actor's mental state at the time of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, "If you went to an asylum and you described the first inmate you saw, that's what Peter had become. He was certifiable." With declining physical health, Sellers could at times be unbearable on set. His behaviour was regarded as unprofessional and childish, and he frequently threw tantrums, often threatening to abandon projects. Peter Evans mentioned that Sellers was a "volatile and perplexing character who left a trail of misery in his private life". He also noted that Sellers had a "compulsive personality and was an eccentric hypochondriac" who became addicted to various medicines aside from his recreational drug habits during this period. His difficult behaviour during productions was widely reported and made it more difficult for Sellers to get employment in the industry at a time when he most needed the work. Despite Sellers's deep personal problems, The Pink Panther Strikes Again was well received critically. Vincent Canby of The New York Times said of Sellers in the film, "There is, too, something most winningly seedy about Mr. Sellers' Clouseau, a fellow who, when he attempts to tear off his clothes in the heat of passion, gets tangled up in his necktie, and who, when he masquerades—for reasons never gone into—as Quasimodo, overinflates his hump with helium." Sellers's performance earned him a further nomination at the 34th Golden Globe Awards.
    In 1976, he followed it with The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
    More Details Hide Details
  • FORTIES
  • 1975
    Age 49
    The film was shot on a budget of £3 million and earned $33 million at the box office upon release in May 1975, reinvigorating Sellers's career as an A-list film star and restoring his millionaire status.
    More Details Hide Details The film earned Sellers a nomination for the Best Actor – Musical or Comedy award at the 33rd Golden Globe Awards.
  • 1974
    Age 48
    A turning point in Sellers's flailing career came in 1974, when he teamed up with Blake Edwards to make The Return of the Pink Panther, starring alongside Christopher Plummer, Herbert Lom and Catherine Schell.
    More Details Hide Details
    As a result, by 1974 he agreed to accept salaries of £100,000 and 10 per cent of the gross to appear in TV productions and advertisements, well below the £1 million he had once commanded per film.
    More Details Hide Details In 1973, he appeared in a Benson & Hedges cinema commercial; in 1975, he appeared in a series of advertisements for Trans World Airlines, in which he played several eccentric characters, including Thrifty McTravel, Jeremy 'Piggy' Peak Thyme and an Italian singer, Vito. Biographer Michael Starr asserts that Sellers showed enthusiasm towards these roles, although the airline campaign failed commercially.
    In 1974, Sellers portrayed a "sexually voracious" Queen Victoria in Joseph McGrath's comedic biographical film of the Scottish poet William McGonagall, The Great McGonagall, starring opposite Milligan and Julia Foster.
    More Details Hide Details However, the film was a critical failure, and Sellers's career and life reached an all-time low.
    In 1974, Sellers again claimed to have communicated with the long-dead music hall comic Dan Leno, who advised him to return to the role of Clouseau.
    More Details Hide Details
    When he was invited to appear on Michael Parkinson's eponymous chat show in 1974, he withdrew the day before, explaining to Parkinson that "I just can't walk on as myself".
    More Details Hide Details When he was told he could come on as someone else, he appeared dressed as a member of the Gestapo. After a few lines in keeping with his assumed character, he stepped out of the role and settled down and, according to Parkinson himself, "was brilliant, giving the audience an astonishing display of his virtuosity".
    By 1974, Sellers's friends were concerned that he was having a nervous breakdown.
    More Details Hide Details Directors John and Roy Boulting considered that Sellers was "a deeply troubled man, distrustful, self-absorbed, ultimately self-destructive. He was the complete contradiction." Sellers was shy and insecure when out of character.
  • 1973
    Age 47
    In May 1973, with his third marriage failing, Sellers went to the theatre to watch Liza Minnelli perform.
    More Details Hide Details He became entranced with Minnelli and the couple became engaged three days later, despite Minnelli's current betrothal to Desi Arnaz, Jr., and Sellers still being married. Their relationship lasted a month before breaking up.
  • 1972
    Age 46
    On 20 April 1972, Sellers reunited with Milligan and Harry Secombe to record The Last Goon Show of All, which was broadcast on 5 October.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1970
    Age 44
    The couple married on 24 August 1970, despite Sellers's private doubts—expressed to his agent, Dennis Selinger—about his decision to re-marry.
    More Details Hide Details
    According to The Times, the film was a major commercial success and became the seventh most popular film at the British box office in 1970.
    More Details Hide Details Andrew Spicer, writing for the British Film Institute's Screenonline, considers that although Sellers favoured playing romantic roles, he "was always more successful in parts that sent up his own vanities and pretensions, as with the TV presenter and narcissistic lothario he played in There's a Girl in My Soup". The film was seen as a small revival of his career. However, Sellers's next films, including Rodney Amateau's Where Does It Hurt? (1972) and Peter Medak's Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973), were again poorly received, and his acting was viewed as frenetic rather than funny. Despite these setbacks, Sellers won the Best Actor award at the 1973 Tehran Film Festival for his tragi-comedic role as a street performer in Anthony Simmons's The Optimists of Nine Elms. Fellow comedian and friend Spike Milligan believed that the early 1970s were for Sellers "a period of indifference, and it would appear at one time that his career might have come to a conclusion". This was echoed by Sellers's biographer, Peter Evans, who notes that out of nine films in the period, three were never released and five had flopped, while only There's a Girl in My Soup had been a success. In his private life, he had been seeing the twenty-three-year-old model Miranda Quarry.
  • 1969
    Age 43
    In 1969 Sellers starred opposite Ringo Starr in the Joseph McGrath-directed film The Magic Christian.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers portrayed Sir Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire who plays elaborate practical jokes on people. The critic Irv Slifkin remarked that the film was a reflection of the cynicism of Peter Sellers, describing the film as a "proto-Pythonesque adaption of Terry Southern's semi-free-form short novel", and "one of the strangest films to be shown at a gala premiere for Britain's royal family." The film, a satire on human nature, was in general viewed negatively by critics. Roger Greenspun of The New York Times believed that the film was of variable quality and summarised it as a "brutal satire". After a cameo appearance in A Day at the Beach (1970), and a serious role later in 1970 as an ageing businessman who seduces Sinéad Cusack in Hoffman, Sellers starred in Roy Boulting's There's a Girl in My Soup opposite Goldie Hawn.
  • 1968
    Age 42
    Sellers's first film appearance of 1968 was a reunion with Blake Edwards for the fish out of water comedy The Party, in which he starred alongside Claudine Longet and Denny Miller.
    More Details Hide Details He appears as Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bungling Indian actor who accidentally receives an invitation to a lavish Hollywood dinner party. His character, according to Sellers's biographer Peter Evans, was "clearly an amalgam of Clouseau and the doctor in The Millionairess". Roger Lewis notes that like a number of Sellers's characters, he is played in a sympathetic and dignified manner. He followed it later that year with Hy Averback's I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, playing an attorney who abandons his lifestyle to become a hippie. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars, remarking that Sellers was "back doing what he does best", although he also said that in Sellers's previous films he had "been at his worst recently".
    The divorce was finalised on 18 December 1968, and Sellers's friend Spike Milligan sent Ekland a congratulatory telegram.
    More Details Hide Details Upon its release in September 1967, The Bobo was poorly received.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1965
    Age 39
    On 20 January 1965, Sellers and Ekland announced the birth of a daughter, Victoria.
    More Details Hide Details They moved to Rome in May to film After the Fox, an Anglo-Italian production in which they were both to appear. The film was directed by Vittorio De Sica, whose English Sellers struggled to understand. Sellers attempted to have De Sica fired, causing tensions on the set. Sellers also became unhappy with his wife's performance, straining their relationship and triggering open arguments during one of which Sellers threw a chair at Ekland. Despite these conflicts, the script was praised for its wit. Seven screenwriters worked on the project, and filming was chaotic. To make matters worse, according to Ekland, Sellers was "so insecure, he won't trust anyone". A poor working relationship quickly developed between Sellers and Welles: Sellers eventually demanded that the two should not share the same set. Sellers left the film before his part was complete. A further agent's part was then written for Terence Cooper, to cover Sellers's departure.
  • 1964
    Age 38
    Upon its release in late June 1964, Bosley Crowther noted the "joyously free and facile way" in which Sellers had developed his comedy technique.
    More Details Hide Details
    After some time recovering, Sellers returned to filming in October 1964, playing King of the Individualists alongside Ekland in Carol for Another Christmas, a United Nations special, broadcast on the ABC channel on 28 December 1964.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers had been concerned that his heart attacks may have caused brain damage and that he would be unable to remember his lines, but he was reassured that his memory and abilities were unimpaired after the experience of filming. Sellers followed this with the role of the perverted Austrian psychoanalyst Doctor Fritz Fassbender in Clive Donner's What's New Pussycat?, appearing alongside Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss and Ursula Andress. The film was the first screenwriting and acting credit for Woody Allen, and featured Sellers in a love triangle. Sellers became a close friend of Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, a photographer who was then married to Princess Margaret. Snowdon shared a love of women, photography, fine wine and fast cars with Sellers; both were also prone to bouts of depression. They spent many weekends together with their wives and went on several holidays on board Sellers's yacht Bobo in Sardinia.
    On the night of 5 April 1964, prior to having sex with Ekland, Sellers took amyl nitrites (poppers) as a sexual stimulant in his search for "the ultimate orgasm", and suffered a series of eight heart attacks over the course of three hours as a result.
    More Details Hide Details His illness forced him to withdraw from the filming of Kiss Me, Stupid and he was replaced by Ray Walston. Wilder was unsympathetic about the heart attacks, saying that "you have to have a heart before you can have an attack".
    Towards the end of filming, in early February 1964, Sellers met Britt Ekland, a Swedish actress who had arrived in London to film Guns at Batasi. On 19 February 1964, just ten days after their first meeting, the couple married.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers soon showed signs of insecurity and paranoia; he would become highly anxious and jealous, for example, when Ekland starred opposite attractive men. Shortly after the wedding, Sellers started filming on location in Twentynine Palms, California for Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid, opposite Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The relationship between Wilder and Sellers became strained; both had different approaches to work and often clashed as a result.
  • 1963
    Age 37
    Between November 1963 and February 1964, Sellers began filming A Shot in the Dark, an adaptation of a French play, L'Idiote by Marcel Achard.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers found the part and the director, Anatole Litvak, uninspiring; the producers brought in Blake Edwards to replace Litvak. Together with writer William Peter Blatty, they turned the script into a Clouseau comedy, also adding Herbert Lom as Commissioner Dreyfus and Burt Kwouk as Cato. During filming, Sellers's relationship with Edwards became strained; the two would often stop speaking to each other during filming, communicating only by the passing of notes. Sellers's personality was described by others as difficult and demanding, and he often clashed with fellow actors and directors.
    In 1963, Stanley Kubrick cast Sellers to appear in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb alongside George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn and Slim Pickens.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers and Kubrick got on famously during the film's production and had the greatest of respect for each other, also sharing a love of photography. The director asked Sellers to play four roles: US President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of the RAF and Major T. J. "King" Kong. Sellers was initially hesitant about taking on these divergent characters, but Kubrick prevailed. According to some accounts, Sellers was also invited to play the part of General Buck Turgidson, but turned it down because it was too physically demanding. Kubrick later commented that the idea of having Sellers in so many of the film's key roles was that "everywhere you turn there is some version of Peter Sellers holding the fate of the world in his hands". Sellers was especially anxious about successfully enacting the role of Kong and accurately affecting a Texan accent. Kubrick requested screenwriter Terry Southern to record in his natural accent a tape of Kong's lines. After practising with Southern's recording, Sellers got sufficient control of the accent, and started shooting the scenes in the aeroplane. After the first day's shooting, Sellers sprained his ankle while leaving a restaurant and could no longer work in the cramped cockpit set. Kubrick then re-cast Slim Pickens as Kong. The three roles Sellers undertook were distinct, "variegated, complex and refined", and critic Alexander Walker considered that these roles "showed his genius at full stretch".
  • 1962
    Age 36
    After his father's death in October 1962, Sellers decided to leave England and was approached by director Blake Edwards who offered him the role of Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, after Peter Ustinov had backed out of the film.
    More Details Hide Details The film starred David Niven in the principal role, with two other actors—Capucine and Claudia Cardinale—having more prominent roles than Sellers. However, Sellers's performance is regarded as being on par with that of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, according to biographer Peter Evans. Although the Clouseau character was in the script, Sellers created the personality, devising the costume, accent, make-up, moustache and trench coat. The Pink Panther was released in the UK in January 1964 and received a mixed reception from the critics, although Penelope Gilliatt, writing in The Observer, remarked that Sellers had a "flawless sense of mistiming" in a performance that was " one of the most delicate studies in accident-proneness since the silents." Despite the views of the critics, the film was one of the top ten grossing films of the year. The role earned Sellers a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy at the 22nd Golden Globe Awards, and for a Best British Actor award at the 18th British Academy Film Awards.
    At the end of 1962, his marriage to Anne broke down.
    More Details Hide Details In 1963, Sellers starred as gang leader "Pearly Gates" in Cliff Owen's The Wrong Arm of the Law, followed by his portrayal of a vicar in Heavens Above!
    Sellers's behaviour towards his family worsened in 1962; according to his son Michael, Sellers asked him and his sister Sarah "who we love more, our mother or him.
    More Details Hide Details Sarah, to keep the peace, said, 'I love you both equally'. I said, 'No, I love my mum.'" This prompted Sellers to throw both children out, saying that he never wanted to see them again.
    Towards the end of 1962, Sellers appeared in The Dock Brief, a legal satire directed by James Hill and co-starring Richard Attenborough.
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    Stanley Kubrick asked Sellers to play the role of Clare Quilty in the 1962 film Lolita, opposite James Mason and Shelley Winters.
    More Details Hide Details Kubrick had seen Sellers in The Battle of the Sexes and listened to the album The Best of Sellers, and was impressed by the range of characters he could portray. Sellers was apprehensive about accepting the role, doubting his ability to successfully portray the part of a flamboyant American television playwright who was according to Sellers "a fantastic nightmare, part homosexual, part drug addict, part sadist". Kubrick encouraged Sellers to improvise and stated that he would often reach a "state of comic ecstasy." Kubrick had American jazz producer Norman Granz record portions of the script for Sellers to listen to, so he could study the voice and develop confidence, granting Sellers a free artistic licence. Sellers later claimed that his relationship with Kubrick became one of the most rewarding of his career. Writing in The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell noted that Sellers gave, " a firework performance, funny, malicious, only once for a few seconds overreaching itself, and in the murder scene which is both prologue and epilogue achieving the macabre in comedy."
    In 1962 Sellers played a retired British army general in John Guillermin's Waltz of the Toreadors, based on the play of the same name.
    More Details Hide Details The film was widely criticised for its slapstick cinematic adaption, and director Guillermin himself considered the film an "amateurish" effort. However, Sellers won the San Sebastián International Film Festival Award for Best Actor and a BAFTA award nomination for his performance, and it was well received by the critics.
  • 1961
    Age 35
    In 1961 Sellers made his directorial debut with Mr. Topaze, in which he also starred.
    More Details Hide Details The film was based on the Marcel Pagnol play Topaze. Sellers portrayed an ex-schoolmaster in a small French town who turns to a life of crime to obtain wealth. The film and Sellers's directorial abilities received an unenthusiastic response from the public and critics alike, and Sellers rarely referred to it again. The same year he starred in the Sidney Gilliat-directed Only Two Can Play, a film based on the novel That Uncertain Feeling by Kingsley Amis. He was nominated for the Best British Actor award at the 16th British Academy Film Awards for his role as John Lewis, a frustrated Welsh librarian whose affections swing between the glamorous Liz (Mai Zetterling), and his long-suffering wife Jean (Virginia Maskell).
  • 1960
    Age 34
    The film inspired the George Martin-produced novelty hit single "Goodness Gracious Me", with Sellers and Loren, which reached number four in the UK Singles Chart in November 1960.
    More Details Hide Details A follow-up single by the duo, Bangers and Mash, reached number 22 in the UK chart. The songs were included on an album released by the couple, Peter & Sophia, which reached number five in the UK Albums Chart.
    In 1960 Sellers portrayed an Indian doctor, Dr Ahmed el Kabir in Anthony Asquith's romantic comedy The Millionairess, a film based on a George Bernard Shaw play of the same name.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers was not interested in accepting the role until he learned that Sophia Loren was to be his co-star. When asked about Loren, he explained to reporters "I don't normally act with romantic, glamorous women... she's a lot different from Harry Secombe." Sellers and Loren developed a close relationship during filming, culminating in Sellers declaring his love for her in front of his wife. Sellers also woke his son at night to ask: "Do you think I should divorce your mummy?" Roger Lewis observed that Sellers immersed himself completely in the characters he enacted during productions, that "he'd play a role as an Indian doctor, and for the next six months, he'd be an Indian in his real daily life."
  • 1959
    Age 33
    In 1959 Sellers released his second album, Songs For Swinging Sellers, which—like his first record—reached number three in the UK Albums Chart.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers's last film of the fifties was The Battle of the Sexes; a comedy directed by Charles Crichton.
  • 1958
    Age 32
    Sellers released his first studio album in 1958 called The Best of Sellers; a collection of sketches and comic songs, which were undertaken in a variety of comic characters.
    More Details Hide Details Produced by George Martin and released on Parlophone, the album reached number three in the UK Albums Chart; The same year, Sellers made his first film with John and Roy Boulting in Carlton-Browne of the F.O., a comedy in which he played a supporting role for the film's lead, Terry-Thomas. Before the release of that film, the Boultings, along with Sellers and Thomas in the cast, started filming I'm All Right Jack, which became the highest grossing film at the British box office in 1960. In preparation for his role as Fred Kite, Sellers watched footage of union officials. The role earned him a BAFTA, and the critic for The Manchester Guardian believed it was Sellers's best screen performance to date. In between Carlton-Browne of the F.O. and I'm All Right Jack, Sellers starred in The Mouse That Roared, a film in which Jean Seberg also appeared, and was directed by Jack Arnold. He played three leading and distinct roles: the elderly Grand Duchess, the ambitious Prime Minister and the innocent and clumsy farm boy selected to lead an invasion of the United States. The film received universal and high praise by critics.
    In 1958 Sellers starred with David Tomlinson, Wilfrid Hyde-White, David Lodge and Lionel Jeffries as a chief petty officer in Val Guest's Up the Creek.
    More Details Hide Details Guest later claimed that he had written and directed the film as a vehicle for Sellers, and thus had started Sellers's film career. To practice his voice, Sellers purchased a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The film received critical acclaim in the United States and Roger Lewis viewed it as an important practice ground for Sellers. Next, Sellers featured with Terry-Thomas as one of a pair of comic villains in George Pal's tom thumb (1958), a musical fantasy film, opposite Russ Tamblyn, Jessie Matthews and Peter Butterworth. Terry-Thomas later said that "my part was perfect, but Peter's was bloody awful. He wasn't difficult about it, but he knew it". The performance was a major landmark in Sellers's career and became his first contact with the Hollywood film industry.
  • 1957
    Age 31
    Later in 1957 Sellers portrayed a television star with a talent for disguises in Mario Zampi's offbeat black comedy The Naked Truth, opposite Terry-Thomas, Peggy Mount, Shirley Eaton and Dennis Price.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers's difficulties in getting his film career to take off, and increasing problems in his personal life, prompted him to seek periodic consultations with astrologer Maurice Woodruff, who held considerable sway over his later career. After a chance meeting with a North American Indian spirit guide in the 1950s, Sellers became convinced that the music hall comedian Dan Leno, who died in 1904, haunted him and guided his career and life-decisions.
    In 1957 film producer Michael Relph became impressed with Sellers's portrayal of an elderly character in Idiot Weekly, and cast the 32-year-old actor as a 68-year-old projectionist in Basil Dearden's The Smallest Show on Earth, supporting Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna and Margaret Rutherford.
    More Details Hide Details The film was a commercial success and is now thought of as a minor classic of British screen comedy in the post-war era. Following this, Sellers provided the growling voice of Winston Churchill to the BAFTA award winning film The Man Who Never Was.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1955
    Age 29
    He accepted a larger part in the 1955 Alexander Mackendrick-directed Ealing comedy The Ladykillers in which he starred opposite Alec Guinness, Herbert Lom and Cecil Parker as Harry Robinson, the Teddy Boy; biographer Peter Evans considers this Sellers's first good role.
    More Details Hide Details The Ladykillers was a success in both Britain and the US, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The following year Sellers appeared in a further three television series based on The Goons, which aired on Britain's new ITV network. The series were The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d, A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred.
  • 1954
    Age 28
    In 1954, Sellers was cast opposite Sid James, Tony Hancock, Raymond Huntley, Donald Pleasence and Eric Sykes in the British Lion Film Corporation comedy production, Orders Are Orders.
    More Details Hide Details John Grierson believes that this was Sellers's breakthrough role on screen and credits this film with launching the film careers of both Sellers and Hancock. Sellers pursued a film career and took a number of small roles such as a police inspector in John and Julie (1955).
  • 1952
    Age 26
    Sellers and Milligan then penned the script to Let's Go Crazy, the earliest film to showcase Sellers's ability to portray a series of different characters within the same film, and he made another appearance opposite his Goons co-stars in the 1952 flop, Down Among the Z Men.
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  • 1951
    Age 25
    In 1951 the Goons made their feature film debut in Penny Points to Paradise.
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    On 3 February 1951, he made a trial tape entitled The Goons, and sent it to the BBC producer Pat Dixon, who eventually accepted it.
    More Details Hide Details The first Goon Show was broadcast on 28 May 1951. Against their wishes, they appeared under the name Crazy People. Sellers appeared in The Goons until the last programme of the ten-series run, broadcast on 28 January 1960. Sellers played four main characters—Major Bloodnok, Hercules Grytpype-Thynne, Bluebottle and Henry Crun—and seventeen minor ones. Starting with 370,000 listeners, the show eventually reached up to seven million people in Britain, and was described by one newspaper as "probably the most influential comedy show of all time". For Sellers, the BBC considers it had the effect of launching his career "on the road to stardom".
  • 1950
    Age 24
    Sellers's introduction to film work came in 1950, where he dubbed the voice of Alfonso Bedoya in The Black Rose.
    More Details Hide Details He continued to work with Bentine, Milligan, and Secombe.
    Sellers proposed to her in April 1950 and the couple were married in London on 15 September 1951; their son, Michael, was born on 2 April 1954, and their daughter, Sarah, followed in 1958.
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  • 1949
    Age 23
    In 1949, Sellers started to date Anne Howe, an Australian actress who lived in London.
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  • 1948
    Age 22
    In October 1948, Sellers was a regular radio performer, appearing in Starlight Hour, The Gang Show, Henry Hall's Guest Night and It's Fine To Be Young.
    More Details Hide Details By the end of 1948, the BBC Third Programme began to broadcast the comedy series Third Division, which starred, among others, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine and Sellers. One evening, Sellers and Bentine visited the Hackney Empire, where Secombe was performing, and Bentine introduced Sellers to Spike Milligan. The four would meet up at Grafton's public house near Victoria, owned by Jimmy Grafton, who was also a BBC script writer. The four comedians dubbed him KOGVOS (Keeper of Goons and Voice of Sanity) Grafton later edited some of the first Goon Shows.
    This led to his brief appearance on 1 July 1948 on ShowTime and subsequently to work on Ray's a Laugh with comedian Ted Ray.
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    As a result, he made his television debut on 18 March 1948 in New To You.
    More Details Hide Details His act was largely based on impressions, was well received, and he returned the following week. Frustrated with the slow pace of his career, Sellers telephoned BBC radio producer Roy Speer, pretending to be Kenneth Horne, star of the radio show Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh. Speer called Sellers a "cheeky young sod" for his efforts, but gave him an audition.
    Sellers wrote to the BBC in 1948, and was subsequently auditioned.
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    In March 1948 Sellers gained a six-week run at the Windmill Theatre in London, which predominantly staged revue acts: he provided the comedy turns in between the nude shows on offer.
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  • 1946
    Age 20
    In 1946, Sellers made his final show with ENSA starring in the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk at the Théâtre Marigny in Paris.
    More Details Hide Details He was posted back to England shortly afterwards to work at the Air Ministry, and demobilised later that year. On resuming his theatrical career, Sellers could get only sporadic work. He was fired after one performance of a comedy routine in Peterborough; the headline act, Welsh vocalist Dorothy Squires, however, persuaded the management to reinstate him. Sellers also continued his drumming and was billed on his appearance at The Hippodrome in Aldershot as "Britain's answer to Gene Krupa".
  • TEENAGE
  • 1943
    Age 17
    In September 1943, he joined the Royal Air Force, although it is unclear whether he volunteered or was conscripted; his mother unsuccessfully tried to have him deferred on medical grounds.
    More Details Hide Details Sellers wanted to become a pilot, but his poor eyesight restricted him to ground staff duties. He found these duties dull, so auditioned for Squadron Leader Ralph Reader's RAF Gang Show entertainment troupe: Reader accepted him and Sellers toured the UK before the troupe was transferred to India. His tour also included Ceylon and Burma, although the duration of his stay in Asia is unknown, and Sellers may have exaggerated its length. He also served in Germany and France after the war. According to David Lodge who became friends with Sellers, he was "one of the best performers ever" on the drums and developed a fine ability to impersonate military officers during this period.
  • 1940
    Age 14
    Early in 1940, the family moved to the north Devon town of Ilfracombe, where Sellers's maternal uncle managed the Victoria Palace Theatre; Sellers got his first job at the theatre, aged fifteen, starting as a caretaker.
    More Details Hide Details He was steadily promoted, becoming a box office clerk, usher, assistant stage manager and lighting operator. He was also offered some small acting parts. Working backstage gave him a chance to study actors such as Paul Scofield. He became close friends with Derek Altman, and together they launched Sellers's first stage act under the name "Altman and Sellers", consisting of playing ukuleles, singing, and telling jokes. During his backstage theatre job, Sellers began practising on a set of drums that belonged to the band Joe Daniels and his Hot Shots. Daniels noticed his efforts and gave him practical instructions. The instrument greatly suited Sellers's temperament and artistic skills. Spike Milligan later noted that Sellers was very proficient on the drums and might have remained a jazz drummer, had he lacked his skills in mimicry and improvisation. As the Second World War progressed, Sellers continued to develop his drumming skills, and played with a series of touring bands, including those of Oscar Rabin, Henry Hall and Waldini, as well as his father's quartet, before he left and joined a band from Blackpool. Sellers became a member of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), which provided entertainment for British forces and factory workers during the war. Sellers also performed comedy routines at these concerts, including impersonations of George Formby, with Sellers accompanying his own singing on ukulele.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1935
    Age 9
    In 1935 the Sellers family moved to North London and settled in Muswell Hill.
    More Details Hide Details 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, but soon after entering Catholic school, he "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." According to Milligan, Sellers held a guilt complex about being Jewish and recalls that Sellers was once moved to tears when he presented him with a candlestick from a synagogue for Christmas, believing the gesture to be an anti-Jewish slur.
  • 1925
    Born
    Sellers was born on 8 September 1925, in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth.
    More Details Hide Details His parents were Yorkshire-born William "Bill" Sellers (1900–62) and Agnes Doreen "Peg" (née Marks, 1892–1967). Both were variety entertainers; Peg was in the Ray Sisters troupe. Although christened Richard Henry, his parents called him Peter, after his elder stillborn brother. Sellers remained an only child. 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. Sellers was two weeks old when he was carried on stage by Dick Henderson, the headline act at the Kings Theatre in Southsea: the crowd sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", which caused the infant to cry. The family constantly toured, causing much upheaval and unhappiness in the young Sellers's life. Sellers maintained a very close relationship with his mother, which his friend Spike Milligan later considered unhealthy for a grown man. Sellers's agent, Dennis Selinger, recalled his first meeting with Peg and Peter Sellers, noting that "Sellers was an immensely shy young man, inclined to be dominated by his mother, but without resentment or objection". As an only child though, he spent much time alone.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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