Peter Sellers


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In 1963 the ‘The Pink Panther’ franshise started, in which Sellers gave his first performance as the bumbling French detective Inspector Clouseau, and that film's first sequel, A Shot in the Dark came the following year. Sellers, who was described by many who knew him as a workaholic, maintained a busy schedule over the next ten years, but while the quality of his own work was consistently strong, many of the films he appeared in were sadly undistinguished, with a handful of exceptions, among them ‘I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968), ‘The Wrong Box’ (1966), and ‘The Optimists’ (1973).


Sellers' appeal at the box office began to wane, and his love life took a beating as well, he divorced Britt Ekland in 1968 and married Miranda Quarry in 1969, only to see that marriage end in 1971. But Sellers made a striking comeback in 1975 with ‘The Return of the Pink Panther’, in which he revisited his role as Inspector Clouseau. The film was a massive international hit, and Sellers would play Clouseau two more times, in ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ (1976) and ‘The Revenge of the Pink Panther’ (1978), though he became critical of the formulaic material in the films and would begin writing a script for a sixth Pink Panther film without the input of Blake Edwards, who had written and directed the other films in the series.


In Clouseau, Sellers combined his vocal ingenuity and skill as a slapstick comedian, yet always retained an essential humanity through the inspector's indefatigable dignity in the face of a hostile universe. There are just too many favourite moments from these films to highlight just one. But to you Clouseau aficionados; no one can respond to the line:

‘let me introduce Tanya the Lotus Eater’

the way Clouseau does:

‘…what else does she do?’


One of the greatest comic talents of his generation, Peter Sellers had an exceptional gift for losing himself in a character, so much so that, beyond his remarkable skill as a performer and his fondness for the humor of the absurd, it's difficult to draw a connection between many of his best performances. While his fondness for playing multiple roles in the same film may have seemed like a stunt coming from many other actors, Sellers had the ability to make each character he played seem distinct and different, and while he was known and loved as a funnyman, only in a handful of roles was he able to explore the full range of his gifts, which suggested he could have had just as strong a career as a dramatic actor.


In 1977, Sellers took his fourth wife, actress Lynne Frederick, and he managed to rack up a few moderate box-office successes outside the Pink Panther series with ‘Murder by Death’ and ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’. But in 1979, Sellers gave perhaps his greatest performance ever as Chance, a simpleton gardener whose babbling's about plants are seen as deep metaphors by those around them, in a screen adaptation of Jerzy Kozinski's novel ‘Being There’ a project Sellers had spent the better part of a decade trying to bring to the screen. The film won Sellers a Golden Globe award and a National Board of Review citation as Best Actor, while he also received an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Whilst ‘Being There’ seemed to point to better and more ambitious roles for Sellers, fate had other plans; the actor, who had a long history of heart trouble, died of a heart attack on July 24, 1980, not long after completing.


Perhaps the finest slapstick comic genius of this century he will be a loss that will not be replaced. So if you’re ever depressed don’t bother to get Prozac – buy the DVD box set of the Pink Panther films and take a day off work sick.

Quotes:

'Finally, in conclusion, let me say just this'

'To see me as a person on screen would be one of the dullest experiences you could ever wish to experience'

'If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am'

'There used to be a real me, but I had it surgically removed'


Autobiographies:


Suggested films to see:

Being There (1979)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again(1976)
Dr Stranglelove (1964)

 





 









 

 

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