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Peter Sellers

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Peter Sellers
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Peter Sellers

Richard Henry Sellers (September 8, 1925July 24, 1980), better known as Peter Sellers, was a British comedian, talented comic actor, and performer on The Goon Show (a long-running BBC radio show, 1951-1960). Sellers was born in Southsea, Hampshire, England, to a family of entertainers.

Probably following his family in the variety circuit, Sellers learnt this popular yet difficult art and the immediate instinct of the "gag". He was an incredibly versatile artist: an excellent dancer, a skillful player of the ukulele and banjo, and a drummer good enough to tour with several jazz bands. He is known to have performed at the Windmill Theatre.

During World War II, Sellers was an airman in the Royal Air Force, rising to corporal by the end of the war. During his leisure periods, he did impersonations of his superiors. This helped Sellers in his later film Dr. Strangelove.

His success was quite slow in coming. He phoned up a television producer pretending to be Kenneth Horne, who was currently in the show Much Binding in the Marsh, in order to get them to speak to him. Success came as one of the goons on the radio programme The Goon Show with fellow comedians Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine and was followed by early television work.

Sellers' first film successes were in British comedy films, including The Ladykillers (1955), I'm All Right Jack (1959) and The Mouse That Roared (1959); however, he is most famous for his role as the bungling Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, which gave him a worldwide audience. The movie The Trail of the Pink Panther was released posthumously in 1982, containing previously unused footage of Sellers. Sellers' widow Lynne Frederick later successfully sued the film's producers.

Sellers was launched internationally with the hit "The Millionairess". In Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb he notably played the triple role consisting of President Merkin Muffley of the United States, Dr. Strangelove, and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of the RAF (the first two appearing in the same room throughout the film). He was remarkably versatile, switching easily from brilliant themes as in The Party, to more intense performances as in Lolita (from Vladimir Nabokov's notorious novel). Sellers' career slumped in the early 1970s but after reviving the Clouseau character he was able to produce his cherished project Being There in 1979, winning his best reviews since the 1960s, as well as his second Academy Award nomination.

Commonly considered a master actor, sometimes described as an "obsessive perfectionist", Sellers found in Blake Edwards a devoted director who could delicately underline and follow his comic rhythms; Edwards defined Sellers as a "mercurial clown" who could turn comedy into drama, and vice-versa, in an instant.

He was nominated twice for an Academy Award, but was unsuccessful on both occasions although he won a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for I'm All Right Jack. With Sophia Loren Sellers recorded the top 10 UK single "Goodness Gracious Me".

Sellers was married four times, his first to actress Anne Howe ended after she claimed he was having an affair with Sophia Loren though Loren has maintained that Sellers had become obsessed with her but it was not reciprocated. His second marriage was to the Swedish actress Britt Ekland. In 1970 he married Miranda Quarry. His wife at the time of his death was Lynne Frederick, who later married Sir David Frost. Sellers was also a close friend of Princess Margaret.

Another interesting trait was his love for cars; he was believed to have owned and sold a few tens of different cars by the late sixties. This was briefly parodied in a fleeting cameo in the short film Simon Simon, directed by his colleague Graham Stark.

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Tv_muppet_show_peter_sellers.jpg
Peter Sellers on The Muppet Show

Sellers died at age 54 of a heart attack on July 24, 1980, in London, England, having already suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1964 at the age of 38. At the time of his death, he was due to undergo heart surgery. He was cremated. His premature death was perhaps hastened by his belief in so called "quack medicine", including psychic surgery. In his will Sellers explicitly requested that Glenn Miller's song "In The Mood" be played for his funeral. The request is considered his last touch of humour; his friends knew he deeply hated the song.

Roger Lewis wrote about the "madness" and bizarre behavior of Sellers in his biography, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (Applause Books, 1997). Lewis' biography was adapted for the HBO movie, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), with Geoffrey Rush in the title role.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, Sellers was voted amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Films

In some of above titles, Sellers appears only by his voice

Music

Sellers released several comedy singles and albums, many of them produced by George Martin. These include:

  • Any Old Iron (1957)
  • Bangers and Mash (1961)
  • A Hard Day's Night (1965) (1993) (He covered several other Beatles hits, including Help and She Loves You.
  • Goodness Gracious Me (1960) with Sophia Loren

External links

es:Peter Sellers fr:Peter Sellers it:Peter Sellers he:פיטר סלרס nl:Peter Sellers pl:Peter Sellers ru:Селлерс, Питер sk:Peter Sellers sv:Peter Sellers

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