Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Richard Henry Sellers (September 8, 1925 - July 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 vaudeville entertainers.
Probably following his family in the vaudeville 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 successfullly sued the film's producers.
Sellers was launched internationally with the hit "The Millionairess ". He played other more challenging parts, notably 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) in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, easily varying 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 cherised project that became a late masterpiece for Sellers the film Being There.
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.
Other directors Sellers worked under include Roman Polanski, Paul Mazursky, and Billy Wilder. He appeared with many stars, among them Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren, Maggie Smith, Goldie Hawn, Shelley Winters, Elke Sommer, Claudine Longet, and even Ringo Starr (The Beatles' drummer).
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 he 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. 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 of his character 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.
Sellers died at age 55 of a heart attack on July 24, 1980, in London, England. 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.
- The Black Rose (1950).
- London Entertains (1951).
- Let's Go Crazy (1951).
- Burlesque of Carmen (1951).
- Penny Points to Paradise (1951).
- Down Among the Z Men (1952).
- Beat the Devil (Humphrey Bogart's voice) (1953).
- The Super Secret Service (1953).
- Our Girl Friday aka The Adventures of Sadie (1954).
- Malaga (voice of 14 characters) (1954).
- Orders are Orders (1954).
- John and Julie (1955).
- The Man Who Never Was (1956).
- The Ladykillers (1956).
- The Case of the Mukkineese Battlehorn (1956).
- The Smallest Show on Earth (1957).
- Cold Comfort (1957).
- Insomnia Is Good For You (1957).
- Dearth of a Salesman (1957).
- The Naked Truth aka Your Past Is Showing (1958).
- Tom Thumb (1958).
- Up the Creek (1958).
- Carlton-Browne of the F.O. aka Man in a Cocked Hat (1959).
- The Mouse That Roared (1959).
- I'm All Right, Jack (1959).
- The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960).
- The Battle of the Sexes (1960).
- Two-Way Stretch (1960).
- Never Let Go (1960).
- The Millionairess (1960).
- Climb Up the Wall (1960).
- Mr. Topaze aka I Like Money (1961).
- Only Two Can Play (1962).
- The Road to Hong Kong (1962).
- Waltz of the Toreadors (1962).
- Lolita (1962).
- Trial and Error aka The Dock Brief (1962).
- The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963).
- Heavens Above! (1963).
- Light of Day (1963)
- The Pink Panther (1963).
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964 - first Oscar nomination).
- The World of Henry Orient (1964).
- A Shot in the Dark (1964, sequel to The Pink Panther).
- Carol For Another Christmas (1964).
- Birds, Bees and Storks (1964).
- What's New Pussycat? (1965).
- The Wrong Box (1965).
- After the Fox (1966).
- Casino Royale (1967).
- The Bobo (1967).
- Woman Times Seven (1967).
- The Party aka Hollywood Party (1968).
- I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968).
- The Magic Christian (1970).
- Hoffman (1970).
- A Day at the Beach (1970).
- Simon, Simon (1970).
- There's a Girl in My Soup (1971).
- Where Does It Hurt? (1972).
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972).
- The Blockhouse (1973).
- Soft Beds, Hard Battles aka Undercovers Heroes (1973).
- The Optimists of Nine Elms (1974).
- Ghost In The Noonday Sun (1974).
- The Great McGonagall (1975), in which he plays Queen Victoria.
- The Return of the Pink Panther (1975).
- Murder by Death (1976).
- The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976).
- The Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).
- The Prisoner of Zenda (1979).
- Being There (1979), second nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
- The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980).
- The Great Pram Race (1980).
- Trail of the Pink Panther - posthumously (1982).
In some of above titles, Sellers appears only by his voice
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
- http://inspectorclouseau.com - Inspector Clouseau Site
- http://www.petersellers.com - Peter Sellers Site
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