Although, many people have a general idea about who Peter Sellers is and what he has accomplished in film, his legacy may not always receive the respect it deserves. I believe he brought to comedy what Babe Ruth brought to baseball. He revolutionized his genre, bringing, to the stage, a style and method unlike much of what had been seen thus far. When looking over his film credits, you have to keep in mind he performed a large number of his lines by improvisation, a fact that should made him as much a creator as an actor. By carefully researching his career, you’ll find that he was he was every facet of the creator you would expect a man of his abilities to be.
Peter Sellers dedicated his life, which may explain how he managed to accumulate so much work into the few years during which he was employed alongside Hollywood’s most elite actors. He became one of the most unique comedians of our time because of his ability to improvise, if nothing else. His acting career began in the early 50s with “The Goons,” which was an adaptation of a BBC radio program of the same name. By that time, he had already become known for his impersonations, which had become a significate part of the broadcast. When he starred in “The Pink Panther,” in 1963, he name was preceded by the string of movies from the 50s in which he had acted.
As a self-professed enthusiast, I’ve made it my business to delve into the life of the comedic superstar. Sellers is one of the more complex celebrities, almost a cliché of sorts, and his transparency, while in view of the public, gave him an almost fearless persona. It is for these reasons, among others that studying his life is so fulfilling. Watching his onscreen charisma and charm, whether in interviews or one of his comedy films seem to contrast many of the things that have been discovered and revealed about his life, which is typical for most actors, but it is so easy to connect with him, through the screen, that is easy to assign “a down to earth” demeanor. You hope, if not expect, his comedic presence to be consistent throughout life.
On the contrary, he was said to value his solitary moments from time to time. This should be expected of anyone, famous or not, but not Peter Sellers, the legendary comedian. Comedians are generally known for their candor, especially onstage and in front of the camera, but most people would expect there to be an “off” switch that flips on que. Watching Sellers explain the origins of his acting career is as entertaining as any of his movies. In fact, after hearing the story regaled, even for the second or third time, you may have a greater respect for his work. The downside is, although is portfolio is extensive, uncovering the rarest of one-on-one requires a bit of diligence.
Ultimately, this series of blogs is meant to inspire readers, especially those already familiar with his work, to seek out a greater understanding of the man behind some of the funniest and most entertaining movies of all time.
Peter Sellers seemed to have lived an entire lifetime before he began his career in film, but if you look closely enough, you can see that each step taken was leading him deeper into his passion for comedy and acting. He has said, on a number of occasions, that he wanted to become an actor; however, he continued to share his aptitude for humor and music with audiences throughout the world. Like the stories of other great men and women, his tells of struggle and sacrifice, but also of perseverance, which eventually transformed him into the Peter Sellers that kept us laughing for nearly three decades. This list briefly details a handful of jobs Peter Sellers held before his film career began.
Musician and Recording Artist
It is a widely held notion that many artistic people tend to have numerous abilities. Whether or not they choose to share them with the world often remains to be seen. If we wanted to prove this theory, we could look to Peter Sellers as our test subject. Before he began his career in Showbiz, he was a musician (drummer, to be precise), performing in various cities throughout the UK.Apparently, his musical abilities were taken from his father, who was a concert pianist. His music career led to a relationship with the Beetles, and he even incorporated musical elements into a few of his comedy skits, including his clever “Sellers Sings George Gershwin.” His relationship with the boy band continued throughout his life and career, and we see his friendship with Ringo Starr, who appears with him in The Magic Christian.
Performed on the Goons Show
Before making his television debut, Peter Sellers performed regular comedy skits on BBC radio. Along with fellow comedians, Spike Milligan, Harry Sucombe, and Michael Bentine, he recorded over 238 broadcast and the quartet became a local sensation. During an interview, Sellers admits to having called up to the station, pretending to be a well-known radio personality, after which he quickly announced himself and asked for a program slot. When asked about his particular talents, he explained his ability to do impersonations, a quality that helped pave his way toward a historic career in television. The show was an instant success, featuring the famous Major Denis Bloodnok, whom Sellers himself portrayed.
Enlisted in the Royal Air Force
It’s hard to believe Peter Sellers would have had time to serve in the armed forces. It seems every moment would have been dedicated to building his soon to be larger-than-life acting career. However, Sellers enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1943 and became a member of the RAF Gang Show entertainment troupe, traveling with the comedy group during and after World War II. It is here that he refined many of the skills that helped transform him in to the prolific comedian he was destined to become.
Recorded Comedy Albums
Sellers recorded his own original works, including three comedy songs (Any Old Iron, Goodness Gracious Me, and A Hard Day’s Night) that made the top 20s list during the 50s and 60s. Goodness Gracious land in the number four spot in 1960. Throughout his long list of recordings, he incorporates the comedic talents of actors like John Junkin and the writing abilities of a famous writer named Herbert Kretzmer. Some of his recordings were parodies of popular songs, but most of them are original skits and musical numbers. On his first album, Sellers laid a trumpet-heavy, uptemo swing number that poked fun of the Righteous Brothers’ timeless classic, “Unchained Melody.”
Where would movies like A Shot in the Dark and The Millionairess been without the some of the beautiful, charming leading ladies of the 60s and 70s? These spunky, outspoken personalities helped make Peter Sellers the incidental lady’s man who captured the world.
The Pink Panther
In the first Pink Panther movie, released in 1963, Peter Sellers stars opposite the beautiful, French model/actress Capucine, who playsClouseau’s wife, Simone. Immediately, the film raises suspicions as to her intentions, which we discover are less than honorable. She pulls off a smooth con artist who is obviously bored with the gullible inspector. Still, it’s refreshing to see Clouseau trying his hand at romance, although the outcome is clear. Simone’s heart is trapped in a complicated triangle with George Lytton, played by Robert Wagner and David Niven’s character, Sir Charles Litton. As the movie concludes, we find the crafty Simone, along with her co-conspirators, has already sealed Clouseau’sfate. Despite a surprising turn of events, we’re left with a bittersweet ending and wondering if we’ll see Simone in any of the follow-ups.
A Shot in the Dark
German born actress, Elk Sommer, epitomizes the “damsel in distress” as Maria Gambrelli, who becomes the primary suspect in the murder of her lover. She manages to charm her way into Inspector Clouseau’s heart, and persuades him to advocate on her behalf. He is convinced the lovely maid is covering for the true killer and sets out to prove her innocence. In one hilarious scene, the inspector retrieves her from a nudist camp, and as the two drive away deprived of their garments, they attract a crowd of spectators. Afterwards, rumors of an affair circulate rumors that are manifested over the next few scenes. A Shot in the Dark finishes with a free Misses Gambrelli falling into Clouseau’s embrace.
The Return of the Pink Panther
Lady Claudine Litton
Lady Claudine Litton, played by Catherine Schell, befriends Clouseau through a series of coincidental events. In the movie, she is the wife of wealthy and notorious “Phantom Thief”, Sir Charles Litton, who hopes her husband will abandon his criminal past. We first meet her at home when Clouseau goes undercover “as communications expert and chief troubleshooter for De Nice Telephone Company.” Right away, she is depicted as shrewd and capable, but she also possesses us with her smile. Obviously, she suspects the inspector from the moment she lays eyes on him, but seems amused by his lack of finesse.
Revenge of the Pink Panther
The former mistress of fictional villain, Al Marchione, becomes Inspector Clouseau’s partner in Mayhem, joining him on a quest to track down the culprit responsible for the attempt on his life. Simone is played by Dyan Cannon, who captures the heart of Clouseau and goes on to become one of the most memorable of Peter Seller’s supporting cast. She even takes on a disguise when she goes deep cover in Hong Kong alongside the inspector. You have to appreciate any woman who can manage Clouseau’s interesting charisma.
EpifaniaParerga, portrayed by Sophie Loren, becomes the love interest of the reluctant Dr. Kabir in this famous Peter Sellers’ romantic comedy. Parergais a confident and charismatic, but also somewhat misguided in her ideas about love. However, she convinces the doctor to engage in a battle of wit. In an attempt to find love, she tackles a new role as a humble laborer where she, in her own words, is trying to prove her own worth. While she explores her new environment and learns to truly love, keeps us laughing throughout. It’s hard not to find her bold, sensational, and occasionally irrational behavior at least moderately irresistible.
If you weren’t careful, you might have missed these characters in their modest roles alongside legendary actor, Peter Sellers. However, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of some of them in one of the many major and reoccurring roles that came as they stepped in spotlights of their own. A few, like Julia Andrews, who contributed to the Pink Panther series, were famous long before sharing the screen with Sellers. This list takes a look in to some of the well-known actors who made brief appearances in at least one of Sellers’ catalog of comedic wonders.
You may remember Leonard Rossiter’s brief role as British Superintendent Quinlan in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. He landed his first role in a major film in 1962 in which he appeared next to Alan Bates and June Ritchie in A Kind of Loving. By the time he found his way into The Pink Panther Strikes Again, which was released in 1976, he had already been active in show business. He went on to star in dozens movies and shows, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rising Damp, which aired from 1974 to 1978. The actor’s career was cut short in 1984, when he died if hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 1984, but not before he had dedicated more than 22 years to entertaining
Perhaps one of the most recognizable and beloved actors of all time, Julie Andrews is best known for her roles in The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. More recently, she performed the voices of Queen Lilian in Shrek the Third and played a one of the leading characters in The Princess Diaries 2. In addition to her acting, she is famous for her distinguishing vocal ability, which she lent to the 1976 production of The Pink Panther Strikes again. Andrews is credited for the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis, who delivers an oddly provocative performance for Peter Sellars in a night club.
The well-known actor played a small, but unforgettable role, in The Lucky Christian, as a vampire who stirs up a little trouble on the ship where Peter Sellers and othersare lodged. In what may be his most memorable scene in the film, Lee gets up-close and personal with Sellars during a scene in which he disguises himself as an ordinary waiter. Christopher Lee goes on to become a legend in his own right, scoring major roles in the epic Lord of the Rings and Star Wars collections. The actors lush career ended with his death in 2015, but he may be one of the most influential characters who held a minor role alongside Peter Sellers.
Many recognize John Bluthal as the older fellow who appears near the beginning of The 5th Element, but by that time, his acting career was already decades in the making. Around 1975, he the part of “the fat man” in The Return of the Pink Panther.
Something of a legend in his own right, John Cleese plays a black-haired “director in Setheby’s,” opposite the unapologetically comedic Peter Sellers. In the scene, Cleese takes one of his more serious characters, portraying an employee who becomes utterly appalled after watching Sellers’ character destroy a valuable painting. After an illustrious career and a long list of comedic masterpieces under his belt, most are familiar with at least some of his work. However, the earlier roles on which actors have built their legacy are often forgotten by some.
Peter Sellers was said to have an unsettled demeanor, which might explain why he spent so much time unloading his thoughts during the many interviews in which he participated. When he speaks, uninhibited by scripts and producers, we get to see more genuine Sellers. Still, his ability to transform into his various characters demonstrates just how brilliant he truly was.
1974 Interview with Michael Parkinson
Peter Sellers, in one of his most entertaining interviews, shows us the reason his is one of the heroes of comedy. In a 1974 interview with the famous English journalist, Michael Parkinson, he reveals events about his past that led to his eventual rise to fame. As he talks about his father and his influence on the comedian’s musical development, we catch a glimpse at his fondness of the veteran pianist. You may recall, he was deeply affected by the death of his dad. We get to hear the impersonation that landed Sellers his breakthrough role on BBC Radio’s “The Goon Show,” during which he performed his hilarious impersonations with a cast of three other comedians. We even see outtakes from “The Return of the Pink Panther.” The interview becomes revealing as Sellers begin to open up about his relationships and he confesses to being happier having moved to a new level in his career. The segment ends with an exclusive Peter Sellers original musical performance.
Peter Sellers does “Quick Change” on The Late Late Show
Appearing on The Late Late Show in 1970, Sellers adeptly demonstrates his skill in quickly changing characters while engaged in his performances. In this fast-paced interview, we see him as the genius we all know him to be. The “quick change artist” accepts the challenge to put his skills to the test after admitting to being a bit rusty. The music begins and Sellers disappears, and when we see him, 15 seconds later, he has transformed himself into an entirely new character.
Opening Up on the Late Night Line-Up
In a 1965 interview on the “Late Night Line-Up,” Peter Sellers opens up about his heart attacks and the process of recouping. When asked about his ordeal, he mentions never losing his sense of humor afterward. He admits, jokes about death “are even funnier.” At the time, his most previous heart attack was the previous year. He goes on to explain the origin of some of his original character, many of them based off people he’s met throughout his experiences in comedy and in Hollywood. When asked about his reaction to his onscreen characters, he says he is a “giggler,” and he has a hard time holding his composure when playing his comical personalities. People who worked on set with him have often spoken about his ability to completely engulf himself in the roles he takes on. Towards the end of the interview, he explains how he was fired from a job
Doing the “Elephant Sketch” with Dean Martin
Sellers appearsin the studiofor a 1973 interview with Dean Martin, and recruits the hosts assistance in performing his “Elephant Sketch.” Dean enters the scene where Sellers, who is already seated and dressed as a doctor, begins in his Irish accent. The skit goes something like this:
Martin: Are you a doctor?
Sellers: No, I’m a specialist.
Martin: Oh. Well, what do you specialize in?
Sellers: I specialize in sick people.
Martin: Oh. Well, you’re just the man I wanted to see. I haven’t been feeling myself.
Sellers: Well who have you been feeling?
Martin along with the audience burst into fits of wild laughter and applause, and the sketch continues.
Peter Sellers is one of the most legendary actors of the 20th century, not only for his comedy and versatility, but also his ability to improvise. Those who knew him and worked closely enough to witness his methods first-hand have told stories of his ingenious improve. It has been said that a large number of his lines were thought up during production. These are just a few examples of the comedic visionary in action.
A Shot in the Dark
After being summoned to investigate a murder, Inspector Clouseau aka The Pink Panther, finds himself interrogating a butler and a maid, who is suspected of pulling the trigger. The Butler, while explaining his version of the events that transpired,indicates the maid, Maria Gambrelli, who is played by Elke Sommer. When the butler asks, conveying disbelief, “You believe her?” Clouseau responds with the ominous words, “I believe everything, and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone, and I suspect no one.” Classic!
“Nothing matters but the facts. Without them, the science of criminal investigation is nothing more than a guessing game,” Clouseau explains. He is convinced that Maria Gambrelli is covering for the true murderer, which would have explained the “still smoking gun” left in her hand after the shooting. Soon after being removed from the investigation, he’s back on the case, by some miracle, educating HerculeLaJoy on his masterful insight into the cases intricate details. Once he has expertly laid out the intricate details of the event, he leaves us with his famous line, “What was that you said?”
The Pink Panther scores, once again, with his perfectly timed charm. During a brief visit to discuss the case, Maria Gambrelli, manages to transform the moderately arrogant Clouseau into an awkward Casanova. In an attempt to impress her with a show of strength, he makes a call to address her complaint about prison conditions (where she is being temporarily detained). While waiting for response from the prison superintendent, he tells Gambrelli,“sometimes it’s necessary to cut through the red tape and cut directly at the heart of the matter. “Brilliant!
The Pink Panther Strikes Again
Upon accepting the task of capturing former Chief Inspector Dryfus, who has escaped an asylum and threatened the world, Clouseau delivers a moving speech. In response to Superintendent Quinlan’s warning that the job won’t be easy. “Nothing ever is,” Clouseau says, with confidence.“Perhaps that is why I always fail where others have succeeded. To me, the greater the odds, the greater the challenge (pronounced shallonge).” Afterwards, he exits with is famous words, “the case is solved.”
The Return of the Pink Panther
I this particular scene, Clouseau is confronted by a livid Chief Inspector Dryfus, who has been forced to reinstate the disaster prone police offer. When Dryfus screams, “I want you out of my office in five seconds!” Clouseau replies, with that remarkable Pink Panther wit, “Five seconds is nothing. I can be out of here in three.” And once again, “the case is solved.”
Revenge of the Pink Panther
Taking on the ultimate challenge, Inspector Clouseau, who is thought to be dead, goes undercover as Chief inspector Dryfus and infiltrates what turns out to be Cato’s “Chinese nookie house.” As he is overtaken by Tanya, who is an employee of the establishment, he exclaims, “I warn you, Tanya that eats the Lotus. I am opposed to women’slibs. Man is the master and women’s place is in the home!” This has to be one of his gut-shattering, laugh out loud pieces of dialog in the movie, if not the series.
The credits for “Revenge of the Pink Panther roll,” and Inspector Clouseau appropriately enters a costume shop in search of his newest disguise. Minutes later, he is decked out in a pint sized Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec costume, which he wears for the first half hour of the movie. Unsurprisingly, the master of concealment puts on an acclaim-worthy performance, finding himself neck deep in the usual capers. In this installment, he survives an attempt on his life and goes undercover to find the man (or woman) responsible. In these six scenes, the Pink Panther goes incognito, inducing a wave of spleen-rupturing amusement.
Claude Russo (Transvestite)
He inadvertently masquerades as a transvestite after an unfortunate incident that only the great awkward inspector could find himself in. Against his better judgment, he picks up a strange and slightly pushy woman at a bus stop. Seconds later, she’s holding a gun to his temple and ordering him to take off his clothes. As it turns out, Claude Russo is not the delicate female, Clouseau believed her to be. After she commandeers his famous trench coat and hat, leaving him stranded with a lovely mink and a pair of heels, he is forced to take embrace a new identity like only the famed inspector can.
Chief Inspector Dryfus
His first official disguise in Revenge of the Pink Panther may be his most challenging, one which he miraculously pulls off. After the Claude fiasco lands him in a mental institution, he escapes by donning himself as Chief inspector Dryfus and incidentally lands himself in a suspicious establishment. Luckily, his convenient getup grants him access to the business, which turns out to be managed by his assistant, Cato, who had mistaken him for dead.
Next, Clouseau steps into the role of a priest, serving at the inspector’s own funeral, ironically. He reveals himself to a disappointed Dryfus, striking with impeccable, comedic mastery. In just over a minute Peter Sellers demonstrates why is a master of satire.
By the timeClouseau resurfaces, he has transformed himself into a Swedish sailor “from the salty sea.” In this disastrously hilarious segment, he tucks one knee into a wooden peg, and mounts an inflatable parrot on his shoulder. This is one of the inspector’s many “close call” scenes, prompting more than a few clenched jaws. That is, until we realize the man who greets him at the pier is actually an old acquaintance rather than the potentially whistleblower we originally suspected. Still, the costume itself is a nice touch. Well played, Sellers. Well played.
Mr. and Mrs. Lo Kee
Sellers unleashes an unforgettable performance, in Hong Kong, as the male half of aficticious Asian couple. It’s difficult to keep a straight face watching him, in his full kimono and weaved, conical hat, sign Mr. and Mrs. Lo Kee into the hotel guestbook. With Simone at his side and Cato somewhere in the vicinity, he renders one of the movie’s more uneventful charades.
With Cato and his new friend, Simone, Clouseau move to intercept an exchange between Douvier and a New York mafia godfather named Julio Scallini. What makes Peter Sellers or the Pink Panther, in this case, such a great entertainer when he steps into his alternative roles is the suspense that the audience feels as the various scenes unfold. The bits are funny, hilarious in fact, but you always wonder whether he will actually pull it off. Here, things move forward without a hitch, for a few minutes at least. Then the notoriously rich antics begin.
Like many famous actors, Peter Sellers was known not only by the movies roles he played, but also by the beautiful women he dated. When you’re as famous as Seller’s had become, you’re going to accumulate a following among the opposite sex. In this case we mean women. Based on information found in letters and statements made open to the public, he was open about many of his feelings. And we know he was a man perpetually moved to action, which had a great deal to do with his ever-increasing success. We’ve listed some of his most talked about relationships with some of the most influential women in Hollywood. This is a snapshot, in part at least, of one of comedy’s brightest.
When you have enough of whatever Peter Sellers had to get a princess on your arm. Well, you’ve pretty much arrived. Some might consider that the pinnacle of success. From 1966 to 1969, that’s exactly what Peter Sellers had achieved. And let’s face it. He had a string of movies under his belt. He was funny and witty. One can only imagine the crowd pleasing jokes that rolled over the tip of his tongue. During that time, hopeful onlookers were expecting things to get serious, already hearing wedding bells for the young couple. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. After rumors of secret meetings, the chemistry eventually fizzled out.
Three years after their marriage, the Swedish actress, who was 25 years old at the time, shared the screen with Peter Sellers in the film, “The Bobo.” The couple dated, briefly, and it wasn’t long before the smitten Peter Sellers was calling her Mrs. Britt Sellers, on paper of course. Sellers was 39 when the couple tied the knot, and he was absolutely captivated by her, according to his own admission and that of his close friends. Reportedly, were having trouble as a result of work-related complications, and Sellers was stressed over losing her. After just four years, the couple called it quits.
Not long after Sellers ended his marriage to Britt Eckland he had swept the beautiful Miranda Querry, and against his better judgement he decided to give it another go. The couple married in 1970. She was a 23-year-old model and he was television superstar. The marriage continued for four years, with events having already signaled the couple’s demise, and then ended in 1974.
Peter Sellers had quickly become infatuated by the lovely Italian actress with whom he co-starred in “The Millionairess.” Reportedly, this was during the time his marriage to Miranda Querry was winding to an end. Loren, after lighting up the movie screen, had apparently done a similar number on Sellars’ heart. It’s not that heart to believe, unless you missed her stunning performance as EpifaniaPererga. Although the two never married, he was open about his feelings for her and was said to have regretted not making her his wife.
Peter Sellers’ relationship with Anne Howe was not as high profile as many of his others, but it is important to note the length of their union outlasted those he shared with the famous starlets he was known to have courted. Not much is known, publicly, about her. She was evidently a little known actress who managed to win Peter Sellers over. The couple married in 1951 and stayed together for 12 years, ending the in 1963. Sellers’ son described tensionin the home. Sellers had become distraught after the death of his father, and he was unhappy with his career, at that point.