DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Peter Sellers Day

 

‘Peter Sellers, born into a touring theatrical family, became a “drummer, pianist and general funnyman” for RAF Gang Shows during the war. After demobilisation, he worked on radio as an impressionist, exhibiting the extraordinary vocal inventiveness that became one of his trademarks and was a cornerstone of radio’s highly popular The Goon Show (1952-60). Sellers made two Goon Show spin-off films, Down Among the Z Men (1952) and The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn (1956).

‘His other 1950s film parts were bewilderingly varied: timorous Teddy Boy in The Ladykillers (1955), fly Petty Officer in Up the Creek (1958), aged, obfuscating Scottish accountant in The Battle of the Sexes (1959), or Brummie villain in Never Let Go (1960), complemented by multiple roles in The Naked Truth (1957) and The Mouse that Roared (1960).

‘The role that confirmed his acting ability was Fred Kite, the Communist shop steward in I’m All Right Jack (1959), where his brilliant performance captured both the vanity and poignancy of this ideologue and intellectual manqué. It was this mixture of sharp observation and pathos that characterised Sellers’ ordinary men with aspirations: the provincial librarian in Only Two Can Play (1961), the idealistic vicar in Heavens Above! (1963).

‘These qualities infused his most popular achievement, Inspector Clouseau, in five films beginning with The Pink Panther (1963) through to Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978). 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.

‘His other performance which endures in the memory was the triple role in Dr Strangelove (1963), as the well-meaning US President, unflappable RAF group-captain and the nightmarish Dr Strangelove himself, the government’s adviser on nuclear warfare, who is unable to control his own body, the black gloved hand always trying to make a Nazi salute, expressing an ineradicable desire to dominate and destroy.

‘Always restless, insecure and self-critical, Sellers sought to play romantic roles as in The Bobo (1967) or Hoffman (1970), but was always more successful in parts that sent up his own vanities and pretensions, as with the TV presenter and narcissistic lothario in There’s a Girl in My Soup (1970). Sellers’ career meandered in the 1970s; only his role as the humble gardener turned guru in Being There (1979) showed the range of his talent.

‘Sellers died in 1980 at age 54 of a massive heart attack, a victim of the heart disease that first struck him in 1964 and continued to haunt him during his most productive years as an international star. Mr. Sellers was in London at the time to work on the screenplay of Romance of the Pink Panther, which was to have been his sixth film in the role of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, his most famous comic creation. He was still basking in the acclaim for his starring role in the previous year’s Being There, which won him an Academy Award nomination.

‘Filmmaker Blake Edwards, who directed the Clouseau movies, said, “One lived with the realization that Peter could go at any time. But he was a very courageous man who refused to let his heart problems interfere with his personal life.” Mr. Sellers gave evidence of that during the 1978 Pink Panther press conference. A reporter asked if he would mind answering a personal question. “Of course not,” Mr. Sellers said. “I understand you’ve had some heart attacks . . .” the reporter began, before Mr. Sellers interrupted him with gallows humor: “Yes, but I plan to give them up. I’m down to two a day.”‘ — collaged

 

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Stills









































































 

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Further

Peter Sellers Official Website
Peter Sellers Fan Site
Peter Sellers Appreciation Society
Peter Sellers @ IMDb
‘The Paranormal Peter Sellers’
‘Forgotten film of Goons restored by BFI’
‘For Pete’s sake, spare us another account of Sellers’ life and death’
‘Biopic’s many strange faces of Peter Sellers incense the actor’s son’
‘Here, there and everywhere’
Peter Sellers discography @ Discogs
‘Peter Sellers Dies at 54’
‘THE PARTY THAT IS PETER SELLERS’
‘The Lost Roles of Peter Sellers’
‘A Cocktail Recipe For Disaster: Peter Sellers And Orson Welles On The Making Of Casino Royale’
’10 Things You Might Not Know About Peter Sellers’

 

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Extras


Peter Sellers – RARE interview – ’74


Peter Sellers on the Muppet Show


Peter Sellers performs ‘A Hard Day’s Night’


PETER SELLERS – ‘Balham – Gateway To The South’ – 1958


PETER SELLERS & SOPHIA LOREN – ‘Bangers And Mash’ – 45rpm 1961



Peter Sellers: Complete Guide To Accents of The British Isles


Peter Sellers – Barclays Commercials 1980

 

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Interview

 

Within a short period of time you have progressed from being an English radio comedian to international star status. Do you regard yourself as a star?

Sellers: No, I’m not a star. I’m a character actor. The character actor must tailor his talent to the parts that are offered. If I were a leading man, a tall, good-looking sort of chap, you know, a chap who has a way with him, who gets parts tailored for his personality, like Cary Grant, then I could regard myself as a star. I’m not a star, because I have no personality of my own.

Hasn’t success enabled you to find your personality?

Sellers: Success hasn’t enabled me to find out anything about myself. I just know I can do certain things. If you go too deep into yourself, if you analyze yourself too closely, it’s no good for the job. You can either act or you can’t. If you analyze your own emotions all the time, and every doorknob you handle, you know, you’re up the spout.

But supposing you were asked to play a character called Peter Sellers, how would you play him?

Sellers: What I would do, I’d go to see all my friends, I’d go to see my acquaintances, and ask them how they see me, ask for their impressions of Peter Sellers. And then I would sift these characterizations. That’s all I can do, because I am quite unaware of what I am. A politician can see himself, can see what sort of an impact he is making. I can’t. I know I’m a bad conversationalist. Often I’m at parties, and people think Peter Sellers is going to do an act, and they wait, and when nothing is forthcoming, they’re disappointed.

Don’t you see a concrete personality when you look in the mirror?

Sellers: It’s difficult but — er — I suppose what I’d see is someone who has never grown up, a wild sentimentalist, capable of great heights and black, black depths — a person who has no real voice of his own. I’m like a mike. I have no set sound of my own. I pick it up from my surroundings. At the moment I’ve got a South African architect working on my new flat in Hampstead, and so I tend to speak in a South African accent all the time. As for the face in the mirror, well — my appearance is fattish, a more refined-looking Pierre Laval, sometimes happy, but always trying to achieve a peace of mind that doesn’t seem possible in this business. This business breeds a tension that is difficult to live with.

Does this make you sad?

Sellers: They say all comedians are sad. I wonder if that’s true? Still, I’m not really a comedian. I don’t know what I am.

You’re certainly a star.

Sellers: To be a star means coming out from under the cover of the character, the work, the celebrated anonymity of the featured player. I’ve stepped into the spotlight, looked behind myself and see I cast no shadow. Stanley Kubrick famously said of me, “There is no such person as Peter Sellers.” Spike Milligan, my fellow Goon, said of me, “Peter’s not a genius. He’s something more. He’s a freak.” Blake Edwards said of me, “I think he lives a great part of his life in hell.” These people who know me, you understand. I writhe when I see myself on the screen. I’m such a dreadfully clumsy hulking image. I say to myself, “Why doesn’t he get off? Why doesn’t he get off?” I mean I look like such an idiot. Some fat awkward thing dredged up from some third-rate drama company. I must stop thinking about it, otherwise I shan’t be able to go on working.

And so you work.

Sellers: Here’s my credo — “What is to be will be even if it never happens.”

 

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20 of Peter Sellers’s 60 films

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Alan Cullimore Let’s Go Crazy (1951)
‘Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan shine in a series of sketches and multiple roles, in this madcap mixture of music-hall and anarchic comedy. Filmed in just a single week at the same time as Adelphi Films’ feature-length Penny Points to Paradise, Let’s Go Crazy was clearly intended as the subordinate picture of the two films. But Sellers and Milligan’s anarchic goofing here is more characteristic of the Goons style than in the more conventional Penny Points. Both performers take on a number of different roles, with Sellers’ characters including an exasperated Italian head waiter Giuseppe, frustrated Crystal Jollibottom, and a convincing impression of Groucho Marx that was later edited into re-release prints of Penny Points at the height of Sellers’ popularity.’ — bfi


Trailer

 

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Alexander Mackendrick The Ladykillers (1955)
‘The fable of The Ladykillers is a comic and ironic joke about the condition of postwar England. After the war, the country was going through a kind of quiet, typically British but nevertheless historically fundamental revolution. Though few people were prepared to face up to it, the great days of the Empire were gone forever. British society was shattered with the same kind of conflicts appearing in many other countries: an impoverished and disillusioned upper class, a brutalised working class, juvenile delinquency among the Mods and Rockers, an influx of foreign and potentially criminal elements, and a collapse of ‘intellectual’ leadership. All of these threatened the stability of the national character. Though at no time did Bill Rose or I ever spell this out, look at the characters in the film. The Major (played by Cecil Parker), a conman, is a caricature of the decadent military ruling class. One Round (Danny Green) is the oafish representative of the British masses. Harry (Peter Sellers) is the spiv, the worthless younger generation. Louis (Herbert Lorn) is the dangerously unassimilated foreigner. They are a composite cartoon of Britain’s corruption.’ — Alexander Mackendrick


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Mario Zampi The Naked Truth (1957)
‘A different twist on the Peter-Sellers-plays-a-bunch of roles, whereas he only plays someone who plays a bunch of roles. Of course we all know it is Peter Sellers no matter which twist is being used, this one clearly makes it’s game part of the story. I don’t think there is even a sense that he’s supposed to be a master of disguise, as few of his fellow characters seem to fall for it – only the most important one – or incidental bumpings into. The Naked Truth is a scandal rag that never seems to get published, as the publisher uses its contents for blackmail, which is supposedly just as lucrative as publishing it. Save the trees! A couple of other familiar faces contribute to the cast, Terry Thomas and Dennis Price.’ — The Pirate Bay


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Jack Arnold The Mouse that Roared (1959)
‘The economy of the teeny-tiny European duchy of Grand Fenwick is threatened when an American manufacturer comes up with an imitation of Fenwick’s sole export, its fabled wine. Crafty prime minister Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) comes up with a plan: Grand Fenwick will declare war on the United States. Grand Duchess Gloriana (Peter Sellers again) is hesitant: how can meek little Grand Fenwick win such a conflict? Mountjoy explains that the plan is to lose the war, then rely upon American foreign aid to replenish Grand Fenwick’s treasury. Bumbling military officer Tully Bascombe (Peter Sellers yet again) leads his country’s ragtag army into battle. They cross the Atlantic in an ancient wooden vessel, then set foot on Manhattan Island, fully prepared to down weapons and surrender. But New York City is deserted, due to an air raid drill. While wandering around, Sellers comes upon atomic scientist David Kossoff and the scientist’s pretty daughter Jean Seberg.’ — Sony Pictures


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Richard Lester The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960)
‘Director Richard Lester first worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on three television series, The Idiot Weekly Price 2d, A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred (all ITV, 1956), each of them an early attempt to transfer the surreal humour of radio’s The Goon Show to a visual medium. The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film, itself entirely shot in a field, can be viewed as an extension of these inserts. Lester later acknowledged that even some of the sketches were variations on those filmed for the television series. Following some earlier shooting by Sellers and Milligan, the majority of the film was shot over one or two Sundays (accounts vary) using Sellers’ own 16mm camera, and edited by Lester and Sellers in the latter’s bedroom. The sound effects and music score were added by Lester shortly afterwards. The film’s lasting legacy was its influence on British comedy in general, and on Monty Python’s Flying Circus in particular. This is evident not only in its surreal humour, but in the way that elements of one routine are threaded through subsequent scenes, transcending the stand-alone sketch form – a tactic subsequently favoured by the Python team.’ — BFI


the entire film

 

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John Guillermin Waltz of the Toreadors (1962)
‘Sellers was just on the cusp of emerging as an international box office phenomenon, but his comic skills had already been well noted in a number of productions, and he had recently won the Best Actor Award from the British Academy for I’m All Right Jack (1959). While filming Waltz of the Toreadors, a comedy of romantic and marital upset, the actor was undergoing his own marriage woes. He and first wife Anne Howe were bitterly nearing the end of their relationship, a crisis fueled largely by his philandering, and Sellers sought relief from this distress with near-constant work. Even that, however, wasn’t always enough. During production on Waltz of the Toreadors, he held up production for many costly hours while he called his friend David Lodge to the Thames valley location shoot, begging him to talk to Anne and apologize for him, in the hopes he could patch things up one last time. The gesture ultimately proved to be in vain. Unfortunately, the completed film version of Waltz of the Toreadors did little to raise Sellers’s spirits. It was not a box office success, and he thought “the whole thing looks terrible.”‘ — TCM


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Stanley Kubrick Lolita (1962)
‘From the beginning, British-comedy fans loved the work of Peter Sellers for its wit and sure attack and for its fillip of emotion. But it took a brilliant young American director with a hip, cosmopolitan temperament to exploit Sellers’ talent fully. As Quilty, Sellers is quicksilver-changeable — a portrait of the artist as a phony. He’s ostentatiously high style. At a summer dance in a high school gym, he manages to look good even though he bops only from the chest up. As he haunts Humbert, he takes on diverse flaky disguises; at one point he impersonates a suspiciously ingratiating state cop — the kind of weirdo turn Norman Mailer once reveled in. When Quilty poses as a German psychologist, the dagger-glint in his eyes lets Humbert know that the pseudo shrink has his number. Sellers’ Quilty sees through the weakness and hypocrisy in Humbert. In the film’s daring narrative frame, you feel that the ultra-civilized Humbert is able to kill Quilty because the victim starts his death scene under a sheet and finishes it hiding behind a painting. In the end, Humbert doesn’t have to look at him.’ — Baltimore Sun


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Blake Edwards The Pink Panther (1964)
The Pink Panther of the title is a diamond supposedly containing a flaw which forms the image of a “leaping panther”, which can be seen if held up to light in a certain way. This is explained in the beginning of the first film, and the camera zooms in on the diamond to reveal the blurry flaw, which focuses into the Panther (albeit not actually leaping) to start the opening credits sequence (this is also done in Return). The plot of the first film is based on the theft of this diamond. The diamond reappears in several later films in the series. In the original Pink Panther movie, the main focus was on David Niven’s role as Sir Charles Litton, the infamous jewel thief nicknamed “the Phantom”, and his plan to steal the Pink Panther. The Inspector Clouseau character plays only a supporting role as Litton’s incompetent antagonist, and provided slapstick comic relief to a movie that was otherwise a subtle, lighthearted crime drama, a somewhat jarring contrast of styles which is typical of Edwards’ films. The popularity of Clouseau caused him to become the main character in subsequent Pink Panther films, which were more straightforward slapstick comedies.’ — collaged


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Excerpts


Outtakes

 

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Stanley Kubrick Dr. Strangelove (1964)
‘Peter Sellers is quite literally all over the picture–he plays three parts: an RAF group captain attached to the air base, the President of the United States and Dr. Strangelove himself. In the first of these roles, Sellers establishes a tone of British disdain that by itself could alienate a good part of the American audience. We have become a big country since Mrs. Trollope put us across her knee, but the curled British lip is still intolerable anywhere in the United States outside the Anglophile lecture circuit. Sellers’s President, on the other hand, is a work of such persuasive art that, although he in no way resembles any of our Chief Executives, you can scarcely believe that he is not an inspired piece of mimicry. President Muffley is the embodiment of the American executive ideal–a man whose sole quality is a talent for deciding what other men should do–and the fiendish notion here is to project such a man into a moment of ultimate crisis where any decision is irrelevant.’ — The Nation


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Clive Donner What’s New Pussycat? (1965)
‘The swinging ’60s got a new catchphrase and Woody Allen got a box-office hit that put him on the road to directing his own films when What’s New, Pussycat? hit the screen in 1965. With an all-star international cast including Allen, Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider, Paula Prentiss and Ursula Andress – highlighted with the tag line “Together Again (For the First Time),” and a hit title song recorded by Tom Jones – it seemed like a surefire hit. But if a film’s success was measured by what went on behind the scenes during production, this frenetic sex farce would have been one of the biggest flops of all time. Peter Sellers, who was recovering from a heart attack, agreed to play the psychiatrist, a small role that would help him get back into the swing of filmmaking. But once he got on the set, he started improvising his own lines and suggesting added scenes. Even more damaging, he and Allen developed a rivalry that wasn’t helped by their resemblance to each other. Sellers resented people’s mistaking him for the neophyte actor-writer. And it got worse when an executive producer on the film, thinking he was Allen, reassured him that he wouldn’t let Sellers damage his picture. Sellers began improvising more and even got the producer to give him lines and scenes Allen had written for himself. Suddenly Sellers was the film’s star, and Allen was reduced to a supporting role.’ — TCM


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Vittorio De Sica After the Fox (1966)
‘This represents an insane collection of talent, Vittorio De Sica directing a Neil Simon screenplay with a Burt Bacharach score, a Maurice Binder title sequence, a Peter Sellers in his prime lead performance, Martin Balsam, Britt Eckland, Akim Tamiroff, Victor Mature – not knowing anything at all about this going in, the excitement of seeing all these names in that title sequence alone was worth the price of a ticket. The fact that it actually is quite funny and charming almost seems wrong, somehow.’ — Joe


Intro


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Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston Casino Royale (1967)
‘At one time or another, “Casino Royale” undoubtedly had a shooting schedule, a script and a plot. If any one of the three ever turns up, it might be the making of a good movie. In the meantime, the present version is a definitive example of what can happen when everybody working on a film goes simultaneously berserk. Lines and scenes are improvised before our very eyes. Skillful cutting builds up the suspense between two parallel plots — but, alas, the parallel plots never converge. No matter; they are forgotten, Visitors from Peter O’Toole to Jean-Paul Belmondo are pressed into service. Peter Sellers, free at last from every vestige of’ discipline goes absolutely gaga. This is possibly the most indulgent film ever made. Anything goes. Consistency and planning must have seemed the merest whimsy. One imagines the directors (there were five, all working independently) waking in the morning and wondering what they’d shoot today. How could they lose? They had bundles of money, because this film was blessed with the magic name of James Bond.’ — Roger Ebert


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Blake Edwards The Party (1968)
‘Blake Edwards’s The Party is the most maddeningly inconsistent of Hollywood comedies. Its hero is one Hrundi V. Bakshi, an incompetent Indian actor played with exquisite politeness and a touch of preening self-satisfaction—and in brownface—by Peter Sellers. Almost the entire movie takes place at a party of Hollywood swells to which Bakshi mistakenly gets invited; needless to say, the actor, hoping only to fit in, winds up destroying the house, which is an amazing piece of sixties fantasy, with its pools, sliding panels, and acres of Formica. Some of Edwards’s work with Sellers, including long, virtually silent passages of physical comedy (set to Henry Mancini’s music), comes within hailing distance of Chaplin—for instance, a scene of exquisite anguish in which Bakshi has to pee and can’t move because a French starlet (Claudine Longet) is singing an interminable chanson. Other jokes, however, are just routine, and the movie collapses into chaos.’ — The New Yorker


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Hy Averback I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968)
‘One of the few 1960s satires of the hippie culture that doesn’t appear to be concocted by grumpy old men, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas stars Peter Sellers as Harold Fine, a staid Jewish attorney. Engaged to the equally straitlaced Joyce (Joyce Van Patten), Harold wistfully dreams of having a more exciting lifestyle. Through a fluke, Harold is obliged to drive a station wagon emblazoned with “psychedelic” imagery; it is with this vehicle that he picks up his flower-child brother Herbie (David Arkin), and Herbie’s groovy chick Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young). Rather enjoying the company of people outside of his establishment orbit, Harold lets Nancy stay over at her place, and she plies him with marijuana-spiked brownies. His inhibitions released by the spiked pastries, Harold kicks over the traces, grows his hair to shoulder length, and embarks upon an affair with Nancy. But when the effects of the brownies wear off, Harold suddenly feels like the rather foolish middle-aged man that he is. The beauty of I Love You, Alice B. Toklas is that it patronizes neither the hippies nor the Establishment characters; both groups are shown as human beings rather than agit-prop stereotypes.’ — Rovi


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Joseph McGrath The Magic Christian (1969)
The Magic Christian, Terry Southern’s best book, is not so much a novel as collection of episodes in the life of the eccentric, incalculably wealthy Guy Grand, who constructs elaborate and immensely practical jokes designed to upset his fellow men and sometimes himself as well. His usual targets are greed and conventional values, but he also attacks good sportsmanship, good living and rudimentary business ethics. The Magic Christian is funny, uncomfortable and without an ounce of benevolence. The meeting of McGrath with his material produces not so much a tension as a revaluation—and the results turn out to be a mixed bag. The episodes have been shuffled around, so that Terry Southern’s bitter beginning (a put-on of a poor hot dog vender) and enigmatic ending (a disappearing chain of super-bargain grocery stores) have been lost in the middle of the film to no good effect. Guy Grand, a middle-aged American tycoon in the book, becomes a British business baronet (Peter Sellers) in the film. And he adopts a son (Ringo Starr), whom he names Youngman Grand, and who serves no reasonable purpose except to give Peter Sellers somebody to talk and relate to. Ringo is fine, and Sellers is finer—in a performance, that vastly enriches and normalizes the archly enthusiastic Porky Pig of Terry Southern’s imagination.’ — NYT


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Alvin Rakoff Hoffman (1970)
Hoffman is the satirical tale of an older man, played by Peter Sellers, who invites a female employee to his flat in London. As the film progresses, it is revealed that Sellers’ character has caught one of his workers dealing in a scam against his company, and has decided to blackmail the man’s lovely fiancée away for a full week to convince her to fall in love with him instead. A witty drama rather than a comedy, the film has an almost terrifying performance by Sellers, involved in intricate mind games with the other protagonists. Reportedly, Sellers despised Hoffman because the lead character too closely reflected his own personality. According to Bryan Forbes, who was head of the studio that financed the film, Sellers went through a depressive phase after filming completed and he asked to buy back the negative and remake the movie. He also gave an interview where he said the film was a disaster. It was not a success at the box office.’ — collaged


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William Sterling Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
‘A star-studded cast highlights this musical adaptation of the classic fantasy tales of Lewis Carroll. One day young Alice (Fiona Fullerton) takes a nasty spill down the rabbit-hole and finds herself in the bizarre kingdom of Wonderland, where she encounters a number of strange and enchanted characters, including the playful White Rabbit (Michael Crawford), the manic March Hare (Peter Sellers), the mysterious Caterpillar (Ralph Richardson), the Doormouse (Dudley Moore), the imperious Queen of Hearts (Flora Robson), and the quizzical Mad Hatter (Robert Helpmann). The cast also includes Spike Milligan, Peter Bull, Roy Kinnear, and Michael Jayston as Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland won two prizes at the 1973 British Academy of Film and Theatre Awards — for Georfrey Unsworth’s photography and Anthony Mendelson’s costume design.’ — Rovi


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Joseph McGrath The Great McGonagall (1974)
‘That matchless British farceur Spike Milligan stars in The Great McGonagall. The story concerns indigent Scotsman William McGonagall, who aspires to become Poet Laureate of Great Britain. McGonagall might have a better chance of accomplishing this if he had any talent, but he is hilariously inept. The plot is abandoned somewhere in the middle of the film in favor of a series of virtually unrelated comic episodes. Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan’s onetime Goon Show cohort, steals the show in drag as a sexually voracious Queen Victoria!’ — Rovi


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Robert Moore Murder by Death (1976)
‘It was one of the top 10 grossing films of 1976, but Murder By Death has the feel of something Neil Simon and his brother Danny might have cooked up for Sid Caesar during their days writing for Your Show of Shows in the ’50s: Assemble a group of well-known literary sleuths (winking versions of everyone from Sam Spade to Hercule Poirot to Nick and Nora Charles), throw them in a rambling gothic mansion for the weekend and let the whodunit spoofing commence. The cast is an embarrassment of riches that includes Maggie Smith and David Niven. Alec Guinness. Nancy Walker (Mrs. Morgenstern!). Peter Falk. Truman Capote, of all people. James Coco (a Simon regular). Brennan, who died last month. James Cromwell, in his first movie role. And Peter Sellers as a pseudo-Charlie Chan in one of the weirder examples of cinematic yellow face since Mickey Rooney went faux Asian in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ — Chicago Tribune


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Hal Ashby Being There (1979)
‘In 1971, Jerzy Kosinski published the novel Being There. Soon afterwards he received a telegram from its lead character, Chance the Gardener: “Available in my garden or outside of it.” A telephone number followed and when Kosinski dialed it Peter Sellers answered. For years afterwards, Sellers would try to get this film made. “That’s me!” he would tell people of the Chance character. He hawked the idea of a film to whomever he could find. Finally, in 1979, with the clout he had gained from the Pink Panther series, he was able to fulfill his dream. What followed was the culmination of Peter Sellers’ career: a masterpiece of double-edged satire on politics and television. But Kosinki’s screenplay goes deeper than that. What he and director Hal Ashby expose is a self-serving and self-deceived society. Through the innocence of the Chance character, all the schemes and manipulations of the world are laid bare for what they are: pure folly. For those who hunger for the truths in life, this is a film that will satisfy your appetite.’ — sarcasmalley


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p.s. Hey. ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, buddy! Great to see you, man! She’s fantastic. There was a big retrospective of her work at Red Bull in NYC recently that really should travel, and, if it does, London, at least, seems like a natural stop. Yes, I saw a selfie coupling of you and Bernard side by side on Facebook the other week. He’s a gem, I agree. Thanks a bunch, man, about the anthology excerpt. I’m headlong into the novel that it belongs in, and, so far so good, and I even hope to finish it ere too long whenever that may be. I’m excited to hear you’re working on your novel. I think us digging in simultaneously must be good luck. Know exactly what you mean about that backwards domino effect, or I feel like I do. I’ll at least be here for a bit of your visit and maybe the entirety. Zac and I are waiting to hear when the Berlin screening of PGL will be, and we only know it’s during the first week of October so far. So I’ll get to see you! Fantastic! Take good care and enjoy the novel work-filled break. xoxo, me. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. The Taylor doc is not that kind of overview thing. It’s a fly on the wall-style thing that shows him living, working, making music, eating, talking on the phone, etc. with no narration or authorial input. Jeez, Facebook is getting really antsy and weird. That’s nuts. I can’t get in to the Washington Post at the moment as I’ve used up my handful of free visiting opportunities for the month, but I’ll read that piece once September dawns, thank you. ** Bernard, Hi, B! How did I not know (or maybe remember) that you knew Gretchen Bender, wow. I didn’t, but I saw her at openings in the ’80s. She was so mis-appreciated and overshadowed back then by her relationship with Longo, which is strange, in retrospect, since she’s a 1000 times better artist than him. But that happens. Yes, yes, about Kevin. His memorial at SFMoMa is soon. So wishing I could be there. Asheville the Paris of the South, really? Or ha ha? I need to visit it in any case. Trump does seem to be his most unglued ever, or … what comes after unglued? And yet the powers that be among you guys just let it happen. Psychotic. If I’ve ever read Quentin Meillassoux the memory escapes me. I’ll check him out and find out and rectify if not. Thanks, pal. Enjoy Asheparisville! ** Steve Erickson, There was just a big retrospective of her work at Red Bull. I wish I’d thought to alert you. Ouch: tooth. Well, I had as tooth pulled a couple of months ago, and it was super easy peasy and the pain killers both worked and were hardly noticeable and it didn’t effect my thinking or doing at all, so may yours work similarly. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. Yeah, she’s fantastic. I can only think that, what with the little renaissance around her work going on, some will get to SF. Like I told David, the Taylor doc is an observing Taylor day-to-day thing without any external input. It’s very good. ** Misanthrope, I am usually grinning when I say things that aren’t just simple as pie. Right, right, I remember now that you edit along the way. I do too, but it never ends up being enough in my case. Notes, yeah, interesting. I don’t do that, but my stuff, and especially the new one, doesn’t have the kinds of characters and stories and things that need tracking. Or else I’m just lazy. ** Okay. The other day I thought, Peter Sellers sure was exciting. Then I started looking at clips and found out that he indeed could be really exciting and then much less exciting depending on the vehicle, and, at some point, I decided to make a post out of my journey so you could do the same kind of hunt and assess thing or however you want to use this post. See you tomorrow.

4 Comments

  1. Yes Peter Sellers! I’m a big fan esp his turn in Lolita which is my fave of his multiple-role-plays, and in such a difficult text to boot. But all of his performances have something of interest. That guy is sorely missed.

    Here in Leeds, the view outside the window is pleasant and autumnal. Last night me and Nick went to see Leeds United beat Brentford 1-0 and it takes us top of the league! Which is nice. Tomorrow the entire family decamps to the Lake District for his wedding. Saturday is his big day, and the happy couple are having a cycling theme for it (!) which involves a tandem being suspended over the room and the male guests each being given socks with a bicycle print. All good fun, I guess. Via email from the post-reception DJ I’ve requested Kraftwerk – Tour De France.

  2. As I believe I’ve pointd out here before, Peter Sellers got his voice for Quilty in “Lolita” from Norman Granz that great record producer (Elle Fitzgerald’s “Songbook” series, Jaz at the Philharmonic) He had met him years before and was so taken with Granz’s voice that he asked him if he could “borrow” it for a performance sometime. Granz was happy to let Sellers have it and when “Lolita” came his way he found it was perfect for Quilty.

    Sellers ha a major heart Attack right in t middle of shooting Billy Wilder’s “Kiss Me Stupid” Ray Walston took over the role. I’ve always wondered if any of the footage Wilder shot with Sellers survivd and was preserved in some way. I suspect not.

    “Balham, Gateway To The Street” is a favorite of Bill’s as is the Indian Version of “My Fair Lady” which is also on “The Best of Sellers”

  3. Much needed subject matter today. I love Sellers’ work.

  4. I’m really curious about the Miles Davis doc, which I plan to see Saturday. I don’t recall the Taylor doc playing New York yet.

    I’m dreading tomorrow’s surgery, but maybe the fact that almost none of the tooth still exists will make it quick and relatively painless. I hope I’m in decent shape for the evening. I need to get a lot of work done next week, so I hope the pain and possible reliance on medication passes quickly.

    I heard back from the 2nd actor to whom I sent my script. He said that he finally understood the project after reading it and thought it was very interesting. He asked about my budget. I can only afford to pay him about $100, which hopefully won’t be a dealbreaker.

    Have you heard Dry Cleaning? Post-punk-inspired bands in Britain seem to be a dime a dozen these days (Mark E. Smith’s influence only seems stronger after his death), but their singer has a great, sardonic spoken word delivery, as well as a knack for writing witty lyrics that sound like collages of social media comments. The first single from Zonal’s forthcoming album is interesting too – it picks up where Broadrick & Martin left off in 2001 with Techno Animal’s BROTHERHOOD OF THE BOMB.

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