Peter Sellers

Peter SellersBritish Actor Peter Sellers (1925-1980) was born in Southsea, Hampshire, UK as Richard Henry Sellers. He was nicknamed Peter by his parents, Bill and Alice Sellers. Born into a showbiz family, he started in revue at the age of five. Peter was a drummer in a dance band, vaudeville comedian, and later actor (film and radio), and singer.

He was an avid photographer, hi-fi enthusiast, gadget freak extraordinaire, as well as Vice-President of London Judo Society, and friend of many famous people, including Prince Charles, The Beatles, Princess Margaret, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.

He first rose to fame on radio as the source of several idiotic voices in The Goon Show, a British national cult in the 1950s, performing with Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe.The Goon Show was Sellers launchpad into film acting. He appeared in several short comedies alongside Milligan and Secombe, as well as the feature film Down Among the Z Men.

Sellers married for the first time during the height of Goon-mania, tying the knot with Anne Howe in the fall of 1951. He got his first significant non-Goon screen role in 1955, with the classic Alec Guinness comedy The Ladykillers, but his first international hit would have to wait until 1958, when he appeared in George Pal's big-budget musical Tom Thumb. In 1959, Sellers appeared in the satiric comedy I'm All Right, Jack which earned him Best Actor honors from the British Film Academy. The same year, Sellers enjoyed a major international success with The Mouse That Roared, in which he played three different roles (one of them a woman). As a bona-fide international comedy star, Sellers had a hard time finding roles that made the most of his talents, and it wasn't until after a handful of unremarkable features that he received a roles that allowed him to truly shine.

In 1961, Sellers starred as an Indian physician in The Millionairess opposite Sophia Loren. A year later he was cast as Claire Quilty in the controversial adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita.

1964 would prove to be a very big year for Peter Sellers; he married actress Britt Ekland in February of that year (his marriage to Anne Howe ended in divorce in 1961), and he starred in four of his most memorable films: Dr. Strangelove; The World of Henry Orient; The Pink Panther, 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. Sellers, who was described by many who knew him as a workaholic, maintained a busy schedule over the next ten years.

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 1974 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 twice more, in The Pink Panther Strikes Again and the Revenge of the Pink Panther, though he became critical of the formulaic material in the films and began 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 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 babblings 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.

While 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.