One of the greatest comedy legends, Peter Sellers is best remembered for playing the role of ‘Inspector Jacques Clouseau’ in ‘The Pink Panther’. A versatile actor who was capable of portraying multiple characters, Sellers, was perhaps the only one of his kind. A genius from the start, he was described once as “the master of playing men who have no idea how ridiculous they are”, by none other than his biographer, Ed Sikov. Technically, he was perfect, making almost all of his performances impeccable. He was admired for his instant changeability, in terms of character portrayal, over and over again, a trait found in very few actors. In a career spanning three decades, he evolved a lot as an actor, with astounding performances, almost every single time. Sadly, his life behind the screen was not very glorious. He had stints of depression and was a victim of borderline personality disorder. Three out of his four marriages were disastrous and therefore, short-lived. However, he shoved all of his personal issues when it came to his work and gave his best. Unfortunately, his failing health kept on posing threats and he passed away unexpectedly at the age of 54, after succumbing to a massive heart attack. He had survived several heart attacks before, but not the last one. Read about this fascinating personality in the biography below.
Childhood & Early Life
Peter was born to William Sellers and Agnes Doreen, who worked as variety show artists in Southsea, England.
As a child he learned dancing and was sent to the St. Aloysius’ Boarding and Day School for Boys. He also knew how to play drums and was a part of some jazz bands as a teenager.
He was recruited by the Royal Air Force at the age of 18, during the Second World War. While in the air force, he formed a small group, who would entertain the soldiers.
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Sellers developed a passion for comedy early in his life and in 1948 he auditioned for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). He made his debut on March 18 with the show ‘New To You’.
In 1951 he, along with comedians Spike Mulligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine, worked for ‘The Goon Show’. The show was loved by the audiences and Sellers became famous.
A successful stint on radio helped him launch his career on the big screen. In 1952 he appeared in ‘Down Among the Z Men’ and landed himself a small role in the 1955 movie ‘The Ladykillers’.
He got a chance to display his true potential with the movies ‘I’m All Right, Jack’ and ‘The Mouse That Roared’ in 1959, both of which were well-received.
In 1963, he played the role of a police inspector in the blockbuster ‘The Pink Panther’ and in 1964 he portrayed multiple characters in ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’.
With ‘The Return of the Pink Panther’ in 1974, he was successful once again, after a dry spell in the late sixties. However, he gave one his most memorable performances with the dark comedy ‘Being There’ in 1979.
His last movie was ‘The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu’, released in 1980, in which he played multiple characters for one last time.
Sellers garnered his initial fame with ‘I'm All Right Jack’, a parody based on the British industrial life. He played the role of the trade’s union shop warden, Fred Kite, and it became the most popular movie in the year it was released in.
He also appeared in the ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ or just ‘Dr. Strangelove’ and was applauded for playing three characters at the same time.
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However, his most popular movie till date is ‘The Pink Panther’ and its sequels in which he was a French police detective ‘Inspector Jacques Clouseau’. ‘The Pink Panther’ is the most important film for Sellers as the character he played was simply beyond praise and it became so successful that the filmmakers came up with its sequels.
‘Being There’ was the film which took this actor-comedian to the heights of glory. It also was his last major work.
Awards & Achievements
For playing the roles of Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in ‘Dr. Strangelove’, Sellers was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
‘Being There’ won him nominations for the British Academy Film Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Academy Award for Best Actor. He won several other awards which include the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy.
Personal Life & Legacy
The actor married four times and his first wife was Anne Howe, to whom he got married on 15 September, 1951. He had two children, Michael (1954) and Sarah (1958).
After the marriage with Anne broke in 1962, he married Britt Ekland, a Swedish actress on 19 February, 1964. The couple had a daughter in 1965 before their divorce in 1968.
On 24 August 1970, he got married for the third time to a twenty-three-year-old model, Miranda Quarry. But like his previous two marriages, this marriage also did not last long, and the couple separated in 1974.
His last marriage was to Lynne Frederick on 18 February, 1977. He died after suffering a heart attack in Middlesex Hospital, London.
He has been regarded as one of the greatest comedians and was elected the ‘41st Greatest Movie Star’ of all time by ‘Premiere Magazine’.
This British actor/comedian who garnered unprecedented fame with the movie ‘The Pink Panther’ was the first man to appear on the cover page of ‘Playboy Magazine’, in April 1964.
This legendary British actor-comedian was filmed in a "Barclays Bank" commercial, a few days before his death. The commercial was never aired.