Monday, February 23, 2009

Peter Sellers—Wacky and Debonair

As a small child, Mr. Peacock became immediately enchanted with the actor, Mr. Peter Sellers, after seeing him play Inspector Clouseau in the original Pink Panther movie. Okay, I admit it, I’ve always had a crush on Peter Sellers, or maybe just the wacky characters he portrayed. Mr. Peacock once arrived at a social event years ago, and overhead a despairing comment made towards myself, “Oh look, Peter Sellers just got here…” The playful diss wasn’t intended for me to hear, so I ignored it. I actually considered the comment as a compliment, because I thought Mr. Sellers was a peacock who always looked debonair and stylish, both in his professional and private life.

Above: Peters Sellers traveling with his third wife, Miranda Quarry, in the late 1960's.

The paparazzi often snapped photos of Mr. Sellers looking quite dapper, usually with some lovely lady on one arm, an amazing weekend bag on the other; jet setting off to some fabulous locale like Rome or Nice. He was a ladies man and had quite a few liaisons with different women, including Sophia Loren and Liza Minelli.

Above left to right: Peters Sellers and Britt Ekland, filming in Italy, circa 1965; Britt and Peter in 1964.

Those paparazzi images, and of course his wonderful films, is how I like to remember Peter Sellers, and salute him for his talent as an actor and entertainer. He died in 1980, at the age of 55, from a sudden heart attack.

Above left to right: Peters Sellers, looking sharp in a slim suit, shopping in Rome with his second wife, Britt Ekland, in 1965; Britt & Peter, casually chic in the mid 1960's.

Mr. Sellers had many professional accomplishments, but his private life was rife with emotional troubles. His birth name was Richard Henry Sellers, but his parents always called him Peter, the name of his older stillborn brother.

Above: Peter Sellers montage, beginning with appearance on The Muppet Show.

Peter Sellers was considered a difficult person, often clashing with friends, coworkers, and his four different wives. It is believed he had major anxieties about failing in his career and personal life. It didn’t help that he drank alcohol heavily, smoked cannabis, and allegedly abused other substances.

Above: Peter Sellers in his kilt, argyle socks and brogues—with his leg in a cast after breaking his ankle getting into a car in 1963.

He had a heart attack in 1964 that was rumored to be caused by his recreational use of poppers (amyl nitrates), which also contributed to his future heart problems. He deferred proper medical rehabilitation, instead relying on psychic healers. He also nixed professional counseling, instead opting for astrology consultations.

Above left to right: Peter Sellers letting loose in a top hat in the 1970's; he referred to himself as "auto-erotic" because of his obsession with cars; at a party in the 1970's.

Mr. Peacock has many favorite Peter Seller roles including: the bumbling Indian actor Hrundi Bakashi in The Party, the intense Clare Quilty in Lolita, and the quirky Chauncey Gardener, who wore all of his employer's hand-me-down custom suits and homburg hat in Being There.

The film Being There was based on the 1971 novel by Jerzy Kosiński, and directed by Hal Ashby. Mr. Seller’s was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role as the child-like "Chance the Gardener," whose mistaken identity leads him to greatness. If you haven't seen this film, buy the recently released deluxe 30th anniversary edition DVD here, or Netflix it right now.

"If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am."
Peter Sellers

Mr. Peacock respects the personal challenges Peter Sellers faced during his lifetime, and salutes his stylish persona. Mr. Sellers life was dramatized in the 2004 HBo film, The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, starring Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers and Charlize Theron as Britt Ekland. I haven't seen the movie, have you? Mr. Sellers left us with an amazing legacy of films, see his complete filmography here. His character Chauncey Gardener said in Being There, “Ladies and gentlemen, life is a state mind.” Thank you Peter Sellers!


Anonymous said...

I'm 68, in excellent health, but you just gave me a quote for my tombstone or earn: "Ladies and gentlemen, life is a state of mind."

By the way, I think Peter Sellers had them play "In the Mood" at his funeral. Maybe I'll steal that to!

Mr. Peacock said...

I love that quote too! It would be fantastic on a tombstone!

"In the Mood"...oh, Peter Sellers was kooky!

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