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|Also Known As:||Richard Henry Sellers||Died:||July 24, 1980|
|Born:||September 8, 1925||Cause of Death:||Heart attack|
|Birth Place:||Southsea, England, GB||Profession:||Cast ... actor|
r mother received the funds from the Sellers estate, with Frederickâ¿¿s daughter â¿¿ by third husband Barry Unger, not Sellers â¿¿ as the next in line, yanking the hard-earned money Sellers earned in his lifetime completely out of his familyâ¿¿s hands.fferences and return to the series for 1975â¿¿s "Return of the Pink Panther."
Clashes such as the one with Edwards were not uncommon for Sellers during his career. In both Europe and America, he soon developed a reputation as a difficult performer, prone to lashing out at castmates over perceived slights. His personal life was also marked by moments of astonishingly casual cruelty towards his spouses and children. His first marriage, to Anne Howe, ended in a difficult divorce that may have been prompted by an affair with actress Sophia Loren; his second marriage, to actress Britt Ekland, was marked by domestic violence spurred by allegations of infidelity. Biographers surmised that Sellers suffered from depression and anxiety over his career, which he often viewed as a failure. Further evidence of his troubled psyche was glimpsed in interviews that asked him about his penchant for disappearing into his characters. His response was that there was no "Peter Sellers," but rather, a blank slate that adapted to the needs of the role.
The greatest example of the extent to which Sellers could immerse himself into a role was perhaps Kubrickâ¿¿s "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb" (1964). The black comedy, about a series of political blunders which lead to World War III, allowed Sellers to play several roles: U.S. President Merkin Muffley, British officer Lionel Mandrake, and the sinister Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound nuclear scientist whose crippled body seemed hellbent on betraying his Fascist past. Sellers was initially asked to also play Major T.J. "King" Kong, the U.S. Air Force officer who rides the bomb bronco-style as it descends on the Soviet Union, but an injury forced Sellers to abandon the role, which was given to veteran Western performer Slim Pickens. Sellers found both the humor and the horror of the characters in his performances, which received an Oscar nomination, and seemed to indicate that he could move into dramatic roles â¿¿ his abiding wish. However, he suffered a string of debilitating heart attacks â¿¿ 13 over the course of a few days â¿¿ that curtailed his availability. Desperate to return to work, he sought the aid of psychic healers for his condition, which would continue to deteriorate over the next two decades. He also threw himself headlong into film work, which varied, often wildly, in quality.
Sellers longed to play romantic roles, such as his singing matador in "The Bobo" (1967), but audiences responded more to his buffoonish turns, like the accident-prone Indian actor in Edwardsâ¿¿ "The Party" (1968) or the Italian jewel thief who poses as a film director in order to smuggle gold out of Europe in the Neil Simon-penned "After the Fox" (1966). He attempted to play James Bond in the all-star vanity project "Casino Royale" (1967), but abandoned the film after clashing with co-star Orson Welles and, allegedly, realizing that the film was in fact, a comedy and not a straight action piece. The end of the decade, which saw him diving into the counterculture with "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!" (1968) and "The Magic Christian" (1969), which co-starred his close friend, Beatle Ringo Starr, also marked the conclusion of his lengthy tenure as a movie star for some years.
The first half of the 1970s was a period of deep personal and public failure for Sellers. His marriage to Eklund had ended on an explosive note in 1968, and his 1970 marriage to Australian model Miranda Quarry followed suit in 1974. His film career was in total freefall; pictures like "Thereâ¿¿s a Girl in My Soup" (1970), "Ghost in the Noonday Sun" (1973), which reunited him with Spike Milligan, and "The Great McGonagall" (1974), were box office disasters. Sellersâ¿¿ health also continued its downward spiral due to his reluctance to treat his condition with Western medicine, and a growing dependence on alcohol and drugs. The spell of bad luck broke in 1974 with the fourth "Pink Panther" film, "Return of the Pink Panther," which reunited him with Blake Edwards once again. The result was a colossal hit for Sellers, and a career revival that lasted for the remainder of his life.
However, Sellers was mentally and physically unprepared for the rush of attention and work that came in the wake of "Return." His relationship with Edwards had crumbled. By the time they began the rushed sequel to "Return," 1976â¿¿s "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," Sellers was unable to perform many of his own physical gags, and Edwards would later describe his emotional state at the time as "certifiable." "Strikes Again," however, was another hit, with Golden Globe nominations for the film and its star, who began working in earnest on several films. "Murder By Death" (1976) was an all-star parody of detective films, with Sellers playing a short-tempered version of Charlie Chan, while "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1978) was a lukewarm adaptation of the familiar Anthony Hope novel about a commoner (Sellers) recruited to impersonate his look-alike, the king (also Sellers) of a tiny European country. Sellers, however, had his attention fixed elsewhere.
For several years, he had worked in earnest to secure the film rights to Jerzy Kosinskiâ¿¿s novel Being There, about a simple gardener who becomes the confidante to the rich and powerful. The project went before cameras in 1979, with Sellers giving one of his richest performances in a role that seemed tailor-made for him â¿¿ a man with no discernible personality, yet the ability to fascinate and inspire so many around him. The film was a critical and audience success, and won Sellers a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. The validation and acclaim, however, would be short lived.
Sellers had suffered another punishing heart attack in 1977, which required him to be fitted for a pacemaker. Though he had resisted having heart surgery for years, he finally relented, and in 1980, was slated to undergo an operation in Los Angeles. Just days before the surgery, Sellers suffered a massive heart attack which sent him into a coma. He died two days later on July 24, 1980, just one day before a scheduled reunion dinner with his Goon Show partners, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. He was survived by his fourth wife, actress Lynne Frederick, and his three children. At his funeral, the Glenn Miller song "In the Mood" was played for mourners. It was a fitting touch for a man who reveled in the darker side of humor; the song was reportedly one that the 54-year-old Sellers had long hated.
While the Hollywood community mourned his premature loss, the anarchy that swirled around Sellers continued to broil after his death. In 1979, Blake Edwards shocked many by releasing "Revenge of the Pink Panther," which featured Sellers in outtakes from several of the previous films. It was roundly panned, but did not dissuade him from cobbling together another Clouseau movie, "Trail of the Pink Panther" (1982), from outtakes. Sellersâ¿¿ final film, a dismal comedy called "The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu," which he also co-directed, was released in 1980. Edwards would continue to labor over the Pink Panther franchise for two more films â¿¿ "Curse of the Pink Panther" (1983), with Ted Wass as a Clouseau-esque policeman, and "Son of the Pink Panther" (1993), with Roberto Begnini as Clouseauâ¿¿s illegitimate offspring â¿¿ both of which were disastrous failures. Sellersâ¿¿ estate was also the source of considerable dismay for his family members. At the time of his death, he was in the process of cutting fourth wife Frederick out of his will, but she ultimately received his entire net worth â¿¿ some 4.5 million pounds â¿¿ while his children by Howe and Eklund received 800 pounds apiece. When Frederick died in 1994, he a degree that the pair refuse
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