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Peter Sellers (Star of the Month)
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Peter Sellers Profile
* Films in Bold Type Air in January

Peter Sellers often claimed that, like an empty pitcher waiting to be filled, he had no particular personality until he was asked to slip into one of his characters. That he did with such uncanny ease that Bette Davis once remarked of him, "He isn't an actor -- he's a chameleon." Especially adroit at satirical comedy, Sellers had his greatest commercial successes with his deadpan drollery as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (1963) and its sequels. But his best film performance was probably in his Oscar®-nominated role in Being There (1979) as Chance, the simple-minded gardener who is mistakenly believed to be a profound thinker.

Sellers (1925-1980) was born in Southsea, England, and entered show business at a tender age in his parents' music-hall comedy act. As a young adult, after seeing service in World War II, he showed off his skills as a mimic in comedy reviews and appearances on BBC Radio's "The Goon Show," with popular British comic Spike Milligan. Sellers made his film debut in Penny Points to Paradise (1951) and gained prominence as one of the criminals in The Ladykillers (1955). He had secondary roles in Your Past is Showing (1957), in which he plays a smarmy TV personality; and Tom Thumb (1958), in which he is a villainous "heavy" who threatens Russ Tamblyn in the title role.

Sellers' breakthrough to international stardom came with I'm All Right Jack (1959), a working-class social comedy in which he plays a union leader. He reinforced his reputation as a top-flight comic actor in such films as The Mouse That Roared (1959) and Lolita (1962). Then it was on to superstardom in such showcases as Dr. Strangelove (1964), another Oscar®-nominated turn in which Sellers plays three diverse (and hilarious) characters; The World of Henry Orient (1964) as an egotistical concert pianist pursued by teen fans; What's New, Pussycat (1965), a Woody Allen script in which Sellers plays a womanizing psychiatrist; After the Fox (1966), in which he's an Italian thief posing as a film director; and The Party (1968) in which he is an inept movie extra who inadvertently destroys a film producer's mansion in Blake Edward's hilarious sight gag comedy.

Sellers is one of several James Bonds in the spoof Casino Royale (1967); a Jewish attorney caught up in the "hippie culture" of the 1960s in I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968); and a Charlie Chan clone in Murder by Death (1976), a send-up of film detectives. His last outing as Inspector Clouseau, Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), contains some of the character's funniest routines. Sellers' four wives included actress Britt Ekland.

by Roger Fristoe
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