Earlier this month, British actor and comedian Peter Sellers, better known to the world as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the series “Pink Panther,” would have turned 84. Wouldn’t life be brighter if this comic book genius hadn’t left us like this? early? As things stood, we lost him nearly thirty years ago, due to a weak heart that was further compromised by the stress of work, celebrity, and various personal disorders.
I confess that I have never seen Geoffrey Rush’s portrait of him in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers“(2004), but I think this biopic affirms a lot of what I had already read about the man: that he was pleased by a caring mother; that he grew up knowing that he would rather pretend to be other characters than explore and develop who he really was, and That led to an impressive career as a funny man, character actor, and star, but also a personal life plagued by demons of restlessness, loneliness, and yes, insecurity.
From the beginning of his career his compulsion was to work, work, work. After gaining initial notoriety in the early 1950s as a featured member of “The Goons,” Spike Milligan’s groundbreaking comedy company, Sellers made a successful transition to film, unlike Milligan himself. By the early 1960s, he was blazing full steam, completing more than ten movies between 1962-1964, before his first serious heart attack literally forced him to take a break. But he always returned as soon as possible to the place where he felt most comfortable: expertly playing someone else’s skin, in front of a camera.
Regarding your Clouseau signature images, I consider the first two entries: “The Pink Panther“(1963) and”A shot in the dark“(1964) his best renditions of the French detective. When Sellers and director Blake Edwards cunningly decided to repeat the series in the 1970s, the films were much broader, which was reflected in Sellers’ more pronounced French accent (” ¿¿¿ Who is this in the phuuuunne? “And” Your duug baaate? “). Of these last entries, I think the best is” The Pink Panther Strikes Again “(1978).
Still, accurately reflecting the breadth of this actor’s cinematic legacy means going far beyond the much-loved Inspector. So with that in mind, here are some more stellar sellers.
The Ladykillers (1955) – Criminal mastermind Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) and his motley crew of robbers are planning a daring London bank robbery. To provide adequate coverage as they prepare, they pose as a musical group and stay at the home of the kind elderly Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), who lives nearby. The professor assumes that the old landlady will remain discreet and will have no idea of his machinations, but, unfortunately, he misjudges her.
Alexander Mackendrick’s incomparable black comedy benefits from the witty tale of William Rose and the best ensemble you could hope to perform in a comedy: Guinness’s Marcus is the essence of flattering charm, and Johnson projects a will of steel wrapped in Victorian gentleness. The gang is an inspired group of misfits, including a stuttering Cecil Parker, a burly and subdued Sellers, and a menacing Herbert Lom (the latter two actors would reunite years later for the series “Panther,” with Lom being the ideal complement to the salespeople. as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, who disintegrates emotionally). Don’t mistake this British gem for the inferior version of Tom Hanks.
I’m fine jack (1959) – John Boulton’s clever labor relations satire is at once subtle, multifaceted and consistently funny. In particular, “Jack” also sheds a penetrating light on the perpetual struggle between management and labor in England and, by extension, the enormous gulf inherent in Britain’s class structure. This inspired thread centers on a Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael), a naive patrician who fails every white-collar job he tries. His uncle Bertram (Dennis Price), owner of a missile company, soon hatches an inspired plan: to get Stanley to start at the bottom of his company and manipulate his unconscious and misplaced nephew to cause labor unrest and ultimately instance, a strike. Then a lucrative arms deal will go to friendly competitor Sidney deVere Cox (Richard Attenborough), who will raise the price of the deal. The premium would then be divided among all interested parties.
Sellers unforgettably plays Fred Kite, the head of the company’s labor committee, a well-intentioned and precise worker who falls in love with the management ploy. What no one is counting on is how Stanley himself will respond to the strike, with the support of his rich and beloved Aunt Dolly (Margaret Rutherford). A variety of machinations and developments lead to divine comic complications for everyone involved, except, of course, Stanley, the alleged pawn in the scheme. Terry-Thomas is also memorable as the company’s skilled personnel director, but despite everything, it is Sellers’s Kite that flies the highest.
Lolita (1962) – After renting a room from lonely American widow Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters), middle-aged teacher Humbert Humbert (James Mason) becomes obsessed with his 15-year-old nubile daughter, Lolita (Sue Lyon). So in love is the intellectual and worldly Humbert that he agrees to marry the cheeky Charlotte to keep in touch with the flirtatious virgin. A dark turn of events brings Humbert even closer to Lolita, with humiliating and tragic results.
A brilliant adaptation of the author’s own Vladimir Nabokov novel, Kubrick’s “Lolita” satirizes the vulgar desires and warped intellect of Humbert, magnificently portrayed by Mason. Updating Lolita’s age to make the film audience-friendly in 1962, Kubrick emphasized the ridiculous aspects of the source material, drawing an extraordinary performance from Sellers, who plays Humbert’s lewd (and frequently disguised) friend of the writer, Clare Quilty. Winters is at the same time happy and melancholic like the involuntary Charlotte. You will fall in love with the daring “Lolita”.
Doctor Strangelove, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb (1964) – In this satirical doomsday thriller, an American bomber receives a signal to release its nuclear charge on Russia. When the unfortunate Captain Mandrake (Sellers) seeks out Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to find out why he ordered the launch and why he has closed his Air Force base, it is quickly apparent that the general has lost his marbles. Meanwhile, President Muffley (Sellers again) meets with senior advisers, including warmongering General “Buck” Turgidson (George C. Scott) and strangely sinister nuclear scientist Dr. Strangelove (Sellers), to review their limited options for to save the planet.
Perhaps the most inspired charade of the Cold War and undoubtedly one of the supreme black comedies on the screen, Kubrick’s “Strangelove” confronted nervous audiences after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and not long after the advent of the H-bomb. With Kubrick’s twisted genius as a director and screenwriter in full bloom, and Sellers’ unparalleled performances in three roles, not to mention jester Scott and deranged Hayden, the film is excruciatingly funny, but also somewhat unsettling, which helps explain his enduring worship. condition.
The world of Henry Orient (1964) – Two girls from a New York City private school become friends, then fall in love with each other with the main character, second-grade conductor and third-grade womanizer, Henry Orient (Sellers). They then decide to stalk the poor man, thwarting all of his meticulously planned assignments. When Orient finally identifies who they are and calls a parent, the plot takes a darker and more dramatic turn.
Sellers is in rare form as the perpetually randy, eternally mediocre fraud (don’t miss his installment of the film’s last line!). The two girls who are chasing him (Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker) offer refreshingly natural performances for the time. Then there’s Paula Prentiss, funny as one of Orient’s nervous lovers, and the incomparable Angela Lansbury, who injects a cold note of evil like the mother of a child. George Roy Hill’s film, which is often overlooked, also features beautiful landscapes of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. More than ever, this is a “world” worth entering.
Party (1967) – A fat Hollywood producer decides to throw a flashy dinner (“Anyone, anyone will be there!”), And unluckily, Indian actor Hrundi Bakshi (Sellers) mistakenly makes it to the guest list. Although Bakshi knows some of his fellow guests, they will surely meet him before the night is over. Here Sellers inhabits another accident-prone character in his continued association with Blake Edwards. Bakshi is a gentle person, but her innocent curiosity about her surroundings (or is it bewilderment?) Manages to wreak havoc in most places she goes.
Although the breathless comic impulse wears off a bit at the end of the picture, Sellers’ brilliant characterization and some sublime pieces make this one worth a look. In particular, that dinner scene remains one of the funniest sequences in the movie. French actress Claudine Longet is adorable as the prettiest guest at the party, who befriends sweet but clumsy Bakshi. Don’t miss out on this wild and woolly party from the sixties!
Being there (1979) – Sellers’ penultimate film proved to himself and the world that, when asked, he can be a serious and superb actor. This witty story, originally written by Jerzy Kosinski, concerns Chance, a middle-aged gardener (albeit strangely boy-like) in Washington, DC, whose only upbringing has come through television. Through a twist of fate after the death of his former employer, Chance (nicknamed Chauncey Gardner) lands in the home of powerful wheel trader Benjamin Rand (Melvyn Douglas) and his younger wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine). Rand sees genius in Chauncey’s simple pronouncements, and soon the humble gardener has the ear of some even more powerful people.
Adapted by Kosinski himself and directed by Hal Ashby, the director of the main 70, the film is a triumph, due to the bravery of the protagonist of Sellers and the first-rate performances of the veteran actor Douglas (who won an Oscar), MacLaine and a serious Jack Warden as the president. Witty, sharp, and thought-provoking, the enduring pointer to this feature comes from the fact that Sellers was only a year old when he made it. If you love the work of Peter Sellers, you will love “Being There”.