The “Pink Panther” Peter Sellers was born on this day in 1925

One of England’s greatest comedians

The “Pink Panther” Peter Sellers was born on this day in 1925

Today we look back at the life of one of England’s greatest comedians Peter Sellers born Richard Henry Sellers on the 8th September 1925 in Southsea, Portsmouth, England. Sellers made his stage debut at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, when he was just two weeks old. He began accompanying his parents in a variety act that toured the provincial theaters. He developed his mimicry and improvisational skills during a spell in Ralph Reader’s wartime Gang Show entertainment troupe, which toured Britain and the Far East. After the war, Sellers became a regular performer on various BBC radio shows. His spot-on impersonations helped make him a beloved radio comedian. In 1951, Sellers joined fellow comics Spike Mulligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine for The Goon Show. The program proved to be hugely popular with listeners who tuned in to hear their absurd skits and bits.
The success of The Goon Show helped Sellers break into movies. After appearing in “Down Among the Z Men” (1952) with his radio colleagues, Sellers landed a small part in the comedy “The Ladykillers” (1955) with Alec Guinness. His career really took off in 1959 with “I’m All Right, Jack” and “The Mouse That Roared”. In “The Mouse That Roared”, Sellers played three characters, including a duchess and X. This successful movie helped introduce Sellers to American movie-goers. Although the bulk of his work was comedic, often parodying characters of authority such as military officers or policemen, he also performed in other film genres and roles. Sellers hit his stride in the early 1960’s with two of his most famous roles. Sellers also introduced audiences to the world’s most bumbling detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, in Blake Edwards’s “The Pink Panther” (1963). The film proved to be a huge success, and it was quickly followed by the sequel “A Shot in the Dark” (1964). In Stanley Kubrick’s war satire “Dr. Strangelove” or  “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964), he once again showed his ability to tackle multiple characters, including the title role. Satire and black humor were major features of many of his films, and his performances had a strong influence on a number of later comedians. Sellers was nominated three times for an Academy Award, twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performances in “Dr. Strangelove” and “Being There”, and once for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for “The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film” (1959). He won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role twice, for I’m All Right Jack and for the original Pink Panther film, “The Pink Panther” (1963) and was nominated for Best Actor three times. Sellers would marry four times and had three children from his first two marriages. He died as a result of a heart attack in 1980, aged 54. English filmmakers the Boulting brothers described Sellers as “the greatest comic genius this country has produced since Charles Chaplin.

By Ken Warren, 2018

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