Thursday, November 2, 2017

Happy Birthday Peter Sellers, Part 2

“Absolute control is a useful thing. Eliminate the personal element... and you can get so much more done. This was a realization that Peter Sellers never had to face... because there was
no person there to begin with. He was a vessel into which characters and personalities ran like phantoms. But even an empty vessel can become too full.” -Peter Sellers reflecting as Stanley Kubrick from “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Picture Legend:

1. Popeye’s Goons
2. Plaque commemorating “The Goon Show”
3. Peter and his first wife, Anne Howe
4. Anne with children  Michael and Sarah.
5. Michael Sellers
6. Robert Blake in “Lost Highway”
7. Ursula Andress in “Dr. No”
8. Jacqueline Bisset in “The Deep”
9. Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 1967‘s “You Only Live Twice”
10. Peter and Ursula in 1967‘s “Casino Royale”
11. Peter and Graham Stark 1964‘s “A Shot in the Dark”
12. Peter as The Major in 1951‘s “Penny Points to Paradise”
13 Peter as Arnold J. Fringe in “Penny Points to Paradise”
14. Peter as Groucho Marx in “Let’s Go Crazy”
15. Gina Lollobrigida
16. Joan Collins and Peter
17. Joan, George Cole, Kenneth More and Robertson Hare in 1953‘s “The Adventures of Sadie”
18. Bill Fraser, Sidney James and Peter in 1954‘s “Orders are Orders”
19. Peter in “The Ladykillers” 1955
20. Fran Jeffries singing “Meglio stasera” in “The Pink Panther” with David Niven, Robert Wagner, and Capucine in the background
21. Peter, Virginia McKenna, and Bill Travers in 1957's “The Smallest Show on Earth”
22. Peter in “Up the Creek” 1958
23. Terry-Thomas and Peter in “Tom Thumb”
24. LP (Long Playing) record album
25. In 1959‘s “Carlton-Browne of the F.O.”
26. In “I’m Alright Jack”
27. Peter as Tully Bascomb with Jean Seberg in “The Mouse that Roared” 1959
28. David Lodge, Bernard Cribbins, and Peter in “Two-Way Stretch”
29. Liz Fraser
30. Constance Cummings and Peter in “The Battle of the Sexes”
31. Sophia Loren and Peter in “The Millionairess”
32. Herbert Lom and Peter in “Mr. Topaze”
33. Peter and Mai Zetterling in “Only Two Can Play”
34. Dany Robin and Peter in “Waltz of the Toreadors”
35. Stanley Kubrick and Sue Lyon
36. 14 year old Sue Lyon as “Lolita”
37. Sue and James in “Lolita”
38. Peter and James Mason in “Lolita”
39. Bing Crosby and Peter looking through Bob Hope’s head and finding empty space in “The Road to Hong Kong”
40. Richard Attenborough and Peter in “The Dock Brief” 1962
41. Peter and Nanette Newman in “The Wrong Arm of the Law” 1963
42. Lionel Jeffries
43. In “Heaven’s Above!”
44. Gregory Peck and Brock Peters
45. Blake Edwards and his wife, actress and singer Julie Andrews
46. Henry Mancini
47. Peter with Capucine in “The Pink Panther”

   “The Goon Show” was a British radio comedy program, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960 for a total of ten seasons, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The title was inspired, according to Spike Milligan, by some Popeye characters who were called “Goons.” The Goons consisted of Spike, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Michael Bentine.
   The show's chief creator and main writer was Spike Milligan. The scripts mixed ludicrous plots with surreal humor, puns, catch phrases and an array of bizarre sound effects. Some of the later episodes feature electronic effects devised by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop, many of which were reused by other shows for decades. Many elements of the show satirized contemporary life in Britain, parodying aspects of show business, commerce, industry, art, politics, diplomacy, the police, the military, education, class structure, literature and film.
   The show was released internationally through the BBC Transcription Services (TS). It was heard regularly from the 1950s in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India and Canada, although these TS versions were frequently edited to avoid controversial subjects.
   In the United States, NBC began broadcasting the program on its radio network from the mid-1950s.
   Starting with 370,000 listeners, “The Goon Show,” eventually reached up to seven million people in England, and was described by one newspaper as "probably the most influential comedy show of all time," and has been cited as a major influence by The Beatles and the American comedy team The Firesign Theatre, as well as Britain’s own Monty Python, and many others.
   Here is an audio clip from one of the shows labeled “Rommel’s Treasure,” and here is a site where you can find the shows scripts, if you are interested.
   Here is a clip entitled “The Last Goon Show Ever, and here is a featurette on the “Heros of Comedy, The Goons,” hosted by Monty Python’s John Cleese.
   Back in 1949, Peter dated Anne Howe, an Australian actress who lived in London. He proposed to her in April of 1950 and the couple were married in London on September15th, 1951.
   The couple had two children. Michael, was born on April 2nd, 1954, and their daughter, Sarah, followed in 1958.
   Peter and Anne divorced in 1961.
   Michael Sellers died of a heart attack on July 24th, 2006, exactly 26 years to the day after Peter’s  death. He was 52 years old.
   Sarah tends to shun publicity and runs a Teddy bear shop (a business establishment that sells, rents, and repairs Teddy bears) in London.
   Anne remarried. Her new husband was Ted Levy, a South African architect whom she had met while he was working on her and Peter’s home. It has been said she had  a long and happy marriage.
   The beautiful and talented actress Emily Watson, who portrayed Anne in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” said "I know Anne slightly and I know she is chuffed I am playing her."
   “Chuffed,” is British for “very pleased.”
   Besides getting married in 1950, Peter also began a long association with the film industry by doing what we now call voice work (not physically appearing in a film, television show, or commercial, but lending one’s voice to a film, television film, or commercial) in an American film that’s setting was at first England before heading out to parts east.
   “The Black Rose,” starred Tyrone Power and Orson Welles (both men died, like Peter, of heart attacks. Power when he was only 44 years old, and Wells when he was 70), and produced by 20th Century Fox, way before  Murdoch got to it.
   The story concerns the illegitimate son of some English nobleman who gets screwed out of his inheritance and heads to China to become at first a mercenary, then a prisoner. He falls in love with fellow prisoner Cécile Aubry (a French actress who displayed some originality by dying from lung cancer in 2010, at the age of 81), “The Black Rose.” Power’s character escapes, but he and Aubry lose each other, so he returns to England, and is thusly rewarded by King Edward (played by Klaatu, er, I mean the English actor Michael Rennie) because he brought gun powder back with him (as well as that little finger trap thingy).   
   The movie is noteworthy for it’s use of props.
   There are stories regarding a 40 second scene where the bodies of two Moroccan peasants can be seen hanging from a tree. The two bodies were said to be offered to the movie director by a French colonel called Louis Morin (or Moran) due to his admiration for Orson Welles, who was always inspiring stuff like this (it became a real problem in his later years). The movie was shot in Morocco, which was colonized by French troops at the time.
   Peter’s part in the film was to dub (in this instance the term “dub” refers to is a post-production process used in filmmaking and video production in which additional or supplementary recordings are "mixed" with original production sound to create the finished sound track) over the voice of a Mexican actor to make him sound Chinese. The actor in question was Alfonso Bedoya, who you might remember as one of the bandits in the John Houston / Humphrey Bogart classic, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” which he had appeared in a couple of years earlier. He was the “Gold Hat” bandit who uttered the famous line, “Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" 
   Bedoya was hired on “The Black Rose,” because all of the Chinese actors were busy at the time.
   The Czech-born British film and television actor, Herbert Lom appeared in the film as well as the character Anthemus. He and Peter would have a long working relationship together, first in 1955‘s “The Ladykillers,” 1961‘s “Mr. Topaze,” and later five Pink Panther movies (one using unused footage after Peter’s death) as Chief Insp. Charles Dreyfus, whom Peter’s trademark character, Inspector Clouseau, drives utterly insane.
   The only cast member from “The Black Rose,” who is still alive is the the now 84 year old American actor Robert Blake (“In Cold Blood,” “Baretta”), who at one point in his life was put on trial for murdering his wife, acquitted, then found guilty in a civil lawsuit to the tune of $30 million dollars (dropped down to 15 in an appeal). Blake has since retired from the entertainment business, and except for a couple of appearances on talk shows, his last acting job was in 1997's “Lost Highway,” with Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette, written and directed by David Lynch.
   Peter an Welles would “work” together again 17 years later in 1967‘s “Casino Royale,” or at least appear in the same film.
   Boasting quite an impressive ensemble cast, (the largest cast in any James Bond film) which  besides Welles and Peter included, Ursula Andress (the first “Bond Girl,” having starred with Sean Connery in 1962‘s “Dr. No,” and still with us at 81), David Niven (who Peter had worked with in 1963‘s “The Pink Panther,” and who he would work with again in 1976‘s “Murder by Death.” Niven died at his Swiss chalet from ALS on July 29th, 1983 at the age of 73, the same day as his “The Prisoner of Zenda,” and “A Matter of Life and Death” co-star Raymond Massey), John Houston (died on August 28th, 1987, in his rented home in Middletown, Rhode Island, from pneumonia as a complication of lung disease), Joanna Pettet (who would suddenly decide to give up her acting career after being held hostage by Philippine rebels during the 1990 filming of a Roger Corman “bad action film,” and now “lives a quiet but full life outside Los Angeles. She is very devoted to animals, and animal causes,” as am I), the Israeli actress Daliah Lavi (passed away just last May 3rd at her home in Asheville, North Carolina, at the age of 74), Woody Allen (still making movies), Deborah Kerr (one of my favorite actresses, she passed away October 16th, 2007 at the age of 86 at Botesdale, a village in county of Suffolk, England, from the effects of Parkinson's disease), William Holden (who died a drunken mess in his Santa Monica apartment on November 12th, 1981. He was 63 years old), Charles Boyer (the original gaslighter. On  August 26th, 1978, two days after his wife's death from cancer, and two days before his own 79th birthday, Charles committed suicide with an overdose of Seconal while at a friend's home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was taken to the hospital in Phoenix, where he passed away), George Raft (in the last years of his life the renowned actor and dancer, player of gangsters, was living on about $800 a month from a pension and social security. He died from leukemia at the age of 79 in Los Angeles, California, on November 24th, 1980), Jean-Paul Belmondo (still hanging at 84), Jacqueline Bisset (who I must admit to having a crush on as a young man, especially after she won the wet T-shirt contest in the film “The Deep.” She ignored me completely. She is also the godmother to actress Angelina Jolie. In 2015, she co-starred with Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette in the film “Miss You Already”), and Peter O'Toole (John Houston’s daughter, Anjelica Huston also made her first appearance in a feature film in “Casino Royale,” as a hand double for Deborah Kerr, and the guy who would be the physical form of Darth Vader in the first three “Star Wars” films, David Prowse (“Dr. Strangelove" bombardier  Lieutenant Zogg (James Earl Jones) would provide the voice), also debuted in this film as Frankenstein's monster).
   Actually the cast seems to consist of refugees from 1965's comedy “What’s New Pussycat?” which starred Peter, Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen (who wrote the screenplay, his first ever that was produced. The actor Warren Beatty got the ball rolling on this film wanting to make a movie about sex addiction (big surprise). He and producer Charles K. Feldman hired Woody to write the script for $30,000, provided Woody could also be in the film. As the script progressed Warren noticed that Woody’s part was getting bigger at the expense of his own. Warren threatened to walk out of the project, and indeed did walk out of the project, which brought in O’Toole. O’Toole insisted on having Peter Sellers as his co-star rather than Groucho Marx who Feldman first wanted. Another writer was brought in to tune up the script a tad and who pared down Woody’s role to that of a minor character. The film’s title came from Warren’s salutation which he would use when addressing his lady friends. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times criticized the script, the directing and the acting and described the film as "the most outrageously cluttered and campy, noisy and neurotic display of what is evidently intended as way-out slapstick." He praised the scenery and title song. That song, sung by the Welsh singer Tom Jones, and which can be heard here, was written by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics), and nominated for an Academy Award. Here and here are the movie’s opening sequence. And here’s another scene, and yet another), Ursula Andress, as well as Romy Schneider, Paula Prentiss, Capucine (who had worked with Peter in “The Pink Panther”), and Richard Burton in a cameo.
   Okay, I know we’re jumping ahead here a little, but let’s try to make sense out of this monster (like we just did with “What’s New Pussycat?”).
   The 1967 version of “Casino Royale,” is a satirical, comedic, James Bond movie (an argument can be made that all James Bond films are so over the top that they all qualify as being satirical, but I’m not here to bash James Bond movies).
   It is loosely based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale.” At the time this film was made Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had made 4 Bond films (“Dr. No,” “From Russia with Love,” “Goldfinger,” and “Thunderball”) with another to be released two months after “Casino Royale” was released in April... “You Only Live Twice (which interestingly cast our friend Donald Pleasence as Bond’s arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld).”
   “Casino Royale” was produced by Pussycat producer Charles Feldman and Jerry Bresler. Feldman had bought the rights to the book in 1960 and tried to make it a serious Bond film by selling it to Broccoli and Saltzman’s Eon production company, but they couldn’t come to terms or make a deal, and Feldman made the decision to make his own satirical film instead, believing he couldn’t compete with Eon with a serious, dramatic Bond film (at one point he considered casting Cary Grant as Bond). 
   “Casino Royale,” was written by Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, and Michael Sayers. At least that’s what the credits say. In addition to these credited writers, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Val Guest, Ben Hecht, “Catch 22“ writer Joseph Heller, Terry Southern (Southern's reputation was established with the publication of his comic novels “Candy,” and “The Magic Christian,” and through his gift for writing memorable film dialogue as evident in “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Loved One,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” and “The Magic Christian.” His work on “Easy Rider” helped create the independent film movement of the 1970s. He also wrote for “Saturday Night Live”) and writer/director Billy Wilder, are all believed to have contributed to the screenplay to varying degrees.
   “Casino Royale,” had six directors. Ken Hughes (who would also co-write and direct the 1968 children's film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which was based on the children’s book of the same name, which was written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming), John Huston, Joseph McGrath (he directed the segment with Peter and Orson Welles, and was a long time collaborator with Peter and Spike Milligan, directing them in “The Magic Christian (1969),” and “The Great McGonagall (1974)”), Robert Parrish (who learned his craft working with John Ford on films such as “Mary of Scotland,” “Young Mr. Lincoln,” “Drums Along the Mohawk,” and “The Grapes of Wrath”), Val Guest (“Quatermass 2“), and Richard Talmadge.   
   With this many collaborating writers and directors you got pretty much what you would expect... a huge mess!
   No advance press screenings were held, leading reviews to only appear after the film’s premiere.
   Roger Ebert said "This is possibly the most indulgent film ever made," Time described “Casino Royale” as "an incoherent and vulgar vaudeville," and Variety declared the film to be "a conglomeration of frenzied situations, ‘in’ gags and special effects, lacking discipline and cohesion."
   Bosley Crowther had some positive statements about the movie (which is odd as he hated Pussycat), considering “Casino Royale” had "more of the talent agent than the secret agent" and praising the "fast start" and the scenes up to the baccarat game between Bond and Le Chiffre. After those scenes, Crowther felt, the script became tiresome, repetitive and filled with clichés due to "wild and haphazard injections of 'in' jokes and outlandish gags," leading to an excessive length that made the film a "reckless, disconnected nonsense that could be telescoped or stopped at any point."
   To be fair it didn’t help matters that Peter left the production before all his scenes were shot, which is why his character, Tremble, is so abruptly captured in the film. Whether he was fired or simply walked off is unclear. Given that he often went absent for days at a time and was involved in conflicts with Welles, either explanation is plausible.
   Regardless, Peter was unavailable for the filming of an ending and of linking footage to explain the details, leaving the filmmakers to devise a way to make the existing footage work without him. So a framing device was invented, which is why we have the David Niven/Deborah Kerr scenes at the beginning of the film, then the Sellers/Welles/Andress scenes (which actually follow the book’s plot, which concerns Bond defeating the evil Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat, as can be seen in the 2006 version of “Casino Royale,” starring Daniel Craig in his first outing as James Bond, the lovely and bountiful Eva Green, and Mads Mikkelsen), then back to Niven, with Pettet, Allen, and Lavi in an ending that resembles that of Mel Brooks “Blazing Saddles,”  and the pie throwing, and western saloon fight scenes from Blake Edwards “The Great Race.”
   What ever you say about “Casino Royale,” it did have some great music. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass provided the film’s theme, which can be heard here. Warning, this song is infectious, and will play itself through your mind for the rest of your life.
   And Burt Bacharach and Hal David found their way back to compose the song “The Look of Love," which was sung by the  English pop singer Dusty Springfield, and which received another freaking Academy Award nomination.
   And here’s a scene with Peter and Jacqueline Bisset.
   I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention the “Fourth Wall.”
   Wikipedia tells us “The fourth wall is a performance convention in which an invisible, imagined wall separates actors from the audience. While the audience can see through this "wall", the convention assumes, the actors act as if they cannot. From the 16th century onwards, the rise of illusionism in staging practices, which culminated in the realism and naturalism of the theatre of the 19th century, led to the development of the fourth wall concept.
   ‘Breaking the fourth wall’ is any instance in which this performance convention, having been adopted more generally in the drama, is violated. This can be done through either directly referencing the audience, the play as a play, or the characters' fictionality. The temporary suspension of the convention in this way draws attention to its use in the rest of the performance. This act of drawing attention to a play's performance conventions is metatheatrical (Metatheatre, and the closely related term metadrama, describe aspects of a play that draw attention to its nature as drama or theatre, or to the circumstances of its performance). A similar effect of metareference is achieved when the performance convention of avoiding direct contact with the camera, generally used by actors in a television drama or film, is temporarily suspended. The phrase "breaking the fourth wall" is used to describe such effects in those media. Breaking the fourth wall is also possible in other media, such as video games and books.
   Oliver Hardy was probably the first to break the fourth wall, in his movies with Stan Laurel, by staring at the camera to seek comprehension from the viewers. Groucho Marx spoke directly to the audience in ‘Animal Crackers,’ 1930, and ‘Horse Feathers,’ 1932. Comedy films by Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker frequently broke the fourth wall, such that with these films, ‘the fourth wall is so flimsy and so frequently shattered that it might as well not exist,’ according to The A.V. Club. Woody Allen broke the fourth wall several times in his movie Annie Hall, as he explained, ‘because I felt many of the people in the audience had the same feelings and the same problems. I wanted to talk to them directly and confront them.' The John Hughes movie ‘Ferris Bueller's Day Off’ is another well-known fourth-wall-breaking movie. Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, often turns to the camera and breaks character to tell his thought process or explain his reasoning. In the Mel Brooks film ‘Blazing Saddles,’ the characters literally break the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall is an integral part of the ending of Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 film ‘The Holy Mountain.’ A more recent example is the 2016 film "Deadpool," in which it is used as a comedic device between the main character and the audience.”
   My point in mentioning this is that Peter broke said fourth wall twice in “Casino Royale.” Once in scene with Ursula wherein he actually winked at the camera (and which was reemphasized during the ending credits), and another time as he sits in a Lotus racing car on his way to rescue Vesper (Ursula) who has been kidnaped by Le Chiffre (Welles).
   He would do so again in the final scenes of “A Shot in the Dark,” in which the suspects of a murder angrily confront each other to the exclusion of Insp. Clouseau. Peter briefly looks directly at the camera to emphasize Clouseau’s frustration at not being able to get a word in edgewise.
   The American singer, dancer, actress, and model, Fran Jeffries, destroys the fourth wall entirely while singing “Meglio Stasera,” in Italian, in “The Pink Panther.” She looks directly at the camera throughout the entire scene (pretty much). Here it is.
   Alright, let’s move on.
   The Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) credits Peter with narrating a Charles Chaplin short film, “A Burlesque on Carmen,” which is odd at first glance as it’s a the beginning of his list of acting credits, and was produced and released in the United States in 1915, ten years before Peter’s birth. One has to delve into the deep, dark secrets of the IMDB to discover that Peter  narrated the 1951 sound version of this film in the United Kingdom.
   The three quarters of the cast of “The Goon Show” made their feature film debut in 1951's “Penny Points to Paradise,” and marks the first time Peter actually appears on screen.   
   The film was not written by any Goon, but by a chap by the name of John Ormonde, and the story concerned the difficulties one can face after winning a significant amount of money (getting married not the least of them).
   Later Peter would reflect that “Penny Points to Paradise,” was "a terrifyingly bad film." It was not profitable on initial release and was eventually re-issued for distribution abroad in 1960 as a cut-down 55-minute version under the title "Penny Points."
   Peter and Spike wrote and I assume produced “Let’s Go Crazy,” in 1951, a 32 minute musical featurette set in a nightclub combining variety acts with comedy sketches that linked everything together. Peter played multiple parts (such as Groucho Marx, Giuseppe, Cedric, Crystal Jollibottom, and of course Izzy Gozunk).
   The entire cast of “The Goon Show (Michael Bentine did not appear in “Penny Points to Paradise.” He was also busy at the time),” appeared for a final time in the ill-fated 1952 feature film, “Down Among the Z Men, (contrary to popular belief, “Down Among the Z Men” has absolutely nothing to do with he the Firesign Theatre’s 1979 “J-Men Forever,” the theatre’s failed attempt at world domination through the use of sex, drugs, and rock and roll),” a tale of espionage and intrigue. It was also a kind of live action clip show, transposing plots and characters found on their radio program into a feature film.
   The transposition did not work and “Down Among the Z Men,” did not fair well commercially. It was not released in the U.S. as “The Goon Show,” was not known here at the time (the first serious attempt to translate the humor of “The Goon Show” to television was 1956‘s “The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d,” which starred Peter and Spike, and was broadcast only in the London area).
   Years later, after Peter became a major film star, bootleg 16mm prints of the “Down Among the Z Men” began to turn up in the United States, sometimes under the title “The Goon Show Movie."
   One member of the cast, Graham Stark, who would substitute for Milligan on “The Goon Show,” when Spike was ill, would continue to work with Peter on many projects, including televisions “The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d,” its successor, “A Show Called Fred,”  its successor, “Son of Fred (all three produced in 1956. Terry Jones, of “Monty Python's Flying Circus,” has stated that “Son of Fred’s,” minimalist format, with little or no scenery and few props, sketches without any real purpose or punch line, and mixing live action and short animations directly influenced the format of their own 1969 television show),” 1960‘s “The Millionairess,” “Only Two Can Play," the first real Inspector Clouseau movie, 1964‘s “A Shot in the Dark,” “Casino Royal,” “The Magic Christian,” “The Return of the Pink Panther,” “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” and “Revenge of the Pink Panther.”
   In 1953 Peter worked directly for John Houston by lending his voice to another Humphrey Bogart vehicle, “Beat the Devil,” also starring Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre. 
   The script was written by Houston and the American novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor, Truman Capote (who wrote the non-fiction novel “In Cold Blood,” which was what the 1967 film of the same name was based on, and which Robert Blake appeared in. Truman and Peter would both have parts in the 1976 Neil Simon film (directed by Robert Moore), “Murder by Death,” along with David Niven and Peter’s “The Ladykillers,” co-star, Alec Guinness). It “concerned the adventures of a motley crew of swindlers and ne'er-do-wells trying to claim land rich in uranium deposits in Kenya as they wait in a small Italian port to travel aboard a tramp steamer en route to Mombasa.” -Rotten Tomatoes.
   During the filming of “Beat the Devil,” Bogart lost several of his teeth in a car accident. Peter of course had a talent for imitating voices and was hired to dub some of Humphrey’s lines while Bogie was adjusting to the loss of his teeth and unable to speak clearly.
   Again, all of the cast members mentioned above have passed except for one, the lovely and talented Italian actress, Gina Lollobrigida, who as her acting career slowed enjoyed a second as a photojournalist and sculptress. In the 1970s, she achieved a scoop by gaining access to Fidel Castro for an exclusive interview.
   She has continued as an active supporter of Italian and Italian American causes, particularly the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). In 2008, she received the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation's Anniversary Gala. In 2013, she sold her jewelry collection, and donated the nearly $5 million from the sale to benefit stem cell therapy research.
   Now retired, Lollobrigida has not made a film since 1997. 90 years old now she is estimated to have a net worth of $20 million dollars.
   She told PARADE magazine in April of 2000: "I studied painting and sculpting at school and became an actress by mistake ... I've had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled. All my life, I've had too many admirers." Something Ms Lollobrigida and I have in common.
   Peter provided the voice of a parrot in 1953's “The Adventures of Sadie,” or “Our Girl Friday,” in the U.K., starring Joan Collins, George Cole, Kenneth More and Robertson Hare. The film was about a girl (20 year old Collins) stranded on an island with three men.
   "I wore a bikini and no make up," said Joan later. "It was quite restful and more like a holiday than work."
   She later claimed she was the first actress to appear in a bikini on screen in “The Adventures of Sadie.” If this is correct, and no one knows if it is, than this is a truly historical landmark work of art, and a huge win for the rights of women everywhere that should be lauded the world over for the rest of eternity.
   Much like Gina, Ms Collins has survived all of her co-stars. The 84 year old actress now spends her time between her homes in London, Los Angeles, New York City, and an undisclosed location in France. She describes her life as being "that of a gypsy.”
   In 1954, Peter was cast opposite Sid James (who died of a heart attack while on stage in April of 1976 at the age of 62), Tony Hancock, Raymond Huntley, Eric Sykes, and Donald Pleasence, in the British Lion Film Corporation comedy production, “Orders Are Orders.”
   “A film production company decides to make a new science fiction film in an army barracks, using the soldiers as extras. This does not go down well with the commanding officer, who attempts to make life as difficult as possible for the film crew.”
   Some say the commanding officer sent the crew to a haunted house. Just saying.
   John Grierson, the pioneering Scottish documentary film maker, believed that “Orders are Orders,” was Peter’s breakthrough role on screen and credits this movie with launching the film careers of both Peter and Tony Hancock (Hancock’s career declined rapidly within the next ten years. He suffered from ill health, possibly due to alcoholism. He committed suicide by overdose (vodka and amylo-barbitone tablets, a depressant) on June 25th, 1968. "Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times," he wrote on a note).
   It has been rumored that the production of “Orders are Orders,” was cursed as it didn’t receive particularly good reviews (TV Guide wrote, "except for a couple of decent comic performances, the good cast, including both Peter Sellers and Donald Pleasence in early roles, are wasted by the film's haphazard construction”), didn’t make all that much money (84,148 pounds which is equivalent to $1,003,979 in 2016 (subtracting the production and promotional costs), and no one in the cast of “Orders are Orders,” is alive today.
   As far as I’m concerned Peter’s first important role in film was in 1955‘s “The Ladykillers,” starring Obi-Wan, er, I mean, Alec Guinness (who was no slouch in playing multiple characters himself. He portrayed 9 different people in the 1949 black comedy, “Kind Hearts and Coronets.” Despite being known for his work in dramatic roles, including 6 David Lean pictures (Herbert Pocket in “Great Expectations (1946),” Fagin in “Oliver Twist (1948),” Col. Nicholson in “The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor),” Prince Faisal in “Lawrence of Arabia (1962),” General Yevgraf Zhivago in “Doctor Zhivago (1965),” and Professor Godbole in “A Passage to India (1984),” he started his film career in comedies), Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Danny Green, Jack Warner, Katie Johnson, and Peter.
   The plot of “The Ladykillers,” involves a criminal gang using the boarding house of a naive older lady, to stage a crime, and what transpires afterwards.
   Here’s a clip with Peter and another parrot.
   “The Ladykillers,” enjoys a rare 100% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted “The Ladykillers” as the 36th greatest comedy film of all time, and The Guardian labeled it the 5th greatest comedy of all time in 2010.
   Which one is right?! I don’t know! 36th... 5th..., let’s split the difference and say it is the 20th and a half greatest comedy film of all time.
   Sounds good to me.
   “The Ladykillers” was a success in both Britain and the US, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
   “The Ladykillers,” has been made into an opera, play, radio presentation. In 2004 the Coen Brothers (“No Country for Old Men," “Fargo," “The Big Lebowski") directed an American remake of the film, starring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J. K. Simmons, Tzi Ma and Ryan Hurst.
   1956 was a television year for Peter. He appeared in the aforementioned three television series based on The Goons, which aired on Britain's new ITV channel, “The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d,” “A Show Called Fred,” and “Son of Fred."
   In 1957 film producer Michael Relph became impressed with Peter's portrayal of an elderly character in Idiot Weekly, and cast the 32-year-old actor as a 68-year-old projectionist in Basil Dearden's “The Smallest Show on Earth (“Big Time Operators,” here in the U.S.),” supporting  actors being Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna and Margaret Rutherford. Here's the trailer.
   The film was a commercial success and is now thought of as a minor classic of British screen comedy in the post-war era.
   Following this, Peter provided the growling voice of Winston Churchill to the BAFTA award winning film “The Man Who Never Was."
   Later in 1957 he portrayed a television star with a talent for disguises in Mario Zampi's offbeat black comedy “The Naked Truth,” opposite Terry-Thomas, Peggy Mount, Shirley Eaton and Dennis Price.
   One of the directors of “Casino Royal,” Val Guest, co-wrote and directed 1958‘s “Up The Creek,” a navel comedy (in the vein of “Operation Petticoat," and “McHale’s Navy," except Peter’s ship, the  HMS Berkeley, didn’t go anywhere) starring Peter, David Tomlinson, Wilfrid Hyde-White, David Lodge and Lionel Jeffries.
   This film gained critical acclaim in the U.S., and is important as being the first leading role for Peter. Here’s the whole movie if you are so inclined.
   The Hungarian-American animator, film director and producer, George Pal (“The Time Machine,” “The War of the Worlds”) hired Peter that year, along with Terry-Thomas, as a pair of villains in “Tom Thumb,” a fantasy-musical film based on the Tom Thumb fairy tale.
   The movie also starred Russ Tamblyn, Jessie Matthews and Peter Butterworth.
   “Tom Thumb” was released by the Los Angeles based studio MGM, and filmed both in L.A. and London.
   It was financially successful, and the 8th most popular film in Great Britian in 1959. It also introduced Peter to the Hollywood film industry. 
   Here’s a clip.
   1958 also saw Peter releasing a comedy album (for those of you who are too young to know what an album is it was a analog sound storage medium in the form of a 12- or 10-inch (30 or 25 cm) fine-grooved disc made of vinyl (Polyvinyl chloride, the world's third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, after polyethylene and polypropylene) and played with a smaller-tipped "microgroove" stylus at a speed of  33 1⁄3 revolutions per minute (rpm), on what was called a record, or album player, specifically designed to play, or make music, or sounds, magically appear from said records or albums. Each side of a 12-inch LP could play for more than 20 minutes), labeled “The Best of Sellers; a collection of sketches and comic songs.” It was produced by George Martin (who would later work extensively with a British rock band called The Beatles) and released on Parlophone (a German-British major record label founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as Parlophon). The album reached number three in the UK Albums Chart.   
   1959 saw Peter working with Terry-Thomas again (“People will say we’re in love.” -Hannibal Lector), in the Boulting Brothers (John and Roy... identical twins) production of “Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (“Man in a Cocked Hat” in the U.S.).” The film also starred SPECTRE assassin Luciana Paluzzi, and concerned an inept Foreign Office (F.O.) diplomat (played by Thomas) who is sent to re-establish good relations with the mineral-rich island of Gaillardia, a former British colony that has been forgotten for 50 years and is attracting the attention of both the USA and the USSR.
   Before the release of “Carlton-Browne of the F.O.,” John and Roy began filming “I’m Alright Jack (British for smug and complacent selfishness),” a satire on British industrial life in the 1950s.
   Peter worked with Terry-Thomas again on this film, along with Ian Carmichael and Richard Attenborough. He played one of his best-known roles, as the trades union shop steward Fred Kite and won a Bafta (British Academy Film Award) Best Actor Award.
   “I'm All Right Jack” became the highest grossing film at the British box office in 1960. Here’s a clip.
   1959 also saw Peter in “The Mouse that Roared,” the prequel to “Dr. Strangelove.” A tale of international and political intrigue, weapons of mass destruction, war, and unfathomable love.
   “The Mouse that Roared,” was the first film in which I became aware of Peter Sellers, watching it from reruns on television.
   This film is also notable for being the first in which he played multiple characters (other than Goon Show projects),  Duchess Gloriana XII; Count Rupert Mountjoy, the Prime Minister; and Tully Bascomb, the military leader. The film received universal high praise by critics.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter in all three of his roles.
   The American actress Jean Seberg (“A Fine Madness,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “Airport”) starred with Peter. Living abroad for most her life she would become a  target of the FBI COINTELPRO project (a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting American political organizations, and apparently individuals). Her victimization was rendered as a well-documented retaliation for her support of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s.
   At the peak of her career, Ms Seberg suddenly stopped acting in Hollywood films. Reportedly, she was not pleased with the roles she had been offered, some of which, she noted, bordered on pornography.
   Experts in FBI COINTELPRO activities suggest that she was "effectively blacklisted" from Hollywood films, as was Jane Fonda for a period of time.
   On the night of August 30th, 1979, Ms Seberg disappeared. Her “companion" at the time, Ahmed Hasni, told police that they had gone to a movie that night and when he awoke the next morning, Ms Seberg was gone.
  Nine days after her disappearance, on September 8th, her decomposing body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her Renault, which was parked close to her Paris apartment in the 16th arrondissement.
   Police found a bottle of barbiturates, an empty mineral water bottle, and a note written in French addressed to her son. It read, in part, "Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves."
   Her death was ruled a probable suicide by Paris police, but the following year additional charges were filed against persons unknown for "non-assistance of a person in danger."
   Ms Seberg's second husband, Romain Gary, called a press conference shortly after her death where he publicly blamed the FBI's campaign against his ex-wife for her deteriorating mental health. Gary claimed that Jean "became psychotic" after the media reported a false story the FBI planted about her becoming pregnant with a Black Panther's child in 1970. Romain Gary stated that Seberg had repeatedly attempted suicide on the anniversary of their child's death, August 25th.
   As our current President would say, sad.
   Peter won an U.S. Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film in 1959, for a Goon related project originally intended to be a private film for his use and that of his goon friends.
   Over the course of two Sundays, and at a cost of £70 (including £5 for the rental of a field. £70 in the year 1959 is equivalent to £1,534.45 in 2017, a difference of £1,464.45 over 58 years. £1,534.45 equals $2025.72) he took his 16mm cine-camera to Totteridge Lane in London and filmed himself, Spike Milligan, Mario Fabrizi (an English comedian and actor of Italian descent), Leo McKern (an Australian actor who appeared in numerous British, Australian and American television programs and films, and in more than 200 stage roles), and Richard Lester (an American film director based in Britain).
   The eleven-minute short film “The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film” was screened at the 1959 Edinburgh and San Francisco film festivals. It won the award for best fiction short in the latter festival, and that Academy Award nomination. Take a look!
   The film was a favorite of  the four members of The Beatles, which led to Lester being hired to direct “A Hard Day's Night” and then “Help! (he would later direct 1980’s “Superman II,” and 1983‘s “Superman III”).”
   1959 also saw the release of Peter’s second comedy album, “Songs For Swinging Sellers,” which also reached number three in the UK Albums Charts.
   Peter’s last films of the 50‘s were “Two-Way Stretch,” sometimes titled “Nothing Barred,” which is a 1960 (filmed in 1959) British comedy film, about a group of prisoners who plan to break out of jail, commit a robbery, and then break back into jail again, thus giving them the perfect alibi... that they were behind bars when the robbery occurred.
   Besides Peter the film also starred Wilfrid Hyde-White, Lionel Jeffries, Bernard Cribbins, and Liz Fraser, who played Peter’s daughter in “I’m Alright Jack,” and his love interest in “Two-Way Stretch.”
   Apparently that love interest went further than the movies... as far as Peter was concerned.
   In this day and age of sexual inappropriateness brought to light by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Kevin Spacey, and others, Liz has claimed similar conduct committed by Peter.
   Speaking of auditioning for the Jack film, Liz told the Daily Mail in 2015:
   “When I turned up John Boulting [who produced and directed the film with his twin brother Roy] took one look at me and said, ‘You’re completely not right for this part.' I begged, ‘Oh please, I’ve come by train and bus to get here.' So he took me to the make-up department and said, ‘Do something with her.'
   They put a long wig on me. I’ve always had a large bust but at that time I tried to hide it; but the make-up department put a tight sweater on me and cinched my waist in with a belt. Suddenly I looked glamorous and I got the role."
   Peter Sellers noticed the change immediately. Although they knew each other well – he was sleeping with one of her friends – he invited her into his trailer, locked the door and pulled his trousers down. “I said, ‘Peter, you can pull your trousers back up again and I hope you’re not planning to deprive me of my lunch.' We stayed friends but he was a so-and-so, always trying it on with people.
   My friend was his secretary; she’d appear at lunchtimes and go into his trailer. One day she told him, ‘I don’t want to do this any more, I feel like a tart and I love you so much.' Well, she got back to the office and a colleague told her, ‘I don’t know what you’ve done with Peter but he’s sacked you.’
   He was such a rogue. I remember when he claimed he was having an affair with Sophia Loren [when they made the film “The Millionairess” Together in 1960]. He was so excited he told his wife Anne Howe, and was surprised when she threw him out of the house.”
   Being somewhat aware of certain aspects of sexual addiction I have to assume that if left unchecked this type of behavior would constitute a fundamental element of Peter’s personality. Noting addiction’s progressive nature this illness if you will, would only get worse and more profound.
   As a direct result of these manifestations, and increasing problems with his personal life and marriage, Peter sought periodic consultations with the astrologer and alleged clairvoyant Maurice Woodruff, who would have considerable influence over his later career.
   Unfortunately for Peter there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that astrology or clairvoyance have any actual basis in reality.
   The last movie he filmed in 1959 and that was released the following year was “The Battle of the Sexes,” also starring Robert Morley, Constance Cummings, Donald Pleasence, and directed by Charles Crichton, whose last directorial effort was 1988's “A Fish Called Wanda,” which featured two Monty Python cast members, John Cleese and Michael Palin.
   Speaking of Sophia Loren, she and Peter starred in 1960's “The Millionairess,” which appears to have been based on a 1936 play written by the  Irish playwright, critic and polemicist  George Bernard Shaw, which coincidentally had the very same name as the movie.
   Ms Loren plays the richest woman in the world who is looking for love, but can’t marry unless she, or her prospective husband, fulfills certain conditions of her father’s will. Peter plays a well meaning and dedicated Indian doctor, who eventually become the object of Sophia’s affections. Here's a clip.
   Peter wasn’t interested in acting in the film until he learned that Sophia Loren would be his co-star.
   "I don't normally act with romantic, glamorous women ... she's a lot different from Harry Secombe," referencing his former Goon Show co-star.
   Ms Loren, who was married to the Italian film producer Carlo Ponti at the time, developed a close, friendly relationship with Peter while making the film.
   Peter, however, became instantly enamored with the Italian beauty (who was a French citizen by the way), and as mentioned above, declared his love for her to Anne, his wife, which was good enough reason as any to get divorced the next year.
   Sophia spurned Peter’s advances, and pretty soon he was left with nothing but his work and occasional visitation with his two children.
   So, what do you do in a situation like this if you’re Peter Sellers? You direct yourself in a movie.
   Directing one’s self in a film is a lot harder than it sounds.     
   Peter did it in “Mr. Topaze (also known as “I Like Money,” because who doesn’t like money? (My good friend Alexandria Masiak, that’s who! She hates money. Hates it!),” in which he also starred, along with the Rumanian actress Nadia Gray, his old friend Leo McKern, and Herbert Lom.
   Peter portrayed an ex-schoolmaster in a small French town who turns to a life of crime to obtain wealth.
   “Mr. Topaze,” was not well received.
   1962 also saw Peter starring in the Sidney Gilliat directed “Only Two Can Play,” a film based on the novel “That Uncertain Feeling” by Kingsley Amis. He played John Lewis, an unappreciated Welsh librarian who is caught between his ambitious wife and a glamorous amateur actress. Peter was nominated for the Best British Actor award at the 16th British Academy Film Awards for his work in this film.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Graham Stark, and the Swedish actress Mai Zetterling.
   In 1962 Peter played a retired British army general in John Guillermin's “Waltz of the Toreadors,” based on a play that had again, the same name, written in 1951 by Jean Anouilh.
   The film was the 11th most popular movie at the British box office in 1962 and was widely criticized for its slapstick cinematic adaption, yet Peter won the San Sebastián International Film Festival Award for Best Actor and a BAFTA award nomination for his performance.
   Here’s a clip
   It is sad to note that one of Peter’s co-stars in “Waltz of the Toreadors,” the French actress Dany Robin, died with her second husband, one Michael Sullivan, in a fire in their apartment in Paris. She was 68 years old.
   The American actress Sue Lyon was 14 years old when she appeared with Peter, James Mason, and Shelly Winters in 1962‘s “Lolita.” The film was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov (he also wrote the screenplay), and was directed by Stanley Kubrick, fresh off of an unsatisfactory experience making the slave rebellion epic, “Spartacus,” despite the film’s critical and commercial success.
   The film concerns a middle-aged literature lecturer (Mason) who becomes obsessed with an adolescent girl (Lyon).
   Kubrick asked Peter to play the role of Clare Quilty, another lover of Lolita’s mother who also had a fixation on the teenage girl.
   Stanley had seen Peter in “The Battle of the Sexes,” and listened to one of  his comedy albums, and was impressed by the range of characters he could portray.
   Peter was apprehensive about accepting the role, doubting his ability to successfully portray the part of a flamboyant American television playwright who was "a fantastic nightmare, part homosexual, part drug addict, part sadist."
   But in the end he did okay.
   Peter’s character, Clare Quilty, was greatly expanded from that in the novel and Stanley  allowed him to adopt a variety of disguises throughout the movie. Early on in the film, Quilty appears as himself: a conceited, avant-garde playwright with a superior manner. Later he is an inquisitive policeman on the porch of the hotel, where Humbert and Lolita are staying. Next he is the intrusive Beardsley High School psychologist, Doctor Zempf, who lurks in Humbert's front room, to persuade him to give Lolita more freedom in her after-school activities. He is then seen as a photographer backstage at Lolita's play. Later in the film, he is an anonymous phone caller conducting a survey.
   “Lolita” was shot over 88 days on a budget of $2 million at Elstree Studios (Elstree Studios is a generic term which can refer to several current and defunct British film studios and television studios based in or around the towns of Borehamwood and Elstree in Hertfordshire, England. Studios have been located there since film production began in the area in 1914), between October 1960 and March 1961.
   Because of its provocative story, “Lolita” was Stanley’s first film to generate controversy, and he felt somewhat forced  to comply with censors and accordingly toned down the erotic element of the story concerning the relationship between Mason’s Humbert Humbert and Lyon’s Lolita (spoiler alert! They become lovers).
   “Lolita" was not a big success critically or commercially when it was released on June 13th, 1962 (a Wednesday). It has since become acclaimed by film critics and the public alike.
   Social historian Stephen E. Kercher documented that the film "demonstrated that its director possessed a keen, satiric insight into the social landscape and sexual hang-ups of cold war America," while Jon Fortgang of Film4 wrote: "Lolita, with its acute mix of pathos and comedy, and Mason's mellifluous delivery of Nabokov's sparkling lines, remains the definitive depiction of tragic transgression."
   Writing in The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell noted that Peter gave "a firework performance, funny, malicious, only once for a few seconds over reaching itself, and in the murder scene which is both prologue and epilogue achieving the macabre in comedy."
   Here’s a clip.
   Three months before “Lolita” (June. Some sources say it was released on May 22nd. I was only 7 at the time and honestly can’t remember) was released Peter made a short appearance in Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s last “Road Picture (a series of seven comedy films starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. They are also often referred to as the "Road" pictures or the "Road" series. The movies were a combination of adventure, comedy, romance, and music. The minimal plot often took a back seat to gags, many of them supposedly ad-libbed by Crosby and Hope during filming. The first six films were all distributed by Paramount Studios. The last film in the series, the one we’re talking about now, was distributed by United Artists),” “The Road to Hong Kong.”
   Peter played an Indian neurologist snake charmer who is hired to help restore Hope’s memory. Here’s the clip.
    The lovely and talented Dorothy Lamour did not play the female lead in this one. That fell to Peter’s old human friend Joan Collins. Bing Crosby felt that Dorothy was too old to play a leading lady (she was 48 years old at the time. Crosby (and Hope) were 59... and looked it. What a douche!). Bob said he wouldn’t make the film without her (what a nice man!). So an accommodation was made and Ms Lamour made an extended cameo that featured her singing with the two aging actors (others who made cameo appearances in “The Road to Hong Kong,” were David Niven, Roger Delgado, Jerry Colonna, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin). Peter’s addition to the film was particularly well praised. 
   In September Peter starred with future dinosaur wrangler Richard Attenborough in “The Dock Brief (“Trail and Error,” in the U.S.),” a legal satire directed by James Hill (“Born Free”). Richard was nominated for the 1963 BAFTA Award for best British actor for his work in this film. Here's a clip.
   Peter’s father, Bill, passed away in October of 1962. He was 62 years old.
   Despite the obvious success Peter was having professionally, he never really accepted it and quite often thought and told others he was doing a horrible job at acting. He railed against many of the parts that were being offered to him, and generally became a pain in the ass to work with.
   His relationship with his two children deteriorated. according to Michael, his dad once asked him and his sister "who [do] we love more, our mother or him. Sarah, to keep the peace, said, 'I love you both equally.' I said, 'No, I love my mum.'" This prompted Peter to throw both children out, saying that he never wanted to see them again (Michael and Sarah would receive a little over four thousand 2016 dollars from Peter’s will after he died in 1980, from an estate valued at $23 million. The rest of the money went to Peter’s third wife, Lynne Frederick, even though Peter had initiated the process to remove her from his will entirely a week before he died).
   1963 saw Peter play the gang leader "Pearly Gates" in Cliff Owen's “The Wrong Arm of the Law.” Here’s the trailer.
   Lionel Jeffries starred with Peter in “The Wrong Arm of the Law.” As a young lad I enjoyed Jeffries in one of my favorite “Moon” science fiction films, “The First Men in the Moon,” which was based on a true story I’m told.
   From 1956 to 1963 Michael Caine appeared in 16 movies, 9 of which were uncredited. “The Wrong Arm of the Law” was one of those 9.
   Peter got back together with the Boulting brothers to make “Heavens Above!” He played a vicar with wild economic ideals.
   The film was daring in its use of profanity for it’s time. Former Goon Show collaborator Eric Sykes’s character at one point utters the line, "What if it pisses with rain?"
   I don’t have to tell you that I am not just a little bit shocked... and appalled as well!
   The American actor Brock Peters was part of the cast of “Heavens Above!” fresh from his acclaimed portrayal of defendant Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the year before. Here's a clip.
   The America director Blake Edwards, heady with the success of several films (“Operation Petticoat (the composer, Henry Mancini apparently contributed to the musical score of this Cary Grant, Tony Curtis pink submarine movie, but was uncredited. Henry became an  independent composer/arranger in 1958. Soon afterward, he scored the television series “Peter Gunn," for writer/producer Blake Edwards. This was the beginning of a relationship in which Edwards and Mancini collaborated on 30 films over 35 years. Henry’s scores for Blake included “Breakfast at Tiffany's” (with the standard "Moon River"), with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and “Days of Wine and Roses (with the title song, "Days of Wine and Roses"),” as well as “Experiment in Terror,” “The Pink Panther (and all of its sequels),” “The Great Race,” “The Party,” “10 (including "It's Easy to Say")” and “Victor Victoria.” Henry wrote music for a lot of other movies too, one of my favorites being “Baby Elephant Walk,” for the Howard Hawks film “Hatari,” with John Wayne),” “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” “Days of Wine and Roses”)
   Blake co-wrote “The Pink Panther,” with Maurice Richlin, and was set to direct it (it was produced by Edwards associate Martin Jurow (“Breakfast at Tiffany's,” “Soldier in the Rain,” “The Great Race”)). The film was initially intended as a vehicle for David Niven, who received top billing. It was "conceived as a sophisticated comedy about a charming, urbane jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton (Niven)." The Russian-English actor, writer, dramatist, filmmaker, theatre and opera director, stage designer, screenwriter, comedian, humorist, newspaper and magazine columnist, radio broadcaster, and television presenter Peter Ustinov was "originally cast as  Inspector Jacques Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his faithless wife in league with Lytton." -TMC Movie Database.  After Gardner backed out (the Associated Press reported in November 1962 it was because The Mirisch Company wouldn't meet all her demands), Ustinov also left the project, and Blake Edwards then chose Peter to replace him. Janet Leigh turned down the lead female role of Princess Dala, as it meant being away from the United States for too long.
   Blake offered Peter the role of Clouseau. He later recalled his feelings as "desperately unhappy and ready to kill, but as fate would have it, I got Mr. Sellers instead of Mr. Ustinov—thank God!"
   Peter accepted a fee of £90,000 ( a little over $900,000 today) for five weeks' work on location in Rome and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Niven starred in the principal role, with two other actors, Capucine and Claudia Cardinale, having more prominent parts than Peter. The film also starred Robert Wagner, and the aforementioned Fran Jeffries. 
   The film was shot in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Rome and Rocca di Papa; Paris, France; and right here in Los Angeles, using the Technirama process in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1.
   According to the DVD commentary by Blake, the chase scene at the piazza (filmed at Piazza della Repubblica in Rocca di Papa) was an homage to a similar sequence 26 minutes into Alfred Hitchcock's “Foreign Correspondent (1940).”
   Here's another scene.
   As Blake shot the film, employing multiple takes of improvised scenes, it became clear that Peter, originally considered a supporting actor, was stealing all of the scenes he was in (which resulted in his continuation throughout the film's sequels).
   When presenting at a subsequent Oscar Awards ceremony, Niven requested his walk-on music be changed from the "Pink Panther" theme, stating, "That was not really my film."
   Although the Clouseau character was in the script, Peter created the personality, devising the costume, accent, make-up, mustache and trench coat.
   His performance is regarded as being on par with that of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, according to biographer Peter Evans.
   “The Pink Panther” was released in the UK in January 1964 and received a mixed reception from the critics, although Penelope Gilliatt, writing in The Observer, remarked that Peter had a "flawless sense of mistiming" in a performance that was "one of the most delicate studies in accident-proneness since the silents." Despite the views of the critics, the film was one of the top ten grossing films of the year. The role earned Peter a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy at the 22nd Golden Globe Awards, and for a Best British Actor award at the 18th British Academy Film Awards.
   Speaking of working with Peter throughout the years Blake "more than once swore off Sellers" as too hard to direct. However, in his later years, he admitted that working with Peter was often irresistible: "We clicked on comedy, and we were lucky we found each other, because we both had so much respect for it. We also had an ability to come up with funny things and great situations that had to be explored. But in that exploration there would oftentimes be disagreement. But I couldn't resist those moments when we jelled. And if you ask me who contributed most to those things, it couldn't have happened unless both of us were involved, even though it wasn't always happy."
   The next year Stanley Kubrick would ask Peter to work with him once again in a small black and white film that had something to do with the Cold War.

To be continued.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Happy Birthday Peter Sellers!

“If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.”

Does Your Dog Bite?

Picture Legend

1. Peter Sellers
2. Southsea Beach
3. Row of wind-pruned Huntingdon Elms, Southsea Common
4. Peter’s birthplace on Castle Road, Southsea
5. Kings Theatre in Southsea, where Peter made his first stage appearance
6. Young Peter
7. Alexandra Palace
8. Artist portrayal of Shub-Niggurath
9. St. Aloysius College
10. Drummer
11. Waldini
12. Geoffrey Rush and Charlize Theron in 2004‘s “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”
13. Peter (top), Spike Milligan (left) and Harry Secombe (right), three of the cast of the “The Goon Show”

   This morning it is my great pleasure and honor to give a Joyce’s Take birthday shout out to one of the greatest comedic actors who ever lived, Peter Sellers!
   Mr. Sellers would have been 91 years old today. Unfortunately he passed away in London just after midnight (12:26am - British Summer Time), after being in a coma for more than 30 hours,  on July 24th, 1980, at the age of 54.
   Peter was born as Richard Henry Sellers at a very early age in 1925, in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth, at the southern end of Portsea Island, Hampshire, England (50° 47′ 6″ N, 1° 4′ 12″ W).
    Southsea is located to the south of Portsmouth city center and to the east of Old Portsmouth. It originally developed as a Victorian seaside resort in the 19th century and grew into a dense residential suburb and large distinct commercial and entertainment area, separate from Portsmouth city center itself.
   Southsea Common is a large expanse of mown grassland parallel to the shore from Clarence Pier to Southsea Castle.
   The Common is home to a remarkable collection of mature elm trees, believed to be the oldest and largest surviving in Hampshire, which have escaped Dutch elm disease owing to their isolation. The majority of the larger trees are Huntingdon Elms planted in the 1920s, but nearer the entrance to the Skate Park there is a fine example of a hybrid of the Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila. Huntingdon Elms once lined the Ladies' Mile—an avenue through the center of the Common—but many were lost in the Great Storm of 1987 and replaced by the Dutch hybrid elm cultivar 'Lobel'.
   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, once lived in Southsea, and played soccer there, what the English humorously call football, as a goalkeeper for the  Portsmouth Association Football Club, an amateur, under the pseudonym A. C. Smith.
   Rudyard Kipling, the author of “The Jungle Book,” and “Kim,” lived in Southsea when he was six to twelve years old.
   The writer H.G. Wells, best known for his works in science fiction, like “The Time Machine,” “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” and “The War of the Worlds,” also lived in Southsea.
   So a lot of good writers lived in Southsea. Many others who were or are not writers have lived there as well.
   Although born Richard Henry Sellers, his parents, Yorkshire-born William "Bill" Sellers (1900–62) and Agnes Doreen "Peg" (née Marks, 1892–1967), called him Peter, in remembrance of his older brother who was stillborn. Peter remained an only child.
   He grew up in an entertainment family. He made his first appearance on stage when he was two weeks old at the Kings Theatre in Southsea. The audience sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," to him, which made him cry, then he was shot out of a cannon.
   Ha, ha, ha. Just joking. It was actually a catapult.   
   The family was always on the move, touring as entertainment people often do, which affected Peter in a negative manner.
   He was much closer to Peg, than his dad, who rarely encouraged his son in his efforts to carry on the family business, just the opposite of his mom.
   Some of his friends observed that he may have been a little too close to his mother, allowing her to dominate his life. 
   Well what can you do? Moms are moms.
   When he was ten the family moved to North London and settled in Muswell Hill (a suburb of north London, in the London Borough of Haringey and the London Borough of Barnet. It is one of the more expensive suburbs in London situated near to Highgate, Hampstead, East Finchley and Crouch End, (where the divide between our world and an alien, demonic world is somehow lesser. Crouch End is the home of Shub-Niggurath, who is often associated with the phrase “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.” There are still strange occurrences in Crouch End, and that, very occasionally, people are known to "...lose their way. Some lose their way forever."). Muswell Hill is the home of the Alexandra Palace (designed to serve as a public center of recreation, education and entertainment).
   Although Bill Sellers was Protestant and Peg was Jewish, Peter attended the North London Roman Catholic School St. Aloysius College in Highgate, two miles south of Muswell Hill. The college was and is run by the Brothers of Mercy of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (The institute was founded in 1839 by Canon J. B. Cornelius Scheppers (1802 - 1877) for the instruction and care of prisoners and of the sick. Cardinal Manning invited them to London in 1855, where they have undertaken the care of the prisoners in Catholic reformatories and the education of the children of the poor).       
   “I was never a good scholar, Perhaps I never settled down to it,” Peter recalled in 1962. “Perhaps that’s what was wrong with my education. But I didn’t dislike it at  St. Aloysius. I’ve sometimes been back to see the people there...”
   While at school Peter began to develop his improvisational skills. He and his closest friend at the time, Bryan Connon (April 5 1927 to September 4 2007. Bryan became a successful writer and biographer), both enjoyed listening to early radio comedy shows. Connon remembers that "Peter got endless pleasure imitating the people in “Monday Night at Eight.” He had a gift for improvising dialogue. Sketches, too. I'd be the 'straight man', the 'feed', ... I'd cue Peter and he'd do all the radio personalities and chuck in a few voices of his own invention as well."
   When World War II began in 1939, the students at St. Aloysius were evacuated to Cambridgeshire, 61.5 miles from Highgate, and famous for it’s bomb shelters.
   Peg would not allow Peter to go, so his formal education ended when he was fourteen.
   The next year the family moved to the seaside resort town of Ilfracombe, 229.9 miles west of Highgate, where Peg’s brother lived, and who managed a local theatre. 
   That’s where Peter got his first job when he was fifteen. He started as a caretaker (janitor) for ten shillings a week (maybe about £70.78 in 2016, which is about $93.45 U.S), and was steadily promoted, becoming a box office clerk, usher, assistant stage manager and lighting operator.
   Working backstage gave him a chance to study actors such as Paul Scofield and Mary Clare.
   He became close friends with another boy his age, Derek Altman, and together they launched Peter’s first stage act under the name "Altman and Sellers," which pretty much consisted of playing ukuleles, singing, and telling jokes (they also began their own detective agency (Selman Investigations Inc. as they were fans of the novelist Dashiell Hammett, creator of the fictional detectives Sam Spade and the Thin Man).
    “We’re Altman and Sellers
      The younger generation
      We always sing in the best syncopation
      And we hope we make a big sensation
      With you - ooh - ooh!”
      It was during this time that Peter learned to play the drums (he had no patience for the piano) and was so enthusiastic about them he thought he might do it professionally.
   “It was the drums I was really keen on in the early days. I suddenly went mad about the drums. I spent months learning from a professional drummer. And I was pretty good.”
   Good enough to appear twice in Waldini’s (Waldini, Wally Bishop, was the founder of Waldini‘s Gypsy band, and many others) “Symphony in Colour,” in August of 1941. 
   Peter joined the Royal Air Force in September of 1943. He was probably drafted as Peg tried unsuccessfully to get him deferred on medical grounds.
   He wanted to become a pilot but was rejected for poor eyesight.
   He got bored with ground duties and auditioned for Squadron Leader Ralph Reader's RAF Gang Show entertainment troupe. Reader accepted him and Peter toured the UK before the troupe was transferred to India. He also served in Germany and France after the war.
  Back home Peter continued his career in entertainment, with limited success. In 1948 he wrote to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and was given an audition. As a result, he made his television debut on March 18th, 1948 in “New To You.”
   His act was well received and he was invited back the next week.
   However, Peter’s personality was such that he was determined to make it in the entertainment business and he felt his career was advancing too slowly.
   Accordingly he called BBC radio producer Roy Speer, pretending to be Kenneth Horne, star of the radio show “Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh.”
   When Speers discovered it was Peter who telephoned him Speer called Peter a "cheeky young sod" for his efforts, which is pretty strong language in Britain, but that prank got him an audition (which is depicted by the wonderful Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush, in 2004's “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” with the lovely and talented Charlize Theron). This led to a brief appearance on “ShowTime," on July 1st, 1948, which led to more work on “Ray's a Laugh,” with comedian Ted Ray.
   In October of 1948, Peter was a regular radio performer, appearing on the “Starlight Hour,” “The Gang Show,” “Henry Hall's Guest Night,” and “It's Fine To Be Young.”
   By the end of  the year the BBC Third Programme (a national radio service produced and broadcast by the BBC between 1946 and 1970) began to broadcast the comedy series “Third Division,” which starred, among others, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine and Peter. One evening, Peter and Michael visited the Hackney Empire (a theatre on Mare Street, in the London Borough of Hackney, built in 1901 as a music hall), where Harry was performing, and Michael introduced Peter to Spike Milligan.
   And thus these four founded and constituted the cast of “Crazy People,” which appeared on British airwaves for the first time on May 28th, 1951.
   Subsequent seasons had the title changed to “The Goon Show.”

To be continued