Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy Birthday Peter Sellers, the Shocking Conclusion!







































































"I start with the voice. I find out how the character sounds. It's through the way he speaks that I find out the rest about him. ... After the voice comes the looks of the man. I do a lot of drawings of the character I play. Then I get together with the makeup man and we sort of transfer my drawings onto my face. An involved process. After that I establish how the character walks. Very important, the walk. And then, suddenly, something strange happens. The person takes over. The man you play begins to exist."

Chance Takes a Walk



Picture legend:

1. 1964 appearance in Playboy magazine
2. Peter as Dr. Strangelove
3. Peter as President of the United States Merkin Muffley
4. Peter as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake
5. George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson
6. Slim Pickens as Major T. J. "King" Kong with two hydrogen bombs
7. Major Kong takes a ride
8. The only female in “Dr. Strangelove,” Tracy Reed as Miss Scott, General Turgidson's secretary and “friend”
9. Keenan Wynn as Colonel Bat Guano
10. Sterling Hayden as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper
11. Stanley Kubrick
12. Kubrick talking to Peter on the War Room set
13. Merrie Spaeth, Peter, and Tippy Walker in “The World of Henry Orient”
14. Tippy Walker & George Roy Hill
15. Elke Sommer and Peter in “A Shot in the Dark”
16. George Sanders and Peter
17. Britt Ekland
18. Peter and Britt get married
19. Britt and Peter relaxing at home
20. With  Felicia Farr in “Kiss Me, Stupid”
21. Britt with a convalescing Peter
22. Britt and Peter at airport in London airport on their way to make “A Carol for Another Christmas” in New York
23. Peter as Imperial Me in “A Carol for Another Christmas”
24. Hayley Mills
25. In “The Wrong Box” 1966
26. Mimmo Poli, Peter, and Britt in “After the Fox”
27. Former Miss Italy, Maria Grazia Buccella
28. Victor Mature in “After the Fox”
29. Brit and Peter in “The Bobo”
30. Shirley MacLaine and Peter in “Woman Times Seven”
31. Carol Wayne
32. Claudine Longet and Peter in “The Party”
33. Leigh Taylor-Young and Peter in “I Love You Alice B Toklas”
34. Fred Astaire and Robert Wagner in “It Takes a Thief”
35. Ringo Starr and Peter in “The Magic Christian”
36. Yul Brynner and Roman Polanski in “The Magic Christian”
37. Raquel Welch as Priestess of the Whip
38. Graham Stark in 1970‘s “Simon, Simon”
39. 3rd wife Miranda Quarry and Peter
40. Peter and Sinead Cusack in 1970‘s “Hoffman”
41. Peter and Goldie Hawn in “There’s a Girl in My Soup”
42. Goldie (without make up) and Peter
43. Peter and Jo Ann Pflug in 1972‘s “Where Does it Hurt?”
44. Peter as the March Hare in “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland”
45. Peter and Fiona Fullerton
46. Donna Mullane and Peter in “The Optimists of Nine Elms”
47. Peter and Liza Minnelli
48. Peter in “The Blockhouse”
49. Peter as Queen Victoria in 1974's “The Great McGonagall”
50. Dan Leno
51 Lew Grade
52. Peter, Peter Arne, Christopher Plummer, and Catherine Schell in 1975's “Return of the Pink Panther”
53. Carol Cleveland
54. Neil Simon and Inspector Sidney Wang
55. Peter as Inspector Wang in “Murder by Death”
56. The increasingly distressed Herbert Lom and Peter in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”
57. Peter and his fourth wife Lynne Frederick
58. “Being There”
59. Peter as Chance the Gardener
60. Shirley MacLaine and Peter
61. Melvyn Douglas and Peter
62. Peter and Jack warden
63. Biltmore Estate
64. Illeana Douglas
65. Chauncey Gardiner takes a walk
66. Helen Mirren and Peter “The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu”
67. As Monty Casino for Barclays Bank
68. Cassie Unger
68. Peter




  

   Writer. producer, photographer, master chess player, and director Stanley Kubrick started out with just an idea to make a movie built around the, at the time, ever present hope of remaining “safe and non-blown up” (-Rep. Howard Birdwell) during the time of  “Mutual Mass Destruction, (or as some like to call it Mutual Assured Destruction, so the appropriate acronym MAD could be utilized)” made possible by the stockpiling of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union and the United States of America during the 50s and 60s (this threat still remains, as Russia and the United States still stockpile nuclear weapons, however it lessened somewhat with the collapse of the Soviet Union and it’s attendant weakening, and the theory of Nuclear Winter (the severe and prolonged global climatic cooling effect hypothesized to occur after widespread fire storms erupt following a nuclear war, or even the detonation of just a few large yield hydrogen weapons. The hypothesis is based on the fact that such fires can inject soot into the stratosphere, where it can block most direct sunlight from reaching the planet’s surface) was fully understood by the world’s leaders, scientists, and military personnel).
   Stanley’s buddy, Alastair Buchan, who was the head of the Institute for Strategic Studies,  recommended the thriller novel “Red Alert” by Peter George as as basis for a possible story idea and screenplay.
    Kubrick was impressed with the book and immediately bought the film rights to the novel.
   “Dr. Strangelove,” closely follows the plot of “Red Alert,” except for a couple of factors, one of them being there was no Dr. Strangelove character in the book, another being “Dr. Strangelove” became a black, satirical, comedy, wherein “Red Alert” was a  straight up dramatic thriller. 
   Both the film and the book had issues with the book and the film of “Fail Safe,” a book written by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, first serialized in three parts in the Saturday Evening Post on October 13, 20, and 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and later made into an outstanding film directed by Sidney Lumet in 1964.
   There were many similarities between “Fail Safe,” and “Red Alert,” and of course they dealt with the same subject matter. Stanley, upon learning of the production of the film “Fail Safe,” became worried that it might harm the reception of “Dr. Strangelove” upon it’s release (and that it was being directed by such an accomplished director as Lumet (“12 Angry Men,” “Long Day's Journey into Night,” “The Pawnbroker”), and boasted a cast that included Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau), especially if “Fail Safe” were to premier first, before “”Dr. Strangelove.” So, what did he do? He sued the production of “Fail Safe,” claiming the producers basically ripped off “Red Alert,” or copied it, to make the book and the movie. Kubrick owned the filming rights to “Red Alert,” and so had legal standing.
   The issue was settled out of court, yet “Dr. Strangelove” was released January 29th, and “Fail Safe” on October 7th, 1964.
   The writing of the screenplay for “Dr. Strangelove” took many turns. George collaborated with Stanley during the time when Kubrick was considering making a serious, straight forward drama.
   But then he changed his mind.
   “My idea of doing it as a nightmare comedy came in the early weeks of working on the screenplay. I found that in trying to put meat on the bones and to imagine the scenes fully, one had to keep leaving out of it things which were either absurd or paradoxical, in order to keep it from being funny; and these things seemed to be close to the heart of the scenes in question.”
   Just before filming began, Kubrick hired noted journalist and satirical author Terry Southern (Peter had given Stanley a copy of Southern’s book “The Magic Christian,” which is why he hired him. Peter would star in the film version of “The Magic Christian,” five years later) to transform the script into its final form, a black-comedy, filled with sexual innuendo.
   Columbia Pictures agreed to finance the film if Peter played at least four major roles. They had seen him in “Lolita,” and felt that the success of that film was largely due to Peter’s ability to effectively play multiple parts (as he had done in “The Mouse That Roared”).
   Stanley accepted the demand because he wanted to get the film made and he didn’t have much choice in the matter, later stating that "such crass and grotesque stipulations are the sine qua non of the motion-picture business (“sine qua non” being fancy talk for “what can you do?”).”
   Peter wound up playing three of the four parts (pictures 2 through 4 above). The studio and Kubrick had also wanted him to play Air Force Major T. J. "King" Kong, the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft commander as well, but Peter had severe reservations about taking on the role. He was unsure about perfecting the Texas accent required, and he felt, well basically that it was just too much work taking on four major parts.
   There is some speculation regarding what happened next. Peter sprained his ankle and could not work in the cramped cockpit set. Some say this was an honest accident that couldn’t be helped, and others say, and the “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” suggests that Peter either sprained his ankle on purpose to get out of playing the role, or he was faking it entirely. In any case the wonderful veteran character actor Slim Pickens was chosen to fill that part.
   “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” cost 2 million dollars to make (which equals a modest budget of $15,626,666.67 today), and filming took place between December of 1962 and April of 1963.
   When it was released it stirred up much controversy and mixed opinions. The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther worried that it was a "discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment ... the most shattering sick joke I've ever come across," while Robert Brustein of Out of This World in a February 1970 article called it a "juvenalian satire."
   Stanley responded to the criticism, stating: "A satirist is someone who has a very skeptical view of human nature, but who still has the optimism to make some sort of a joke out of it. However brutal that joke might be."
   Today, the film is considered to be one of the shrewdest comedy movies ever made, and holds a near perfect 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 68 reviews as of August 2015. The site's critical consensus reads, "Stanley Kubrick's brilliant Cold War satire remains as funny and razor-sharp today as it was in 1964." “Dr. Strangelove” also holds a score of 96 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 11 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim." The film is ranked number 7 in the All-Time High Scores chart of Metacritic's Video/DVD section. It was voted the 39th-greatest American film and third-greatest comedy film of all time by the American Film Institute, and in 2010, it was voted the sixth-best comedy film of all time by The Guardian.
   “Dr. Strangelove” is on Roger Ebert's list of The Great Movies,  and he described it as "arguably the best political satire of the century." One of the most celebrated of all film comedies, it is the only one that made the top 10 in the 2002 Sight & Sound directors' poll, and John Patterson of The Guardian wrote, "There had been nothing in comedy like Dr Strangelove ever before. All the gods before whom the America of the stolid, paranoid 50s had genuflected – the Bomb, the Pentagon, the National Security State, the President himself, Texan masculinity and the alleged Commie menace of water-fluoridation – went into the wood-chipper and never got the same respect ever again." It is also listed as number 26 on Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, and in 2010 it was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 best films since the publication's inception in 1923. The Writers Guild of America ranked its screenplay the 12th best ever written.
   It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
   And it made money. 9.4 million dollars in 1964, which would work out to approximately $73,445,333.33 today.
   The three parts Peter undertook were distinct, "variegated, complex and refined," and critic Alexander Walker considered that these roles "showed his genius at full stretch." He played Muffley as a bland, placid intellectual in the mould of Adlai Stevenson (American lawyer, politician, diplomat, and two time presidential candidate noted for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent public speaking, and promotion of progressive causes in the Democratic Party); he played Mandrake as an unflappable Englishman; and Dr. Strangelove, a character influenced by pre-war German cinema, as a wheelchair-bound fanatic. The critic for The Times wrote that the film includes, "three remarkable performances from Mr. Peter Sellers, masterly as the President, diverting as a revue-sketch ex-Nazi US Scientist ... and acceptable as an RAF officer," although the critic from The Guardian thought his portrayal of the RAF officer alone was, "worth the price of an admission ticket."
   For his performance in all three roles, Peter was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor at the 37th Academy Awards, and the Best British Actor Award at the 18th British Academy Film Awards.
   Here’s a clip of Peter as the President. And here’s one with Peter and Sterling Hayden talking about water fluoridation. Here’s Dr. Strangelove. Here’s a clip of Slim having a little fun, and a short piece on the making of “Dr. Strangelove.”
   “Dr. Strangelove” is one of my favorite movies. I could watch it right now!
   I once enthusiastically showed “Dr. Strangelove” to some of my case manager friends, young people in the early to mid twenties. After it was over one girl looked at me and passed her hand over her head, a sign that she didn’t understand it.
   Nobody even laughed at the famous line “Gentlemen you can't fight in here... this is the war room.”
   Either you had to be around during the Cold War or today’s youth are growing up stupid.
   In any case, it seems the whole thing worked out rather well for Peter.
   His next project was “The World of Henry Orient,” which was filmed during the period between June of 1963 and finished that October (it was released March 19th, 1964). The film also starred Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury, Tippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth, Phyllis Thaxter, Bibi Osterwald and Tom Bosley. It was directed by acclaimed American director George Roy Hill (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie”) and concerned two teenage girls (Walker and Spaeth) who develop a crush on the concert pianist Henry Orient (Peter).
   The film was a big success! “The World of Henry Orient,” premiered at Radio City Music Hall on March 19th, 1964. It became the official U.S. entry at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. In 1965 it was nominated for the Golden Globe Award in the category "Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy" and for a Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Written American Comedy." It has an 88% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It was voted one of the Year's Ten Best Films by the National Board of Review in 1964.
   In his review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote that it was "one of the most joyous and comforting movies about teenagers that we've had in a long time."
   As a matter of full disclosure, especially during these troubling times of revelation, it would appear that married 44 year old director George Roy Hill had a continuing dalliance with his 16/17 year old co-star Tippy Walker.
   According to a 2012 article in The New Yorker by John Colapinto, Hill handpicked Tippy from hundreds of actresses who auditioned for the role of "Val." The filmmakers were so impressed with her performance that they reshaped the film during editing to focus more on her character, and shot the scene of her walking through a snowy Central Park months after production had wrapped.
   According to the New Yorker article, in the 2000s she revealed through a series of posts on the IMDB that she and Hill fell in love during the filming, and that the relationship lasted throughout most of her senior year in high school. Tippy claimed that the resulting Hollywood gossip made others reluctant to cast her and contributed to her decision to stop acting in the early 1970s.
   “That’s just the trouble. You have your dreams, and when you get there it isn’t as great as you thought it would be. Maybe I’ll become a poet or do illustrations instead of becoming an actress...”
   Another career ruined because a an older, powerful man couldn’t keep it in his pants.
   Next up for Peter was “A Shot in the Dark,” the first film featuring Peter as Inspector Jacques Clouseau. He had been attached to make a movie from an adaptation of a French play, “L'Idiote” (“The Idiot”) by Marcel Achard, which did not include the character of Clouseau.
   When Peter got around to doing this he found the part and the director, Anatole Litvak, unsatisfactory, so the producers brought in good old Blake Edwards to replace Litvak. Together with exorcist writer William Peter Blatty, they turned the script into a Clouseau comedy, and  added Herbert Lom as Commissioner Dreyfus and Burt Kwouk as Cato. The German beauty Elke Sommer aslo co-starred as the murder suspect Maria Gambrelli, as well as future Mr. Freeze George Sanders (After a distinguished career as an actor, singer-songwriter, music composer, and author that spanned more than 40 years, George’s health deteriorated, and he suffered from dementia, and survived a stroke. He was at a point wherein he couldn’t take care of himself and his depression deepened. On  April 23rd, 1972, he checked into a hotel in Castelldefels, a coastal town near Barcelona. He was found dead two days later, having gone into cardiac arrest after swallowing the contents of five bottles of the barbiturate Nembutal. He left behind three suicide notes, one of which read:
   “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”)
   During filming of “A Shot in the Dark” Peter and Blake’s vision for the film began to differ, and their relationship soured, so much so that they were reduced to communicating through written notes. By now Peter had earned a reputation as being difficult and demanding, often clashing with fellow actors and directors. Blake and Peter’s relationship deteriorated to such a point that by the conclusion of the film they vowed never to work together again. They even spit on it, however they eventually reconciled to collaborate successfully four years later on “The Party,” and on three more "Pink Panther" films.
   Why?
   Money.
   “A Shot in the Dark" was well received by critics. As of September 2012, it has 93% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 29 reviews counted. The average rating given by critics is 8 out of 10. It is generally regarded as the best of the Sellers/Pink Panther films. In 2006, the film was voted the 38th greatest comedy film of all time in Channel 4's 50 Greatest Comedy Films. “A Shot in the Dark" is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #48, and 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10.
   It made money as well (or else there wouldn’t have been any sequels) gathering in $12,368,234 upon it’s initial release, which would equal about $96,637,134.99 today.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter and Elke. And here’s one featuring Peter and George.
   After filming “A Shot in the Dark” in February of 1964, Peter met the Swedish actress and singer Britt Ekland, who was in London to make a movie. Not inclined to waste time the couple got married 10 days after they first met, on February 19th, 1964.
   The problem with going out or getting married to a beautiful and attractive young woman is that you always have to worry about them because guys are going to be hitting on them like all of the time. It doesn’t matter if their married, men are still going to hit on them because that’s the way a great percentage of men are. They have no sense of propriety. They’re just rude.
   Peter soon found this out and is said to have shown signs of insecurity and paranoia, and  would become highly anxious and jealous, for example, when Britt starred opposite attractive men.
   Shortly after the wedding, Peter started filming on location in Twentynine Palms, California for Billy Wilder's “Kiss Me, Stupid,” opposite Dean Martin and Kim Novak. Billy and Peter didn’t get along (big surprise), both having different ideas on how to proceed.
   Six weeks into the production, on the night of April 5th, and after making out with Britt, Peter inhaled amyl nitrites as a sexual stimulant and promptly suffered a series of eight to thirteen heart attacks over the course of two days, each time he was saved from death by the staff at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. 
   Everybody in England thought he was already dead. So Peter went back to London to convalesce and prove them wrong.
   For some unfathomable reason after 10 days Peter disparaged Wilder and his movie in an interview with the Evening Standard, saying that Hollywood studios “give you every creature comfort except the satisfaction of being able to get the best work out of yourself.” 
   That seems innocuous enough but it pissed of the director and cast of “Kiss Me, Stupid,” who sent Peter a telegraph in which they claimed he was unprofessional. This pissed off Peter who pulled out of a second movie deal with Billy, as well as not finishing “Kiss Me, Stupid.” He also took out a full-page ad in Variety to defend himself, thank hospital staff and fans, and declare that the Hollywood “atmosphere is wrong for me.”
   Billy Wilder was unsympathetic about the heart attacks, saying that "you have to have a heart before you can have an attack."
    The production of “Kiss Me, Stupid (a sordid tale of blanket opportunism, wife swapping, and gratuitous sex),” continued with our friend Ray Walston taking over Peter’s role. The film was released and flopped.
   “I don't know why the film shocked people. It's the most bourgeois film there is," Wilder declared. "A man wants a career and the person who wants to help him wants to sleep with his wife. He replaces his wife with another, but when he is nearest to success, he refuses it and throws the guy out . . . The public accepted it better in “The Apartment” because it was better conceived, better written, better lubricated.”
   Lubricated.
   After some months recovering, Peter returned to filming in October of 1964, playing King of the Individualists with his wife in “A Carol for Another Christmas,” a feature-length United Nations special, written by Rod Serling (“The Twilight Zone,” “Night gallery”) as a modernization of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” and a plea for global cooperation (the goal of the production being to educate viewers about the mission and work of the UN and thereby gaining more widespread support for it’s nefarious activities).
   It broadcast in the United States on American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) December 28th, 1964. It was not shown again for 48 years, until Turner Classic Movies (TCM) broadcast it on December 16th, 2012.
   The movie also starred Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazzara, Steve Lawrence, Eva Marie Saint, Pat Hingle, and Robert Shaw.
   This program was the only television work ever done by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve” “Guys and Dolls” “Sleuth”) who, according to Phil Hall, was happy to have work following the damage done to his reputation by “Cleopatra” the previous year (“Cleopatra” achieved notoriety during its production for its massive cost overruns and production troubles, which included changes in director and cast, a change of filming locale, sets that had to be constructed twice, lack of a firm shooting script, and personal scandal around co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It was the most expensive film ever made up to that point and almost bankrupted 20th Century-Fox). The actors involved with the production reportedly agreed to waive their fees due to the nature and perceived importance of the show. Peter, who at the time was reported to charge $750,000 or more per picture, appeared for only $350, the Screen Actors Guild weekly minimum. Henry Mancini wrote the theme music, also waiving his usual fee.
   Here’s a clip.
   Peter had been concerned that the recent bout of heart attacks may have impaired his brain function and his ability to remember his lines and to perform properly, but things turned out well.
   Here’s a Late Night interview with Peter talking about his health, Goon characters, Inspector Clouseau, “What’s New Pussycat?” etc.
   On January 20th, 1965, Peter and Britt announced the birth of a daughter, Victoria.
   Peter next appeared as Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Michael’s father) in “”What’s New Pussycat,” a film we’ve previously discussed.
   That year he worked with an ensemble cast in “The Wrong Box,” along with John Mills (father of my first true love, Hayley Mills), Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and the American actor Peter Graves, among others.
   Here’s a clip.
   They moved to Rome in May of 1965 to film “After the Fox,” an Anglo-Italian production in which Britt also appeared, along with Victor Mature, Martin Balsam, Maria Grazia Buccella, and the film’s Italian director, Vittorio De Sica.
   The screenplay was written by Neil Simon (with Cesare Zavattini, who is not listed in the opening credits), his very first. At the time Neil had three hit Broadway plays running, “Little Me,” “Barefoot in the Park,” and “The Odd Couple,” but he’d never written a screenplay for a movie.
   The film, by the way, concerned smuggling $3 million in stolen gold bullion into Europe from Cairo. Those that stole the gold enlist the help of a master criminal, the Fox, played by Peter, who fakes making a movie as a way to facilitate the smuggling. The film takes place in Italy.
   Neil wanted a real Italian person to play the Fox, but Peter got a hold of the script and liked it.    “After the Fox,” was the first and last film produced by Peter’s own company,  Brookfield Production Company, which he formed in partnership with John Bryan, a former production designer (the two would soon have a falling out largely due to the choice of Vittorio De Sica as the director).
   Peter sought out and asked De Sica to direct, who was reluctant at first. He also insisted that Britt play the role of the Fox’s sister, Gina, even though she obviously wasn’t Italian, and didn’t have an Italian accent. De Sica gave in to the request, later saying Britt worked hard and did a fine job.
   But Peter, uncharacteristically, changed his mind about Vittorio, and tried to have him fired. Apparently Peter couldn’t understand De Sica’s attempts at speaking English. Trying to have the director fired understandably caused a lot of tension on the set.  
   The veteran actor Victor Mature (“One Million B.C.” “My Darling Clementine” “The Robe”), who had retired from the movie business five years previously, was lured back to the screen by the prospect of parodying himself as the character Tony Powell, an aging American actor who is living off his reputation from his earlier body of work.
   It seems Victor was a cool guy (he died of leukemia in 1999 at his Rancho Santa Fe, California, home, at the age of 86) who didn’t take himself too seriously. There’s a story about him applying for membership in the Los Angeles Country Club at the height of his film career. He was told that the club did not accept actors. He replied: "I'm not an actor — and I've got 64 films to prove it!"
   He agreed to make the film after a personal call from Peter.
   The blume of fresh and passionate love began to fade in the Sellers/Ekland marriage. Peter apparently became unhappy with his wife's performance, straining their relationship and triggering open arguments during one of which Sellers threw a chair at her.
   The film received mixed reviews. Bosley Crowther summed up his in The New York Times: "It's pretty much of a mess, this picture. Yes, you'd think it was done by amateurs." The Variety reviewer thought "Peter Sellers is in nimble, lively form in this whacky comedy which, though sometimes strained, has a good comic idea and gives the star plenty of scope for his usual range of impersonations."
   Opinion continues to be divided. “After the Fox” is rated 6.5/10 on IMDB, an average of more than 2,500 user ratings. Rotten Tomatoes reported an 83% approval rating with an average rating of 5.7/10, based on six reviews; their audience score was 68%.
   “After the Fox” cost $3 million to make and earned $2,296,970 at the box office and in rentals.
   Here’s a clip of the opening credits with a catchy song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and performed by The Hollies and Peter (with Graham Nash. The Hollies made a popular cover of “Just One Look," and after Nash left to form Crosby, Stills and Nash in 1968, the group came out with “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother,” and “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” among others).
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter as the crazy director.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Akim Tamiroff, and Maria Grazia Buccella.
   That last scene inspired a similar one in 2002‘s “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” in which Austin talks to Foxxy Cleopatra through the lovely and talented Nathan Lane.
   After the success of “What’s New Pussycat?” Charles Feldman brought Peter and Woody Allen together again in 1967‘s “Casino Royal.” Peter signed a $1 million dollar contract ($7,592,201.26 in 2017 dollars), and it’s not clear if he collected his money as he walked off the set without finishing the film.
   Shortly after leaving “Casino Royale,” Peter was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE, just short of being a knight proper) in honor of his career achievements. The day before the investiture at Buckingham Palace, Peter and Britt argued, with her scratching his face in the process. Peter had a make-up artist cover the marks. Britt later reported that although she and Peter argued, he never hit her (I assume the chair he threw at her missed).
   In any case Peter also worked with Britt again in 1967 for “The Bobo.”  Peter co-directed, and  the film also starred Rossano Brazzi (“South Pacific” “Three Coins in the Fountain” “The Barefoot Contessa”), “Thunderball” villain, Adolfo Celi, and Al Lettieri, who was the bad guy in 1972's “The Getaway,” and  Virgil 'The Turk' Sollozzo in “The Godfather.”
   During filming, Peter and Britt’s marital problems worsened. Three weeks into production in Italy, Peter told co-director Robert Parrish to fire his wife, saying "I'm not coming back after lunch if that bitch is on the set." Britt later stated that the marriage was "an atrocious sham" at this point.
   This would be the last time Peter and Britt worked together.  
   I don’t know if “The Bobo” made any money as the revenue was not reported. As far as it’s reception, well here’s what Bosley Crowther had to say about it:
   “It's amazing how labored and unfunny is the screenplay of this pseudocomic tale. It concerns an ex-matador in Barcelona who wants to get a job as a singer in vaudeville and who makes a deal with an impresario that he will be engaged for one week if he succeeds in seducing an especially haughty and selective courtesan. And it is downright pitiful to see how wistful and without spirit Mr. Sellers is as this pretentiously quixotic fellow who succeeds, but then is too honorable to take advantage of the deal.
   Actually, Mr. Sellers doesn't really get into the film until it has been going almost a half-hour, most of which time is taken in working up the tedious preliminaries of the plot. In these, Mr. Sellers's wife, Britt Ekland, is thoroughly introduced and exhaustively looked over for her physical attributes, which are nothing out of the ordinary, as the greedy, gold-digging courtesan.
   Rossano Brazzi, Adolfo Celi and Kenneth Griffith mangle three dull supporting roles. We're not even permitted to see much of Barcelona. Most of this scenically synthetic color picture was shot in Rome's Cinecittá studio. And the songs of Francis Lai are so unimpressive I almost forgot there are a couple of them scattered around, supposedly sung by Mr. Sellers, but obviously dubbed in by someone else.”
   My sense is he didn’t care for it.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Lettieri, and Celi.
    Also, in the midst of filming “The Bobo,” Peter’s mother had a heart attack. Parrish asked him  if he wanted to visit her in hospital, but he remained on set. She died within days, without Peter having seen her.
   He was deeply affected by her death and remorseful at not having returned to London to see her. Britt served him with divorce papers shortly afterwards.
   “If I’d stayed I’d have been driven literally mad,” Britt confided. “I still loved him but I just couldn’t take any more. It was him or me. He possessed me and that’s no way to live.”
   The divorce was finalized on December 18th, 1968, and Peter’s friend Spike Milligan sent her a congratulatory telegram which was rather odd considering his close friendship with Peter.
  Here’s clip of a 2016 interview with Britt talking about life with Peter.
   Roger Lewis, author of “The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers (the book),” says of Peter: “Though supremely confident when disguised as a French police inspector or a German scientist he didn’t have much faith in himself in ordinary life. Sellers never could believe in anyone’s love for him – so he’d test their loyalty to the limit.”
   1967 also saw Peter in the Funeral Procession portion of “Woman Times Seven,” an Italian/French/American co-production anthology film of seven episodes, all starring Shirley MacLaine (Our friend Natalie Wood was first offered the part but turned it down), most of them dealing with the subject of adultery.
   The film also starred Rossano Brazzi, Alan Arkin (who would portray Inspector Clouseau the next year in “Inspector Clouseau,” which was made without Peter and Blake Edwards who were busy making “The Party.” The Mirisch Company wanted to proceed with this franchise, so when Peter and Blake declined to participate, Mirisch decided to proceed without them. The film received mostly negative reviews and performed poorly at the box office), Michael Caine, Robert Morley, and the lovely and talented Anita Ekberg.
   Here’s a clip featuring Shirley, Peter, and Michael Caine.
   Peter’s first film of 1968 was “The Party,” wherein he reunited with Blake Edwards for the only non-Pink Panther film they made together. Claudine Longet also starred (Claudine (former wife of popular singer and television host Andy Williams, who used to sing “Moon River” a lot, which of course was written by Henry Mancini, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, for the film “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” which was directed by Blake Edwards) was arrested and charged with fatally shooting her boyfriend, Olympic skier Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, at his Aspen, Colorado, home on March 21st, 1976. At her trial she said the gun discharged accidentally as Sabich was showing her how it worked. The jury convicted her of negligent homicide and sentenced her to pay a small fine and spend 30 days in jail. The judge allowed Claudine to choose the days to be served, believing this arrangement would allow her to spend the most time with her children. She chose to serve most of her sentence on weekends. (Critical reaction to the verdict and sentencing was exasperated when she subsequently vacationed with her defense attorney, Ronald D. Austin, who was married at the time. Claudine and Austin later married and still live in Aspen.) After the criminal trial, the Sabich family initiated civil proceedings to sue her. The case was eventually resolved out of court, with the provision that Claudine never tell or write about the death or the settlement), along with Gavin MacLeod, Denny Miller, and Tonight Show helper, Carol Wayne (In January 1985, Carol and a companion, Edward Durston were vacationing at the Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico. After they had an argument she reportedly took a walk on the beach. Three days later a local fisherman found her body in the shallow bay. An autopsy performed in Mexico revealed no signs of drugs or alcohol in her body. Her death was ruled "accidental").
   Peter appeared as Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bungling Indian actor who accidentally receives an invitation to a lavish Hollywood dinner party. His character, according to Sellers's biographer Peter Evans, was "clearly an amalgam of Clouseau and the doctor in ‘The Millionairess.'"
   From TMC, “A Hollywood movie studio has the bright idea of importing a stage actor from New Delhi to lend some authenticity to their production of Son of Gunga Din. Their chosen lead, Hrundi V. Bakshi (Peter Sellers), turns out to be a walking disaster, bungling his scenes and inadvertently destroying one of the most expensive sets in the film. Although he is promptly fired, Bakshi continues to create further mayhem at the home of the outraged studio head, Fred Clutterbuck, when he receives a party invitation by accident.
   Essentially a string of jokes and sight gags inspired by Peter Sellers' gift for mimicry, “The Party” is one of Blake Edwards' most unconventional films. The script, barely sixty-five pages, was about half the length of the normal Hollywood screenplay and at least a fourth of the film had no dialogue, just sound effects and incidental music. Truly a concept film, “The Party” bears favorable comparison to the comedies of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy in the way that Bakshi retains his innocence and naiveté in the face of recurring disaster. There are also similarities to the films of French comedian Jacques Tati and his fascination with gadgets and inanimate objects. This is particularly true of the scenes at the movie executive's home where Bakshi manages to turn a fountain into a geyser, a roast chicken into a woman's headwear, and a public address system into an ear-splitting broadcast of muzak.
   “The Party” was released on April 4th, 1968, the same day as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
   It cost $1.5 million (approximately $10,551,120.69 in 2017) to make and brought in $2.9 million (about $20,398,833.33 today) at the box office and in rentals, so it was moderately successful financially.
   And the critics seemed to like it.
   Blake’s biographers Peter Lehman and William Luhr said, "The Party may very well be one of the most radically experimental films in Hollywood history; in fact it may be the single most radical film since D. W. Griffith's style came to dominate the American cinema." Film historian Saul Austerlitz wrote, "Despite the offensiveness of Sellers's brownface routine, The Party is one of his very best films... Taking a page from Tati this is neorealist comedy, purposefully lacking a director's guiding eye: look here, look there. The screen is crammed full of activity, and the audience's eyes are left to wander where they may."
   I liked it. And “The Party” is considered a classic comedic cult film.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter in a bathroom (you may recognize the background music from another Sellers film), and here’s one featuring Peter and his shoe (Carol can be seen sitting at the bar) and here’s one with Claudine singing the song “Nothing to Lose,” written by Don Black and Henry Mancini.
   Peter followed up “The Party” with director Hy Averback's “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas,” (Alice B. Toklas was an American-born member of the Parisian avant-garde (people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society) of the early 20th century, and the life partner of American writer Gertrude Stein) playing an attorney who abandons his lifestyle to become a drug addled hippie. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars, remarking that Peter was "back doing what he does best", although he also said that in Sellers's previous films he had "been at his worst recently.”
   The lovely and talented actress Leigh Taylor-Young made her film debut in “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas,” and for her work she received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Most Promising Female Newcomer.
   Here's the trailer.
   Peter had a cameo appearance in the second episode of season three of the American television program “It Takes a Thief,” entitled, “ Who'll Bid Two Million Dollars,” as the man in the office. Robert Wagner starred in the show, and concerning full disclosure, I used to hang out on the set of “It Takes a Thief,” at Universal Studios, when I was a kid.
   I never saw Peter though.
   In 1969 Peter starred opposite Beatles percussionist Ringo Starr in “The Magic Christian,” which was directed by “Casino Royale” alumni, Joseph McGrath.
   The movie was of course based on the 1959 novel of the same name written by Terry Southern, who, as you recall, helped out with the script for “Dr. Strangelove.”  
   Peter portrayed Sir Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire who plays elaborate practical jokes on people that usually involves money in some way. All his escapades are designed to prove his theory that everyone has their price, it just depends on the amount one is prepared to pay them, which, by the way isn’t much of a theory, rather it’s a logical conclusion. Ringo plays Grand’s adopted son, who he befriends for some unexplained reason, and who follows him around to help facilitate Grand’s deceptions and pranks.
    Many British and American actors appear briefly in the film, many playing against type. The macho actor Yul Brynner (“The King and I” “The Magnificent Seven” “Westworld”) playing an uncredited transvestite cabaret singer being a prime example.
   Other notable cast members include pre-Monty Python John Cleese and Graham Chapman (who had jointly written an earlier version of the film script, of which only the scenes they appear in survived), Spike Milligan, Richard Attenborough, Graham Stark, Laurence Harvey, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski, Raquel Welch, and Caroline Blakiston.
   I re-viewed “The Magic Christian” recently and came to the same conclusion I had upon initially watching it, believing it to be heavy handed, mean spirited, at times cruel, not particularly funny, and one big mess. 
   Most of the reviews of the film that I’ve read tend to agree with my assessment.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Ringo, and John Cleese.
   And here’s a very rare 50 minute clip of behind the scenes interviews with Peter during the making of “The Magic Christian.”
   Peter appeared in a cameo as “the man with two cars,” in his long time associate’s short film, “Simon, Simon,” starring Graham Stark and John Junkin, directed by Graham Stark, and co-written by Graham Stark. Michael Caine and David Hemmings (“Blow Up" “Barbarella” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”) also appeared in this 32 minute, 1970 sound effect comedy short film about two handymen who cause chaos on a new crane while haphazardly trying to accomplish jobs for their ever more frustrated boss.
   During this time Peter had been seeing the twenty-three-year-old model Miranda Quarry (Miranda, Countess of Stockton (born 1947) is an Australian socialite and former fashion model. She was born as Miranda Elizabeth Louise Quarry in Wokingham, Berkshire, the daughter of Richard Bridges St. John Quarry and his first wife, Diana Elizabeth, the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Horace Lloyd. Her mother later married Stormont Mancroft, 2nd Baron Mancroft).
. The couple married on August 24th, 1970, despite his private doubts, expressed to his agent, Dennis Selinger, about his decision to re-marry.
   Roger Lewis says that after his marriage to Britt was over Peter “went even more bonkers. He had a relationship with Princess Margaret that was like his relationships with Sophia Loren – all in his mind. Britt put up with his antics for four years, after which Sellers married a socialite called Miranda Quarry. Her dogs were the bridesmaids and he left her during the ­honeymoon.”
   They were married from 1970 until 1974.
   1970 also saw Peter in “Hoffman,” a British dramatic feature film directed by Alvin Rakoff (1979‘s “King Solomon's Treasure,” with Britt Ekland, David McCallum, and Patrick Macnee), also starring the Irish actress Sinéad Cusack, as Peter’s love interest. It is the tale of an older man  who blackmails an attractive young woman into spending a week with him in his flat in London, his hope being that she will forget her crooked fiancé and fall in love with him instead because he’s so hot and all.
   Here’s what Mike Sutton of BFI had to say about “Hoffman:”
   “Hoffman is a film without much of a reputation, which is a shame because it contains one of Sellers’ most interesting performances. Famously, he considered the end result to be too revealing of his own personality and offered to buy back the negative from EMI. This in itself is fascinating because Hoffman is a troubled, dark character, a man who becomes obsessed with the woman he imprisons in his flat for a weekend for the purposes of blackmail. It’s a complex and enlightening turn, with Sellers appearing gaunt and grim, spitting out misogyny and simmering with suppressed rage. The film falls apart after the first half and never becomes the battle of wills that it promises to be – no reflection on Sinead Cusack’s excellent performance – but it’s full of interesting things. It shows a demon inside Sellers which we now know to have been ever-present in his life and it’s not comfortable to watch.”
   Here’s a clip.
   “There’s a Girl in My Soup,” starring Peter and Goldie Hawn, was released on December 15th of 1970, and according to The Times (a British daily (Monday to Saturday) national newspaper based in London, England), the film was a major commercial success and became the seventh most popular film at the British box office in 1970.
   Huggo, from the IMDB, tells us “At age forty-one, Robert Danvers is renowned for being an ego-maniacal celebrity chef and culinary critic who hosts his own London based gourmet food television show called "Good Taste". But he's equally renowned for being a womanizing cad who has a revolving door of women coming and going. He's met his match in a nineteen year old American named Marion, who picks up him up without knowing who he is or anything about his public or personal life. But she seems to immediately know what he's all about. She admits that she wants to stay one step ahead of him in their sexual game. Despite their bumpy start or perhaps because of it, she moves into his flat a day after knowing him and accompanies him on a business trip to the south of France. This being a relationship totally foreign to both, can it last, or will it last because it is different than all the previous casual relationships they've had up until now?”
   Well, will it!? I really want to know!
   “There’s a Girl in My Soup” made $28,818,143.24, 2017 dollars against a budget of who knows what.
   Here's a clip.
   Here’s a small piece of an interview Peter gave to The Late Late Show in 1970. And a companion piece!
   On December 26th Peter and Spike appeared in small parts of the television movie “'Wiltons' - The Handsomest Hall in Town,” which concerned a reenactment of performances at the Wilton's Music Hall (a Grade II listed building, built as a music hall and now run as a multi-arts performance space in Graces Alley, off Cable Street in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets) in 1880.
    Peter starred along with “M.A.S.H.’s” Jo Ann Pflug (The first woman to have a live weekly television talk show in the late 1960s in Los Angeles on KHJ-TV (channel 9).” in “Where Does it Hurt?” a Kafkaesque take on the medical profession, in which Peter plays hospital administrator Albert T. Hopfnagel, who oversees a facility that is more interested in generating revenue than it is in providing sound medical care. 
   TV Guide (a weekly magazine that once published a list of the television shows that were being broadcast during the week) described “Where Does it Hurt?” upon it’s release by saying, “The language is profane, the pcomroceedings inane, and the story insane…If you hate doctors, Mexicans, homosexuals, blacks, females, Catholics, Jews, Italians, Japanese, insurance companies, hospitals, Poles, and humanity, you'll love this movie.”
   Here's a clip.
   Peter played the March Hare (a leporid belonging to the genus Lepus), in 1972‘s “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,” along with Spike Mulligan playing the Gryphon, Dudley Moore as the Dormouse, Ralph Richardson as the Caterpillar, and a host of others playing different parts. The  Nigerian-born British actress and singer Fiona Fullerton played Alice.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Dudley Moore, Michael Crawford, and Fiona.    
   Peter, Spike, and Harry Secombe would reunite on the radio on April 20th, 1972, for what was called “The Last Goon Show of All,” which was broadcast on October 5th.
   Was it really the last Goon Show of all? Well, that depends on your ideas on reincarnation.
   When asked about it later Spike considered the early 70's to be “a period of indifference in Peter’s professional career, and it would appear at one time that his career might have come to a conclusion."
   Why did he think that? Well looking into the future a little bit, one of Peter’s biographers, Peter Evens, noted in 1980 that out of nine films in the period, three were never released and five had flopped, while only “There's a Girl in My Soup” had been a success.
   On October 19th, 1973, “The Optimists of Nine Elms,” was released. Peter starred with Donna Mullane and John Chaffey, in a tale of an old street musician (Peter) who strikes up a friendship with two children, Liz, played by Donna, and her young brother Mark, played by John.
   Donna was abducted... er, molested by... er, recruited for her role by the film crew, who saw her walking home from school when they were scouting locations for the movie.
   “Hey, you wanta be in pictures baby?”
   “Okay.”
   Variety said of “The Optimists of Nine Elms,” upon its release, “Pic is a romanticized, Anglicized variant on [Vittorio De Sica’s 1952 Italian classic] ‘Umberto D,'with Peter Sellers playing an aging vaudevillian whose meager income derives from sidewalk minstrelling with his equally-weary trained mutt. He tentatively befriends an eleven-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother, opening their poverty-clouded eyes to a world of magical dreams while they offer him the blessing of human contact.
   It all sounds like goo, and the film’s last half-hour verges perilously close. But even at its worst The Optimists is acceptable family fare, and for much of its first 80 minutes it engagingly achieves a sense of fantasy.
   Director-coscripter Anthony Simmons (on whose novel The Optimists of Nine Elms screenplay is based) obviously understands and relishes the unique world of childhood.”
   Peter won the Best Actor award at the 1973 Tehran Film Festival for his work in “The Optimists of Nine Elms,” six years before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 when all hell broke lose in that country.
   Here’s a clip.
   In May of 1973, with his third marriage failing, Peter went to a theater to watch Liza Minnelli perform. He became entranced with her and they quickly became a couple, becoming engaged three days later, despite Liza’s betrothal at the time to Desi Arnaz, Jr., and of course Peter still being married to Miranda.
   The relationship lasted a month before they broke up.
   January of 1974 saw the release of “The Blockhouse,” a wartime drama about some forced laborers who take refuge from overhead bombing in an underground bunker which consequently collapses on them trapping them inside forever. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) the bunker was also a storehouse, with food and supplies enough to last for years... but not forever.
   The film and the book that inspired it may have been based on a true story. On June 25th, 1951, Time magazine reported that two German soldiers claimed to have been trapped for six years in an underground storehouse in Babie Doły (real name), Poland.
   Once again TV guide weighed in on one of Peter’s films. "The film tries to study men in a terrible, claustrophobic setting, but it never reveals the true nature of the characters or a metaphysical reason for their predicament. A worthy idea that sadly goes nowhere."  
   Don’t beat around the bush, TV Guide. Tell us what you really think.
   No one knows how much the movie cost or how much it made.
   No One.
   Here’s a clip
   Also in 1974, Peter portrayed a horny Queen Victoria in Joseph McGrath's comedic biographical film of the Scottish poet William McGonagall, “The Great McGonagall,” starring opposite Spike and Julia Foster.
   Peter worked one week of the three week shoot. Apparently the producer of “The Great McGonagall,” David Grant, was a big time British porn producer and distributor, who forced McGrath to include a bunch of female nude scenes and really only wanted to use the film as a tax write off.
   Not surprisingly “The Great McGonagall,” was a critical failure. The New York Times’, Richard Eder wrote, "'The Great McGonagall,' which opened yesterday at the Cinema Village, is endearing, and parts of it are lovely and hilarious. But it lacks enough of an organizing principle in its chaos to succeed as a movie...The pace is frenetic, the level of reality shifts every two minutes, it is stuffed with visual absurdities, old jokes and take-offs. Some work, some exasperate...McGonagall dies, and you are sorry. Despite his madness, his delusions, his bad poems, you miss him. He is a radiant failure. So, in a way, is his movie, with all bad jokes, carelessness and confusion.”
   Judge for yourself if you dare. Here’s a clip.
   I have no information on if “The Great McGonagall,” was a financial failure as well. It probably made some money somewhere due to the naked ladies.
   In any case Peter’s career and life reached an all-time low.
   Due to hitting bottom Peter agreed to accept salaries of £100,000 and 10 per cent of the gross to appear in TV productions and advertisements, well below the £1 million he had once commanded per film.
   In 1973, he appeared in a Benson & Hedges cinema commercial. In 1975, he appeared in a series of advertisements for Trans World Airlines, in which he played several eccentric characters, including Thrifty McTravel, Jeremy "Piggy" Peak Thyme and an Italian singer, Vito.
   I think we all have to be thankful the communication Peter had in 1974 with the British music hall comic Dan Leno, who unfortunately up to that point had been dead for 70 years.
   Peter claimed to have talked to him previously so they were old friends.
   Dan gave Peter some good advice, and Peter’s career was revived for taking it.
   Dan had told him to return to the role of Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
   As it happened Blake had been up on the idea of making another Panther film, and had written a 15-20 page outline for such a movie and presented it to Walter Mirisch, who had you may remember produced the previous Pink Panther films. Walter was very interested in making the film but the franchise's distributor and main backer, United Artists, rejected the project as they didn’t care to work with Blake or Peter, whose careers had declined (in the case of Edwards, his films since “The Party,” “Inspector Clouseau (1968, without Peter),” “Darling Lili (1970),” “Wild Rovers (1971),” “The Carey Treatment (1972),” did poorly both critically and financially).
   Former dancer and talent agent turned media proprietor (a successful entrepreneur or business person who controls, through personal ownership or via a dominant position in any media related company or enterprise, media consumed by a large number of individuals, in Grade’s case, he did well producing television and films... for the most part), Lew Grade brought the idea of a Pink Panther television series to Blake. Edwards didn’t care to get involved other than to work on some scripts.   
   Grade then agreed to finance two films for Blake as part of a deal to get his wife, the actress and singer Julie Andrews (“Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music”), to appear in a TV special for him. The first movie was “The Tamarind Seed (1974. The film starred Andrews and Omar Sharif. Blake wrote the screenplay. Grade said the film "did fairly well" at the box office but that he struggled to make money out of the movie because Blake and Julie took such a large percentage of the profits (Andrews 10% of the gross, Edwards 5%)), and afterward a project which took place in Canada called Rachel and the Stranger, but Lew disliked the idea and offered to buy Blake out of the second commitment.
   Blake wanted to make another movie, however, partly to repair his tarnished career in Hollywood. Lew suggested making a new Pink Panther film and Blake agreed, provided Peter would come back and star in it.
   Lew talked to Peter who agreed to make the movie, not having much choice really, considering the state of his own career, and Dan Leno’s directive.
   United Artists gave what would become “Return of the Pink Panther,” to Lew in exchange for world distribution rights and a share of the profits, after which Lew’s company, ITC, would permanently own the rights to the film. 
   Blake and Peter waived their usual fees in return for a profit-sharing arrangement (UA was offered the same deal ,but declined, eventually coming to an agreement to distribute in America, taking 5% of the profits. ITC distributed everywhere else.
   And the film was a success! It made $41.8 million 1974 dollars ($218,438,476.19 now) against a budget of $5 million ($26,129,004.33).
   Along with Peter “Return of the Pink Panther,” also starred Christopher Plummer (who had worked with Blake’s wife 10 years prior in “The Sound of Music”), replacing David Niven (who was unavailable at the time) as Sir Charles Litton, the lovely and talented Catherine Schell as Christopher’s wife, Lady Claudine Litton, and Herbert Lom and  Burt Kwouk, reprising their roles from “A Shot in the Dark,” Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, and Cato respectively. Also, Peter’s old friend Graham Stark appears in the film playing a different character than he did in “A Shot in the Dark,” which insults my sense of continuity to no end.
   Here’s a little secret from the production notes. Please don’t tell anybody.
   Catherine Schell (born Katherina Freiin Schell von Bauschlott, daughter of Baron Paul Schell von Bauschlott, an Hungarian diplomat, and Countess Katharina Maria Etelka Georgina Elisabeth Teleki de Szék. At the start of the Second World War, her parents' estates were confiscated by the Nazis. Fleeing Hungary in advance of the Russians and Communism, the family lived in poverty until 1948, finding asylum in Austria: first in Vienna, then in Salzburg. In 1950, the family emigrated to the United States, where the Baron acquired American citizenship, something that might prove to be decidedly difficult today in Trump’s anti-immigration environment) can be seen laughing on at least two occasions in “Return of the Pink Panther.” Once when Clouseau impersonates a telephone repairman to infiltrate her home, and again when he meets her in a restaurant and pretends to be "Guy Gadbois," a ladies' man.
   In the latter, the scene appears to cut suddenly as she starts choking on her drink from laughing.     This magnifies the impression that Lady Lytton sees Clouseau as amusing and no real threat.
   These scenes are frequently proffered as classic examples of corpsing (British theatrical slang for unintentionally breaking character by laughing. In North American TV and film, this is commonly referred to as breaking, and it is generally categorized as a blooper. The origin of the term corpsing itself is unclear, but probably formulated by the zombie faction, alluding to provoking an actor into breaking character by laughing while portraying a corpse. As the name suggests, many examples of corpsing have been created from actors performing this role or related roles, such as a sleeping or unconscious character), and it was not uncharacteristic of Peter to goad his fellow actors into breaking character.
   Nevertheless, Catherine has maintained in various interviews that she always considered it in character for Lady Lytton to be amused at Clouseau's antics.
   I agree. If indeed it were an example of a “blooper,” breaking the continuity of the scene, it would have been cut out in the editing process.
   Also, the lovely and talented Carol Cleveland, of Monty Python fame, had a small part as a swimming pool diver.
   She can briefly be seen in the scene with the pool.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Herbert Lom, a blind lookout man, and a minkee.
   “Return of the Pink Panther” earned Peter a nomination for the Best Actor – Musical or Comedy award at the 33rd Golden Globe Awards.
    The film energized both Blake’s and Peter’s careers, which allowed them the flexibility to choose what they wanted to work on in the future.      
   They both chose to make 1976's “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” with a little “Murder by Death,” thrown in in the middle (“Murder by Death” was released June 23rd, and Panther December 15th).
   “Murder by Death” reunited Peter with Neil Simon who wrote the screenplay (as he did for “After the Fox”), Truman Capote (who helped John Houston write the screenplay for “Beat the Devil”), Alec Guinness (“The Ladykillers”), and David Niven (“The Pink Panther”). 
     Here is a short synopsis provided by  the media historian Hal Erickson:
   “As penned by Neil Simon, this satire of movie mysteries is set in motion when several prominent detectives are invited to the mansion of the reclusive Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). In Ten Little Indians fashion, the gathered sleuths are locked into the forbidding mansion, and subject to various death-dealing devices. While struggling for their lives, the vainglorious gumshoes continue to try to one-up one another. Each character is broadly based on a famous literary detective: Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) is an aphorism-spouting Charlie Chan clone: Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) are patterned on the protagonists of the Thin Man flicks; Milo Perrier (James Coco), a Hercule Poirot takeoff, stalks through the proceedings declaring "I'm a Belgie, not a Frenchie!"; Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) is Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade rolled in one; and Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) is a dottier variation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Best bit: a "conversation" between blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum (Alec Guinness) and deaf-mute maid Yetta (Nancy Walker)."
   Although no information is available about the production budget for “Murder by Death,” it would appear that the film was financially successful earning $32,511,047 at the box office in 1976 (equivalent to $139,863,781.21 in 2017).
   Here’s a clip featuring various parts of the film.
   And then came “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.”
   The film was rushed into production owing to the success of “The Return of the Pink Panther." Blake had used one of two scripts that he and Frank Waldman had written for that "Pink Panther" TV series that Lou Grade had proposed as the basis for Return, and he used the other as the starting point for Strikes Again. As a result, it is the only Pink Panther movie which has a story-line that explicitly follows on from the previous film.
   It’s almost exactly like a continuous story.
   "If you went to an asylum and you described the first inmate you saw, that's what Peter had become. He was certifiable," said Blake Edwards of his leading man.
   Peter’s health was declining. Due to his heart condition a stand in was used as much as possible during the scenes that demanded a certain amount of physicality.
   Possibly due to the state of his physical health, his mental health seemed to deteriorate as well. Peter could at times be unbearable on the set. His behavior was regarded as unprofessional and childish, and he frequently threw tantrums, often threatening to abandon projects. Biographer Peter Evans mentioned that Peter was a "volatile and perplexing character [who] left a trail of misery in his private life". He also noted that Peter had a "compulsive personality and [was] an eccentric hypochondriac" who became addicted to various medicines aside from his recreational drug habits during this period.
   His difficult behavior while working was widely reported and made it more difficult for Peter to get a job at a time when he most needed the work (when he most needed the money).
   In any case, “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” received mixed critical reactions, but was a big success financially making $33,833,201 ($145,551,738.84 today) off of a budget of $6 million ($25,812,231.99), as was the followup to Strikes Again, and the last original Clouseau film with Peter, “Revenge of the Pink Panther (at this point the Pink Panther diamond has nothing to do with the film’s plot, for Revenge and Strikes Again),” which made $49.5 million in 1978 ($185,842,131.90 now) against a budget of $12 million ($45,052,638.04 now).
   Vincent Canby of The New York Times said of Peter in the film, "There is, too, something most winningly seedy about Mr. Sellers' Clouseau, a fellow who, when he attempts to tear off his clothes in the heat of passion, gets tangled up in his necktie, and who, when he masquerades—for reasons never gone into—as Quasimodo, over inflates his hump with helium."
   While Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four and wrote, "If I'm less than totally enthusiastic about 'The Pink Panther Strikes Again,' maybe it was because I've been over this ground with Clouseau many times before," stating that a time would have to come "when inspiration gives way to habit, and I think the 'Pink Panther' series is just about at that point. That's not to say this film isn't funny -- it has moments as good as anything Sellers and Edwards have ever done -- but that it's time for them to move on. They worked together once on the funniest movie either one has ever done, 'The Party.' Now it's time to try something new again.”
   I agree with Roger. As Graham Chapman of Monty Python has said, and I paraphrase, “This just gets sillier and sillier.”
   Despite the success of Revenge, the Clouseau character, if you compare him from the first film, “The Pink Panther,” to what appears in Strikes Again and Revenge, the character just dissolves into an increasing morass of silliness, relying on slapstick and even scatological humor more than characterization or plot.  
   Apparently Peter was tiring of the role himself, stating "I've honestly had enough of Clouseau—I've got nothing more to give."
   It was time for both Blake and Peter to move on (despite returning to the series in 1982‘s “Trail of the Pink Panther,” which utilized unused scenes from previous Pink Panther films starring Peter), 1983's “Curse of the Pink Panther,” and 1993's “Son of the Pink Panther,” Blake Edwards moved on to make such films as “10,” “S.O.B.,” and “Victor/Victoria”).
   Peter’s performance in Strikes Again earned him a further nomination at the 34th Golden Globe Awards, as well as a 1977 Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium," for Blake and Frank Waldman.
   Here’s a clip.

   "'He causes pain to everyone who gets close to him ... Even when you're the victim of his outrageous behavior, his selfishness, or one of his tantrums, you always found yourself smiling about it afterwards, even if you had to do it through gritted tears." -Spike Milligan on Peter Sellers.

   In March  of 1976 Peter began dating actress Lynne Frederick, whom he married on February 18th, 1977.
   Biographer Roger Lewis wrote that of all of Peter’s wives, Frederick was the most abused.
   Author of “Fallen Stars: Tragic Lives and Lost Careers," Julian Upton, likened the relationship  to a boxing match between a heavyweight and a featherweight, a relationship that "oscillated from ardor to hatred, reconciliation and remorse."
   Peter Evans claimed that Milligan detested Lynne and believed she was to blame for his increasing alcohol and cocaine dependency.
   Being somewhat familiar with the subject of drug dependency I can categorically state that no one is responsible for an addicts drug (alcohol is a drug) use other than the addict.
   March 20th, 1977, Sellers suffered a second major heart attack during a flight from Paris to London; he was subsequently fitted with a pacemaker.
   After recovering from his illness Peter made “Revenge of the Pink Panther.”
   Steven Bach, the senior vice-president and head of worldwide productions for United Artists, who worked with Peter on Revenge, considered that Sellers was "deeply unbalanced, if not committable: that was the source of his genius and his truly quite terrifying aspects as manipulator and hysteric."
   Peter refused to seek professional help for his mental issues, and would claim that he had no personality and was almost unnoticeable, which meant that he "needed a strongly defined character to play."
   Here’s a 1978 City Lights interview
   In 1979 Peter played, along with his wife Lynne, Graham Stark ,and old friends Catherine Schell, Lionel Jeffries and Elke Sommer, in a Richard Quine (“Bell, Book and Candle,” “How to Murder Your Wife,” “The World of Suzie Wong”) production of “The Prisoner of Zenda (Quine’s final film before his death ten years later).”
   He portrayed three roles, including King Rudolf IV and King Rudolf V—rulers of the fictional small nation of Ruritania—and Syd Frewin, Rudolf V's half-brother.  
   The film includes elements of other stories such as Alexandre Dumas’ “The Man in the Iron Mask,” wherein a double for a reigning monarch is used to depose said monarch (Blake Edwards used a similar plot element in his 1965 “The Great Race,” with Jack Lemmon playing two different parts).
   “The Prisoner of Zenda” didn’t make a whole lot of money, $7,650,600 1979 dollars ($25,795,589.14 now) against a production budget of who knows? I certainly don’t!
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter and Lynne.
   One of my very favorite films is 1979‘s (released on December 19th) “Being There,” directed by Hal Ashby (“Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo”), and based on the book of the same name written by Polish-American writer Jerzy Kosiński (who co-wrote the screenplay)
   Peter plays Chance, “a  mindless, emotionless gardener addicted to watching TV.” -Ed Sikov
   Chance, through misadventure, is mistaken for a powerful business person, who is taken in by a hugely successful, aging philanthropist, with the end result of him quite possibly making his way to the Oval Office (comparisons have been made between Chance and Donald Trump’s ascendency to the Presidency. I don’t know why as Chance was not a hateful, spite-ridden, thin skinned, childish (although he was childlike), retributive, vindictive, base, profane, greedy, sexual predictor, and lying sack of shit)
   The film also starred Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Being There”), Jack Warden, Ishmael, er, I mean Richard Basehart, and Richard Dysart.
   Peter had expressed interest in making “Being There,” at least since 1971, stating in a BBC interview that he wanted to play Chance more than anything else, and he finally persuaded Jerzy Kosinski, to allow him and director Hal Ashby to make the film, provided Jerzy could write the script.
   During filming, to remain in character, Sellers refused most interview requests and kept his distance from the other actors. According to Shirley, "[Peter] believed he was Chauncey. He never had lunch with me... He was Chauncey Gardiner the whole shoot, but believing he was having a love affair with me."
   Peter considered Chance's walking and voice the character's most important attributes, and in preparing for the role, he worked alone with a tape recorder, or with Lynne, and then with Ashby, to perfect the clear enunciation and flat delivery needed to reveal "the childlike mind behind the words".
   Peter described his experience of working on the film as "so humbling, so powerful", and co-star Shirley MacLaine found Sellers "a dream" to work with.
   His performance was universally lauded by critics and is considered by critic Danny Smith to be the "crowning triumph of Peter Sellers's remarkable career". Critic Frank Rich wrote that the acting skill required for this sort of role, with a "schismatic personality that Peter had to convey with strenuous vocal and gestural technique ... A lesser actor would have made the character's mental dysfunction flamboyant and drastic ... [His] intelligence was always deeper, his on screen confidence greater, his technique much more finely honed": in achieving this, Sellers "makes the film's fantastic premise credible."
   The film earned Peter a Best Actor award at the 51st National Board of Review Awards; the London Critics Circle Film Awards Special Achievement Award, the Best Actor award at the 45th New York Film Critics Circle Awards; and the Best Actor – Musical or Comedy award at the 37th Golden Globe Awards.
   Additionally, Sellers was nominated for the Best Actor award at the 52nd Academy Awards  and the Best Actor in a Leading Role award at the 34th British Academy Film Awards.
   “Being There,” was also a financial success making $30,177,511 initially ($101,749,754.93 now) on a budget of $7 million ($23,601,955.92).
   Filming took place at the largest privately owned home in America, the Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, North Carolina, owned by members of Vanderbilt family (old money from shipping and railroads).
   Melvyn Douglas's granddaughter, Illeana, had a chance to visit the set and got to meet Peter, who was her favorite actor. She has since credited the film for inspiring her to pursue a career in acting (subsequently Illeana has appeared in such films as “Goodfellas,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and “Cape Fear (1991)”). According to Illeana, Peter and Melvyn had known each other since the 1940s when they first met in Burma during World War II. They often reminisced about their war days while on the set.
   Here’s a clip featuring Peter, Melvyn, and Jack Warden as the President of the United States.
   In March of 1980 Peter asked his fifteen-year-old daughter Victoria what she thought about “Being There.” She reported later that, "I said yes, I thought it was great. But then I said, 'You looked like a little fat old man'. ... he went mad. He threw his drink over me and told me to get the next plane home."
   His other daughter Sarah told him her thoughts about the incident and he sent her a telegram that read "After what happened this morning with Victoria, I shall be happy if I never hear from you again. I won't tell you what I think of you. It must be obvious. Goodbye, Your Father."
   I said Chance wasn’t childish and vindictive... not Peter.
   Peter’s last film before his death was “The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu,” a comedic re-imagining of the adventure novels by Sax Rohmer, who created the character of Fu Manchu and Inspector Nayland Smith, both of whom Peter portrayed in the film.
   A 35 year old Helen Mirren and a 63 year old David Tomlinson (his last film before retiring) also starred.
   The production was troubled even before filming began. Three directors were fired (at Peter’s insistence) before Peter wound up finishing the film himself. His increasing ill health caused delays in the production as well.
   However, when all was said and done the movie was poorly received and didn’t make any money.
   Tom Shales of The Washington Post described the film as "an indefensibly inept comedy,"  adding that "it is hard to name another good actor who ever made so many bad movies as Sellers, a comedian of great gifts but ferociously faulty judgment. "Manchu" will take its rightful place alongside such colossally ill-advised washouts as “Tell Me Where It Hurts,” “The Bobo” and “The Prisoner of Zenda."
   Here’s a clip of Peter playing both parts.
   Peter’s final performances were a series of advertisements for Barclays Bank. Filmed in April of 1980 in Ireland, in which  he played Monty Casino, who was apparently a con man of some type who was out to take your hard earned “pay packets,” hence it was wise to put your cash away in Barclays Bank.
   Peter was scheduled to make four of the short commercials, but only completed three (here they are) before collapsing in Dublin due to heart problems.
   After two days in hospital Peter checked himself out, against the advice of his doctors, and headed out to the Cannes Film Festival where “Being There,” was in competition.
   Peter got sick again at Cannes and retreated to his residence in Gstaad, Switzerland, where he worked on yet another script for a Pink Panther film, in this case, “Romance of the Pink Panther.”
   He agreed to undergo an angiogram at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, to see if he was able to undergo open-heart surgery.
   After his son Michael’s marriage fell apart, Peter attempted to rebuild his relationship with him.  Michael later said that "it marked the beginning of an all-too-brief closeness between us."
    Peter admitted to Michael that "he hated so many things he had done," including leaving Anne, his first wife, and his infatuation with Sophia Loren (something I personally have to deal with on a daily basis).
   In lighter moments, Peter joked that his epitaph should read "Star of Stage, Screen and Alimony."
   On July 21st, 1980, Peter arrived in London from Geneva. He checked into the Dorchester Hotel, before visiting Golders Green Crematorium for the first time to see the location of his parents' ashes.
   He had plans to attend a reunion dinner with his Goon Show partners Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, scheduled for the evening of July 22nd. On the day of the dinner, Peter took lunch in his hotel suite and shortly afterwards collapsed from a heart attack. He was taken to the Middlesex Hospital in London, and died there just after midnight on July 24th, at the age of 54.
   Following Peter’s death, fellow actor Richard Attenborough said that he "had the genius comparable to Chaplin", while the Boulting brothers considered Peter as "a man of enormous gifts; and these gifts he gave to the world. For them, he is assured of a place in the history of art as entertainment." Burt Kwouk, Cato in the Pink Panther films, stated that "Peter was a well-loved actor in Britain ... the day he died, it seemed that the whole country came to a stop. Everywhere you went, the fact that Peter had died seemed like an umbrella over everything." Director Blake Edwards thought that "Peter was brilliant. He had an enormous facility for finding really unusual, unique facets of the character he was playing."
   Spike Milligan was too upset to speak to the press at the time of Peter’s death, while fellow Goon Harry Secombe said "I'm shattered. Peter was such a tremendous artist. He had so much talent, it just oozed out of him.” Then, referring to the missed dinner the the three had planned, he added, "Anything to avoid paying for dinner."
   A private funeral service was held at Golders Green Crematorium on July 26th, conducted by one of Peter’s old friends, Canon John Hester.
   His body was cremated and his ashes were interred at Golders Green Crematorium in London.
   A memorial service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields on September  8th, 1980, what would have been Peter’s 55th birthday.
   Close friend Lord Snowdon read the twenty-third Psalm, Harry Secombe sang "Bread of Heaven" and the eulogy was read by David Niven.
   Although Peter’s marriage with Lynne had deteriorated, and he was reportedly in the process of excluding her from his will a week before he died, she inherited almost his entire estate, cash, cars, houses and art, worth an estimated £4.5 million (worth about $23,802,960.00 today), while his children received £800 each (about $4,233.43 today).
   Spike Milligan appealed to her on behalf of Peter’s three children, but she refused to increase the amount.
   Lynne, an addict herself, subsequently married the British television commentator and host David Frost, and after that a third husband, Barry Unger. She died in 1994, at the age of 39.  She was cremated and her ashes were interred along with Peter’s.
   All income from Peter’s estate, including royalties from movie profit-sharing deals, was inherited by Lynne’s daughter, Cassie Unger, who was born 4 years after Peter’s death.
   As stated previously, Michael Sellers died of a heart attack at 52 during surgery on July 24th,  2006, twenty-six years to the day after his father's death.
   After Peter’s death, MGM tried to continue with Romance of the Pink Panther and offered the role of Clouseau to Dudley Moore, who turned it down. The studio then turned back to Blake Edwards, who didn’t want any part in making another Panther film without Peter, as he felt no one could adequately replace him. 
   In 1982 Blake released “Trail of the Pink Panther,” which was composed entirely of deleted scenes from his past three Panther films. Lynne Frederick sued, claiming the use of the clips was a breach of contract; the court awarded her $1 million 1982 dollars ($2,568,425.53 today), plus 3.15 per cent of the film's profits and 1.36 per cent of its gross revenue.
   Trail cost $6 million to make ($15,410,553.19 today) and made $9.1 million ($23,372,672.34) at the box office, so when factoring in distribution and marketing costs, Trail lost money upon it’s initial release.
   Blake tried again the next year (I don’t know why) with “Curse of the Pink Panther.”  Curse attempted to re-launch the series with a new lead, American actor turned director, Ted Wass, as bumbling American detective Clifton Sleigh, assigned to find the missing Inspector Clouseau.
   This was David Niven's final film appearance before he passed away shortly before the film was released.
   Robert Wagner and Capucine also reprise their roles from the first Panther film.
   This film marked Herbert Lom's 6th outing as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. He would reprise the role one last time in “Son of the Pink Panther.”
   The budget for Curse has been estimated at $11 million ($27,210,573.77 today) and made $4,491,986 ($11,111,774.22).
   Apparently addicted to the Pink Panther (and to losing money) Blake tried yet again to make a successfull Panther film in 1993‘s “Son of the Pink Panther,” starring future Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni (he co-wrote, directed and acted in 1997‘s “Life is Beautiful,”  after which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film), playing Clouseau’s son, Jacques Gambrelli, the result of a liaison between Clouseau and Maria Gambrelli, who, you may recall, was a suspect in “A Shot in the Dark,” played by the lovely and talented Elke Sommer, but who was played by in Son by the lovely and talented Claudia Cardinale, who, you may recall, played the lovely and talented Princess Dala in the very first film back in 1963 (this just shoots my delicate sense of continuity straight to hell!) 
   “Son of the Pink Panther,” cost $28 million in 1993 ($47,639,859.06 today) and made $2,438,031 ($4,148,123.33).
   Blake stopped making movies after this.

   Despite Peter’s glaring flaws he may have had as a human being, father, and husband, Joyce’s Take is proud to have presented his life and genius hopefully in an unbiased, frank, affectionate, and truthful manner. My life has personally benefited from his life and work. Many people I know feel the same way (I recently asked two young ladies in their late teens or early twenties (it’s so hard to tell) if they have ever heard of Peter Sellers, and they said no. “Have you ever seen “the Pink Panther films, and I’m not talking about the ones with Steve Martin?” “Oh, yes!” they said).
   I’ll let Peter have the last word.

   "Finally, in conclusion, let me say just this."