THE PARTY THAT IS PETER SELLERS | 20TH CENTURY’S COMEDIC GENIUS

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Peter Sellers was a complicated soul– reportedly a violently moody, self-loathing manic depressive with a voracious appetite for drugs and women. His wild lifestyle undoubtedly weakened his heart (in 1964 alone he suffered 13 heart attacks during his marriage to Britt Ekland), and led to his untimely death at the age of 54 in 1980. Admittedly Sellers was not always the funnest guy in real life, but he was undeniably a comic genius onscreen. I never was one for The Pink Panther films, maybe I didn’t give them a fair shake– but I love the madcap classics The Party (directed by Blake Edwards), What’s New Pussycat? (screenplay by Woody Allen), Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick’s dark classic), and the simply brilliant, Being There. He hung out with George and Ringo from The Beatles, and had a penchant for style that matched his rock star lifestyle. Peter Sellers will go down as one of the most unique comedic talents of the 20th century.

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1968 — Peter Sellers in “The Party” directed by Blake Edwards

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers in “The Party” w/Claudine Longet, infamous for shooting her boyfriend, ski racer Spider Sabich, in the mid-70s. The Rolling Stones wrote their Bo Diddley-esque (‘Some Girls’ period) song “Claudine” about her. she also did a sweet version of ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’. — Simonside

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Peter Sellers playing the sitar in “The Party” — Image by © John Springer Collection/Corbis

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Peter Sellers playing the sitar in “The Party” — Image by © John Springer Collection/Corbis

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1967 — Peter Sellers and Ravi Shankar during the filming of Blake Edwards’ cult film  “The Party.” — Image by © Ravi Shankar Center/Corbis

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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Peter Sellers and Capucine in “What’s New Pussycat?”

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Peter Sellers in “What’s New Pussycat?”

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Peter O’Toole & Peter Sellers in a studio still from “What’s New Pussycat?” (written by Woody Allen)

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1964 —  Seven stars of Woody Allen’s film ‘What’s New Pussycat’ in Paris. Seated, left to right, Woody Allen, Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers (1925 – 1980), standing behind them, left to right, Paula Prentiss, Romy Schneider (1938 – 1982), Ursula Andress and Capucine (1933 – 1990).  — Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

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1965, Paris, France — British director Clive Donner (left) with Swiss actress Ursula Andress, Swiss actress Capucine, American actor and screenwriter Woody Allen, Irish actor Peter O’Toole, British actor Peter Sellers and Austrian-born German actress Romy Schneider on the set . — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

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ca. 1964 — Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) gets up from his wheelchair in a scene from Kubrick’s classic 964 film. — Image by © John Springer Collection/Corbis

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Peter Sellers in the Stanley Kubrick classic, Dr. Strangelove

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Peter Sellers in the Stanley Kubrick classic, Dr. Strangelove

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1963, Paris, France — Peter Sellers being hugged by a model wearing a dress by Pab, Ltd. and long Schreiner earrings. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

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Swedish stunner Britt Ekland became an instant celebrity and sex symbol upon her marriage to Peter Sellers in 1964 — he soon suffered from a series (13) of brutal heart attacks the following Spring. They would divorce in 1968, and the voracious Ekland went on to have relationships with George Hamilton, Warren Beatty and  Rod Stewart, just to name a few.

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Peter Sellers & wife Britt Ekland

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(Lt.) Feb 19th, 1964, England — Peter Sellers marrying Swedish actress Britt Ekland at Guildford Register Office. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

(Rt.) Feb 11th, 1963, New York — Britt Ekland kisses a picture of Peter Sellers just after he proposed to her over the telephone, after a 10-day romance. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Peter Sellers & wife Britt Ekland — Denim jacket leads me to believe it was taken during the filming of “What’s New Pussycat?”

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1965 — Peter Sellers with wife Britt Eklund and their daughter, Victoria. via

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Anahiem, CA, April 7, 1964 — SELLERS ON OUTING BEFORE HEART ATTACK — Peter Sellers, critically ill in Hollywood of a heart attack, last Saturday as he and his bride, Swedish actress Britt Ekland, began a visit through Disneyland with Sellers’ children by a former marriage, Sarah, 4, and Michael, 8. Sellers was stricken early yesterday. via

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(Lt.) 1969, London — Peter Sellers, famous the world over for his comic disguises, dips a hand into a shoulder bag at Heathrow Airport.  The mob garb was not a disguise, but only the casual style of a celebrity on his way to catch a flight to Nice, France. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

(Rt.) 1965, Sant Angelo d’Ischia, Italy — Peter Sellers with his wife, Swedish actress Britt Ekland, during the filming of ‘Caccia alla Volpe’ Italy, 1960s. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

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Peter Sellers

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1951 — The cast of “The Goon Show” (l-r) Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine, Spike Milligan and a young Peter Sellers. — Image by © BBC/Corbis

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27 thoughts on “THE PARTY THAT IS PETER SELLERS | 20TH CENTURY’S COMEDIC GENIUS

  1. One of my favorite movies “The Party”…. great laughs, love his 3 wheeler classic too zipping about the parking lot!

  2. The Party is an all-time classic. “birdy num-num”, and Dr. Strangelove in my top three favorite movies of all time—with George C. Scott nearly stealing the movie from Sellers.

    • brilliant. glad you reminded me, pinkie. i had almost forgotten his presence in ‘lolita’ for frank langella’s supersick performance in the somewhat washing-powder-ad-like remake.

  3. “Soft Beds, Hard Battles” is still a personal Sellers favourite of mine. Not a commercial success… but it truly looked like Sellers enjoyed making this movie. Unfortunately its easier trying to procure a kilo of Kryptonite than to find this on DVD or VHS today :-(
    If you can find it I would recommend viewing…

  4. peter sellers: fabulous, virtuous, hysterical and a tiny bit scary… great post, once again. in pic 4 and 10 we see claudine longet, infamous for shooting her boyfriend, ski racer spider sabich, in the mid-70s. the stones wrote their bo-diddleyesque (‘some girls’-period) “claudine” about her. she also did a sweet version of ‘let’s spend the night together’.

    i’d love to see a post on the unforgettable romy schneider here some day…

  5. Now You are talking!
    Like many wonderful comedians,(Milligan, Hancock, Feldman …..etc) Sellers was prone to dark periods of crippling self-doubt. He lightened up so many average movies, and made some really good Pre-Hollywood British films too. Has any other actor appeared in such a pitch perfect swansong suited to his talents as “Being There” ??? Another masterful snippet of an evocative time. Well Played, Amigo

  6. Peter Sellers was in The Party?? I only remember Carol Wayne in that movie lol. What a knockout SHE was…whew.

  7. Man! that Paula Prentiss was a smokin! Hot babe! Like to see you write a blog on her as well as Claudine Longet and Romy Schneider and what’s happened to them all over the years….

  8. Doesn’t this call for a Peter O’toole post, JP?

    World-class boozer, skirt-chaser, and maybe the prettiest man ever.

    Saw him play Henry Higgins at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London, 1984, and to this day I can’t decide if he way playing him as a drunk, or was drunk.

  9. Don’t forget the original “Casino Royale”:
    Andress: Evelyn Tremble?
    Sellers: Yes?
    Andress: Isn’t that a girl’s name?
    Sellers: No, it’s my name.

    LOL. Paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Absolute genius.

  10. “The Bobo” has Sellers and Ekland. She is a real hot cockteaser and drives around in a couple flashy sportscars.

  11. An absolute comedic genius and a personal favorite. The Party is beyond brilliant, but…. Sellers can do no wrong in my book. You really oughta give the Pink Panther movies a chance. Not his best work, but still better than most. He was also brilliant in The Goon Show. Definitely need to give those a listen. Monty Python wouldn’t exist were it not for Sellers and the rest of the Goons.

    Thanks for an excellent post.

  12. Being There is one of my all-time favorites! I didn’t used to be a big fan of the Pink Panther movies but I recently re-watched the first and had a change of heart- David Niven and Peter Sellers together are spectacular.

  13. I Love You Alice B Toklas is another great Sellers performance. I am convinced that this film inspired Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, which Kubrick initially described as a comedy and he originally wanted Steve Martin to play the lead in the ’70’s (after seeing The Jerk). Eyes Wide Shut is a much more enjoyable film if you watch it with that parallel in mind – one experience with pot causing a couple’s lives to collapse into absurdity for 24-48 hours.

  14. You forgot one of my all time favorite movies “I Love You Alice B. Toklas”!

    Comedic genius and a rare look at Sunset Blvd and Venice Beach in the mid 60’s in full living color!

    Great piece and I love your site!!

    Vince

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