This week we’re marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Peter Sellers with a special celebration of his incredible talent. We’re taking a close look at what we think are his top five career defining films, The Ladykillers (1955), I’m Alright Jack (1959), The Pink Panther (1963), Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Being There (1979).
Peter passed away on 24th July 1980 at the age of 55. He was widely regarded as a comic genius and will always be remembered for his hugely popular portrayal of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series of films. He held a special place in cinemagoers hearts back then, and now, forty years on, he is still remembered with great affection for his work and the laughter he brought to generations.
Peter’s first major film role was in the 1955 Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers, where he appeared opposite Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker and Danny Green, as well as Herbert Lom, who he worked with in the hugely successful Pink Panther franchise. His breakout role was as Fred Kite, the union leader, in the Boulting brothers’ satire of British industrial relations, I’m Alright Jack, released in 1959. Peter won the BAFTA for best actor for his portrayal of Fred Kite and it was a film that brought him to the attention of Hollywood.
We first saw Peter’s incredibly popular character, Inspector Clouseau in Blake Edwards’ 1963 comedy, The Pink Panther. The film was originally a vehicle for David Niven, who played the notorious jewel thief, Sir Charles Lytton, otherwise known as The Phantom. But improvised scenes with Peter brought the Clouseau character to the fore and he certainly stole the show.
Peter played three leading roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 classic, Dr. Strangelove, a satire on the Cold War and the paranoia over the threat of nuclear war. It was a highly successful film, which cemented Peter’s position at the top of his international film career.
Peter’s penultimate film was Being There, released in 1979. He plays Chance the gardener, who inadvertently finds himself at the heart of the Washington political set, despite not being able to read or write and with his only view of the world up that point having come from watching TV. It was his favourite film and he was nominated for an Oscar for best actor, but it was not to be.
Peter passed away in London in July 1980 having suffered a massive heart attack, his long standing heart problems having finally caught up with him and robbing us of a popular entertainer whose films remain ever popular, forming an essential part of our cultural heritage.
FILM TALK is all about reviewing and appreciating the greatest films ever made. Each week we publish a new video reviewing and discussing a different classic film that is destined for our list of the 100 greatest films in cinema history, at least the 100 greatest films in our opinion.