Friday, March 20, 2015

I Lay There in Pain but I Love It.

Peter Sellers is still a Super Star in our house. Ironically...maybe poetically, it was his absentee role in Trail of the Pink Panther that solidified his status with the Boy. I have always loved him. First, because he made my Daddy laugh...put him in stitches. Being little, few things brought me more joy than watching him writhe around in his chair...gasping and cackling, hands on his stomach, eyes welling...and then the high pitched "haaaaaaw....ohhhhhh."

"Do you have a massage for me?" He'd repeat to himself and be right back in tears. Magic.

Of course, as I got older and the jokes began to reveal themselves...I had my own troubles staying upright. Older still and the complicated nature that he brought to those roles...the subtly he imbued them with...reveal an absolute genius. Clare Quilty in Kubrick's Lolita....

So sleazy....Him and Natasha Fatale might be my favorite exchange of dialogue ever filmed. Then there's Dr. Strangelove. How easily could this character have spiraled out of control...even in capable hands.

When he grabs his right arm and pulls it forward to bring the wheelchair back around...just kills me.

As comedy it's brilliant but there's also something profound in the grotesque nature of it. Never mind the wicked things these old Nazis had done or the highly dubious use of them in the U.S. defense department...what must it have been like in the minds of these f****ers after 1945? Moody I reckon. They had literally sold their souls for a future that was never coming. What a demented existence. It's there in Seller's performance...without breaking the tone of the film, there's something horrifying in the absurdity. .

Just for giggles...he's also playing the president in that scene.

I guess his own existence was slightly demented. I hope some of that has been exaggerated. There's a ridiculous romance attached to the tortured artist, the sad clown but, of course, there's nothing romantic about mental anguish. He does seem to have been genuinely disturbed. Abusing the poppers and cocaine surely didn't help and four marriages would be enough to put anybody in early grave...never mind somebody with a lousy heart.

All of that's over now and what's left is a brilliant legacy...the Goon Show, The Mouse that Roared, Being There, The Magic Christian, I'm All Right Jack, etc...making my son giggle uncontrollably and my Daddy laugh until he cried. I love Peter Sellers...a genius that's all.


  1. You won't get an argument from me - I reckon he's the most narually funny actor ever to appear on a cinema screen. As you say, pity he really was a tortured genius. My all-time favourite is his portrayal of the union shop steward, Fred Kite, which is just perfect. You've probably seen him in The Naked Truth, briefly impersonating an IRA terrorist ("Tis the Albert Hall, at all") - if you haven't, it's here:

    1. Why are we speaking in the wretched tongue.


      Quilty's my favorite...I think. There's another scene from Lolita that I almost posted...where he's grilling Humbert on the porch. About the little tall's hilarious and creepy but there's a point where it becomes menacing and really mad...but still hilarious. So discomfiting.

    2. I agree - he was brilliant in "Lolita", and it was a really difficult part. Mind you,I think Quilty's shape-shifting character suited Sellers to a "t".

      And, on the day Richard III was reburied in Leicester Cathedral, another example of the man's brilliance:

    3. Until recently, I didn't realize how closely he was associated with the initial British invasion. When I was little it was the Inspector...then he became inextricably associated with Kubrick. Never mind that he first came to prominence working with Spike Milligan.


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    1. Considering the lack of love that Seller's has gotten...I'll take it Jef.

  3. A lot of them went to the States and a lot of them all over the place elsewhere . . . and an awful, awful lot stayed here. I'm still trying to get a read on how that effected things. But I think it made the 60s turn out differently here than elsewhere.

    Funny how little I think about the Nazis until things pop up, like a menorah in an antique store or a Sachsenhausenstrasse . . . but considering the way Berlin is filling up with Israeli draft dodgers I guess I'm not the only one.

    1. Ooooh.

      While I was in Germany, I had a friend who was half Chilean. The family had come back to Germany when she was a kid and it was never made exactly clear why her grandfather had gone to Chili in the first place. I didn't ask.

      There was a joke among soldiers that went out "on the economy"...those that spent there free time in German places with Germans...that everybody's grandfather fought on the Eastern Front. I guess all the veterans of the Western Front had ended up in East Germany :). I did meet one man who was captured in North Africa and sent to prison camp in Texas.

      We were in old Nazi barracks so it would cross you're mind occasionally but, it wasn't something I spent much dime thinking about. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and the people I got to know. Ten years later my cousin, with V Corps, was stationed in Heidelberg...when he wasn't in Iraq...and he really fell in love with it and was basically adopted by a local family. He goes back for Christmas there.

      Still...the Dr Strangelove's, the Brauns, maybe my friend's grandfather who had "business" in Chili...heavy types...