Monday, September 08, 2008
Happy Birthday, Peter Sellers
Peter Sellers' life is a study in contradictions.
In his personal life he was a petulant prima donna, often intolerably arrogant and churlish on the set of his latest film, absentee at best as a parent, excessively fond for drugs and alcohol, and frequently physically and emotionally abusive towards his children and wives. However, in his life as a performer his talents as a mimic and his range as an actor were almost unmatched by anyone else in film history. He had a phenomenal ability to completely lose himself in the person of the role he was playing to the point that his real personality was nowhere to be found. Sellers felt far more comfortable adopting the guise of someone else, so much so that he frequently gave interviews completely in character.
Actors and actresses whose personal conduct was less than stellar and fraught with turmoil provide us with a challenge. If we base our opinion of them entirely upon their stature as matinee idols and box office successes--only by the images they committed to celluloid, then some would argue we are condoning their reprehensible personal conduct. Others think holding everyone to these exacting standards would necessitate dismissal of a great many movie stars, several of which, like Sellers, have improved the medium wholesale, and inspired new generations of cinema talent.
Conjecture and speculation aside, Peter Sellers would have been 83 today.