PETER SELLERS: The Authorized Biography by Alexander Walker

PETER SELLERS: The Authorized Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Sellers offspring who wrote P.S. I Love You (p. 57) hardly appear at all in this ""authorized"" biography. Indeed, except for a few petty digs at wife #2 Britt Ekland and a saint-like portrait of wife #4 Lynn (who did the ""authorizing""), British film critic Walker steadily downplays Sellers' depressing private life in order to concentrate on the movie-making career--blending perceptive critiques with helpful interview material from such Sellers colleagues as Stanley Kubrick, Blake Edwards, and the Boulting brothers. Once past a tacky the-day-he-died prologue (which includes a defense of Sellers' controversial Last Will & Testament), Walker quickly sketches in the early life: ""the claustrophobic closeness between mother and son,"" the touring of music-halls and Army bases, the breakthrough as a mimic on radio, the Goon Show celebrity, the brief and disastrous stab at a legitimate-stage appearance (directed by Sir Peter Hall). But the films are what Walker is most interested in--especially Sellers' conscious growth from mimic to comic to (in Being There) character actor; and virtually every movie (including those little known in the US) receives some intelligent commentary, along with intriguing material on backstage feuds (with Edwards, Orson Welles, et al.) and reasonable speculation on the myth of Sellers as the ""faceless"" man who was mystically ""taken over"" by his roles. True, Walker does refer to Sellers' childish insecurities, his restlessness, his extravagances, his affairs, illnesses, and superstitions; he links Sellers first heart attack to both excessive exercise and use of a sex-stimulant drug; and, as for Sophia Loren, Walker thinks it's likely that Sellers ""fantasized the whole affair."" But the off-screen Sellers remains blurry here--and celebrity-gossip fans will not be much entertained (they may prefer the dreary, violent, sordid detail of P.S. I Love You). For devotees of Sellers' artistry, however: an informative, if often sketchy, profile/survey.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1982
Publisher: Macmillan