Comedian Peter Sellers was born on September 8th, 1925. Had he not died of a heart attack in 1980, he’d be 84 years old today.
How do you write the biography of a cipher? In Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers, that’s the daunting challenge veteran Hollywood biographer Ed Sikov tackles while exploring the life of one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed comic actors.
Peter Sellers’ uncanny talents as a mimic would inform everything from English radio’s Goon Show and the highly profitable — if increasingly broad — cycle of Inspector Clouseau Pink Panther films to his brilliant turn as Chauncey Gardiner in Being There, a role that had all too many discomforting parallels to Sellers’ own cryptic personality. Sikov reveals that the man long hailed as comedy’s greatest chameleon was in fact a tragic, troubled personal vacuum, the only child of a literal stage mother who indulged his every whim, yet left him a distinct void for a soul.
Sikov interviews many of the relatives, intimates, and survivors of Sellers that filled his alternately strange and spectacular life, while thoroughly chronicling every professional triumph and more than a few missteps. Sikov’s straightforward reporting, seasoned by his own dry wit, details the parts that made up the man, but the sum remains an ever compelling enigma.
As Lolita and Dr. Strangelove director Stanley Kubrick, no slouch in the personal riddle sweepstakes himself, once said of Sellers: “There is no such person.”