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The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Paperback – February 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557833575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557833570
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,770,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For one man to have been behind the completely mad roles of Inspector Clouseau, Dr. Strangelove, and Clare Quilty in Lolita is nuts in itself. Any surprise then that Peter Sellers, the comic genius who pulled it all off, was himself a bit of a mad bugger? Roger Lewis recounts the details of Sellers's rise to fame and the sordid mess he made of it in this telling biography. The book succeeds at depicting the actor's artistic genius while also describing the myriad obsessions that ruled his personal life. Drugs, domestic abuse, womanizing, mysticism, and unbridled ruthlessness all fit into the story. As Lewis himself describes it, "What made Sellers an artist on the grand scale was what made him mad: the intensity and excitement of his imagination." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This dense, maddening and frequently brilliant book on the life and career of the British actor Peter Sellers (1925-1980) isn't a biography in any conventional sense. Rather, it's an epic meditation on talent and rampant egomania, a rambling improvisation on the theme of Sellers's intermittent genius as a performer and his relentless monstrousness as a person, by the erstwhile chief book reviewer for the British magazine Punch. There is a great deal here to frustrate the reader: the book doesn't follow Sellers's career chronologically, but swoops back and forth in time, and as many pages are devoted to the exegeses of flops such as Casino Royale and obscurities such as Ghost in the Noonday Sun (which was never released theatrically) as to such successes as The Ladykillers and Dr. Strangelove. Nearly all of the many anecdotes and reminiscences about Sellers by his co-workers over the years?from Spike Milligan to Blake Edwards?come to the same conclusion: that he was a genius but also a monumental jerk, a borderline psychopath. The book is likely to be especially frustrating to American readers, as it assumes an intimacy not only with Sellers's work but with postwar British pop culture in general. If one has never heard of the Goon Show and has no idea who Bluebottle is, this is a very difficult book to track. Readers who can adjust to Lewis's aggressively personal tone, however, and who are willing to wade through references to unfamiliar performers and movies, will find much of the book stunning. Lewis's analyses of the films, even the obscure ones, are masterly, and his understanding of how Sellers's megalomania fed and was fed by his performances is shrewd, insightful and forgiving. In the end, the book itself plays like one of Sellers's antic, multicharacter turns: quicksilver, hard to follow, often self-indulgent?but, ultimately, unforgettable. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is possibly the worst book I have ever read.
Its not a proper biography, but rather a character essay of a man with no character at all.
I was hoping for a much better, more balanced book than this.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Pirlo on June 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Whilst this book did not make me physically ill, it has come closer than anything I have ever read.
Firstly, the book is interminably long- 890 of the 1050 pages are devoted to the years up to 1963, effectively dealing with the first ten years of Sellers' significant work. The years from 1963 to 1980 (from marriage to Britt Ekland) are rushed through on the excuse that Sellers was basically repeating himself. I suspect that the real reason is that the long suffering publishers balked at the prospect of a further 1,000 pages.
The most infuriating thing is that having laboured through the author's endless deviations and detours (is anyone interested in 4 pages on Lewis' views of the non-Sellers Kubrick films), he explains finally that the style was deliberately artful, and that he had inserted a fallible narrator into the text.
Whilst this may be a thrilling joke for anyone reading for a degree in English, it is too glib and does not excuse Lewis' appalling writing style. Not since Will Self has an author so delighted in obscure words; the book is padded with endless footnotes and agents' letters (most of which are simply source material and not interested other than to an entertainment lawyer. Lewis' insertion of his own opinions and 'goonish' sense of humour grates more than I can describe.
Lewis's essential point is that Sellers was a mother-loving monster who was dreadful to his family and anyone he worked with. Repetition adds little, and the organisation of the book is so chaotic that I began to feel as if I had read the plot of 'Being There' over ten times by the end of this book.
Sheer bloody mindedness got me through this mess of a book. How it ever came to be published is beyond me. It is a testament to the arrogance of the author and the feebleness of the editor (was there one?) to control this beast.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thankfully, I borrowed this garbage from the library and didn't purchase it.
The problem with this book is that the writer makes outrageous claims based on anecdotal evidence. He claims that because Peter Sellers enjoyed "Harold and Maude" he had an incestuous fantasy about his mother. He waits until the end of the book and asks, "Was he a homosexual?". Then, he doesn't answer this question at all. He just picks up on a common theme in the films Peter was in. (Well, was he homosexual or incestuous towards his mother?) But THIS is the real key to why this book is meaningless....
The author quotes Peter Sellers from an interview he did AFTER HE DIED through a medium. Twice.
He makes the argument that Peter was insane, and certainly SOME of his behaviour was strange, but he fails in his attempts. The author has the audacity to second-guess Kubrick's (wise) decision to remove the original ending of Dr. Strangelove. And he further illustrates his lack of insight concerning Being There. Peter commented how Chance's life is almost like Heaven. The author concludes that anyone who has an ounce of sanity would think Chance's life hell. Obviously, this man has no concept of Buddhism.
All in all, avoid this book at all costs. I recommend Ed Sikov's "Mr. Strangelove" instead.
Oh, and keep in mind that the photograph of Peter in a hospital in this book has since been established as a fraud.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By E. C. O'Donovan on October 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are interesting points and anecdotes related in this overly-long biography, but Lewis seems unable to distinguish between detail and repetition.
I have read other biographies of Peter Sellers - whichever way you look at him a fascinating man. How this bio differs in the greatest way from others is that the author seems to be absolutely determined to interpret everything Peter Sellers did or said, and everything anyone else says about him, in a negative way. I'm sure, as with any complex and highly gifted person, Sellers had his "issues".....and fame, as it seems to, certainly developed serious problems. But no balance between the good and bad seems to be drawn here. Lewis focuses almost solely on the negative and seems to have selected his material with the aim of portraying only the worst of Sellers, particularly regarding his personal character and relationships.
Lewis virtually ignores any good times - and there were many, if Graham Stark's "Remembering Peter Sellers" (highly recommended) is reliable - and good and lasting friendships, instead focusing on, it would seem, every dispute and source of conflict that ever arose in his life.
Overall this book succeeds only in giving a strongly negative slant to someone at least deserving respect.One has to ask: was the author's main aim here to actually portray "the real Peter Sellers" or to dishonour his memory?
If you look at the people who loved this man...those who he hurt but who still liked him...those who disliked him but ultimately respected him....if you look at what they have said about Sellers (without it being set in a biased context which makes even praise sound negative) you will find a truer version of the man than this book shows.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Merritt on December 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Peter Sellers was an amazing comic force, but also a flawed human being; often quite difficult to work with and given to bouts of childishness. Thus, one would not expect a biography of his life to paint a glowing portrait. However, nor should one have to wade through this rubbish, from an author who writes like he works for "Hard Copy" and who liberally fills in the blanks with his own imagination, drumming up entire conversations and thought processes. A lot of research went into this book, no doubt, but a lot of research was left out, as well. This is lazy and shoddy biographical writing, and it does an injustice to a gifted actor.
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