Home movies made by the late Peter Sellers, including one of him doing a spoof conjuring trick with Princess Margaret, were shown for the first time yesterday, revealing an obsessive side to the comedian, writes David Lister.
Sellers documented much of his personal and professional life on he been obtained by the BBC after 12 years of negotiations. Many are of him with his family, some with the Goons, others with co-stars such as Sophia Loren.
The most extraordinary is where he disappears behind a screen, promising to transform himself into Princess Margaret "in 11 seconds flat". Eleven seconds later, the princess does indeed appear, dancing about in Goon Show-style and wearing a skirt and socks. That particular home movie was made as a birthday present to the Queen in the early Sixties. In others, he does a commentary on his son, Michael, in the voice of his Goon Show creation Bluebottle, and of the gadget-obsessed Sellers cavorting around in a fork-lift truck on the set of I'm all right, Jack.
Excerpts will be shown in a three-part Arena series on Sellers' life on BBC 2 next month. While BBC head of arts Kim Evans claimed the showing of private home movies added a new dimension to the usual television biography, the memories for Sellers' family were not necessarily happy ones.
His former wife, the actress Britt Ekland, refused to allow the BBC to show intimate moments between her and Sellers. She told the Arena director Peter Lyden it was an unhappy part of her life and she did not want to be seen as the ex-Mrs Sellers. But moments from their wedding will be shown.
Sellers' son, Michael, recalls: "I remember he always had a light meter round his neck; I was light-meter height." His mother, Sellers' first wife, the actress Anne Levy, who was at yesterday's press launch with veteran British stars such as Liz Fraser, Herbert Lom and Ian Carmichael, recalled: "He became besotted by Sophia Loren. He then treated me as his mother. It got very difficult. Every character he played, he brought home, he'd come home as the Indian doctor or some little Welshman. It was unnerving, a bit like living on the edge of a precipice."
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