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Peter Sellers

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Richard Henry “Peter” Sellers, CBE (8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980) was an English comedian, actor, and performer, who came to prominence on the BBC radio series The Goon Show and later became a film star. He is regarded by many as one of the best actors of his generation.

Sellers was born in Southsea, Portsmouth, England, to a family of entertainers. Despite his real name being Richard Henry Sellers, his parents called him “Peter” from an early age, in memory of his older still-born brother of that name. He attended a Roman Catholic school, although his father Bill was Protestant and his mother Agnes (“Peg”) was Jewish.

Probably following his family in the variety circuit, Sellers learnt this popular yet difficult art and the immediate instinct of the “gag”. He was an incredibly versatile artist: an excellent dancer, a drummer good enough to tour with several jazz bands (an excellent clip of him drumming exists when he was a guest on the Steve Allen show in 1964), and a skillful player of the ukulele and banjo (family legend has it that Sellers’ father actually taught George Formby to play the ukulele). He is known to have performed at the Windmill Theatre.

During World War II, Sellers was an airman in the Royal Air Force, rising to corporal by the end of the war. During his leisure periods, he did impersonations of his superiors. This helped Sellers in his later film Dr. Strangelove.

His success was quite slow in coming. He phoned up a television producer pretending to be Kenneth Horne, who was currently in the show Much Binding in the Marsh, in order to get them to speak to him.

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