Peter Sellers Behind the Camera — an exhibition of photos taken by the late comedian, and chosen by his daughter Sarah — opens on 26 October. We take a look at some of the places in London connected to the man who created Dr Strangelove and Inspector Clouseau.
10 Muswell Hill Road
Though Peter Sellers was born in Portsmouth, much of his childhood played out in north London. Go to Muswell Hill Road, just around the corner from Highgate station, and you'll find the small cottage where he moved to aged 11, while attending St Aloysius’ College on Hornsey Lane. Marking the spot is a blue plaque, installed by the Dead Comics Society (now the British Comedy Society). Until this point, very few comedians had been celebrated with a monument like this. Sellers would go on to own houses in Muswell Hill and Whetstone, as his career (and bank account) started to snowball.
Major Bloodnok. Willium "Mate" Cobblers. Bluebottle: just three of an entire circus of characters created for The Goon Show by Sellers, and recorded at the Camden Theatre — now Koko. From 1951-1960 (plus a few reunion gigs) Sellers, along with Harry Seacombe, Spike Milligan and a host of regular backing musicians, got up to nonsense like this:
"...people used to fight to get in there, fight to get tickets for the recording at the Camden Theatre," reminisced Harry Secombe, and if we were around back then we'd be doing the same; the Goons were an unquantifiable influence on the comedy acts that followed (many from London) — from Monty Python to The Mighty Boosh. And though Sellers went on to become hot stuff in Hollywood, he always seemed at his happiest — and funniest — on the boards in Camden. A plaque on the front of Koko remembers the Goons. See also: The Grafton Arms (formerly The Strutton Arms) in Victoria, where the Goons performed in their formative days
The Stanley Kubrick Archive
When Stanley Kubrick moved to Hampstead, he stalked Sellers until the actor finally caved in, agreeing to act in Cold War comedy Dr Strangelove. Sellers had originally agreed to play four parts, but feigned a broken leg so he ended up doing only three (lazy). Nonetheless, during the shooting of this film, the two perfectionists struck up a friendship, some of which is recorded in letters held at the Stanley Kubrick Archive in Elephant and Castle (we couldn't get access so we don't know what the letters say, aside from that at one point Sellers tells Kubrick that Surrey is the loveliest county in England). The archive also holds both press and behind-the-scenes images from Dr Strangelove and Lolita (the 1962 Kubrick film in which Sellers plays chameleon-like paedo Clare Quilty).
The Dorchester and Golders Green Crematorium
Sellers had never been to Golders Green crematorium in his life, but on 21 July 1980, something compelled him to do so, and he went to visit the ashes of his parents. One day later, as he ate in his Dorchester Hotel suite, Sellers suffered a heart attack, and a couple of days after that, he died. Soon, Sellers was back at Golders Green. A simple plaque in the crematorium (above) is nestled among those belonging to family and fellow performers, such as Ray Ellington from the Goon Show days. At Sellers's prior request, In The Mood was played at his funeral. See also: the Spike Milligan statue unveiled in Finchley last year
Inspector Clouseau moustache
During our research for this article, we found something else we just had to include. A hair salon in Park Royal sells this Inspector Clouseau moustache made with real human hair. £19.99 inc. VAT. Get yourself a magnifying glass, trench coat and cod French accent, and give yourself hours of pleasure.
Peter Sellers: Behind the Camera is on at 19 Beauchamp Place, SW3 1NQ, from 16 October-1 November. Entry is free.