Recently while watching "The Return of the Pink Panther," I recalled the good times I spent with Peter Sellers.
When Blake Edwards died, I remembered the awkward relationship he had with Peter and that it was fraught with angst.
Despite what appeared to be successful team work, Peter and Blake fought over many things.
Peter did not want to keep rehashing the Pink Panther series and felt that filming sequels was a mistake and damaging to his career. Also, Blake Edwards had wanted Peter to have a face lift.
Because of Peter's bad heart, he was afraid of any operation, but in "Being There," Peter had lost his double chins and possibly had taken Blake's advice.
In my recent memoir in progress, I recall meeting Peter at a party in the Hollywood Hills. We were introduced to each other by the producer, Stan Dragotti. Stan and I wandered outside and sat in the courtyard. It was a warm summer's night and romance was in the air. Peter Sellers and Roman Polanski were exchanging stories.
"Peter and Roman, this is Carole Mallory," Stan said.
"How beautiful you are in the moonlight, Miss Mallory," Peter said, smiling. "It is Miss is it not?"
"For now, yes," I said.
Roman stood up and kissed my hand in a mock courtly manner.
"What brings you to this event?" Peter asked.
"The 'who' is my friend, Bruce. The 'what' is probably the same 'what' that brought you."
Peter laughed. "Ah, but aren't you being a bit presumptuous?"
"Why not? I'm wearing pink!"
"That's a good reason. I see your point! Stan told me you are a bit unusual aside from your beauty. You must be a Capricorn."
"How did you know?" I asked, shocked.
"My dear, I believe in astrology and the spirits. I'm a Virgo, myself."
"I dominate you."
"I think I'd like that. When?"
I began to laugh. Peter was fun. Roman, who had been watching, was having trouble sitting still. He was so happy to be exchanging stories with Peter.
Roman piped up. "Later, later, you two. We were in the middle of something. Peter, go on! What happened after you bought the fireworks?"
"Yes, yes, well, last Fourth of July, I was a guest on Sam Spiegel's yacht in the South of France and we were on the bay of St. Jean Cap Ferrat. The 'Malahne' was anchored in front of David Niven's home. I dressed in an old German army officer's uniform and announced over the loudspeaker in a German accent that we were about to torpedo the harbor."
Peter stood on a chair and saluted. "Wir ist going zu bomb ziz port Cap Ferrat in zehn minuten … guten tag, mine that kinder."
Peter sat down chuckling. "Well, there were foghorns, sirens, fireworks and a huge smokescreen. Sam had arranged it all for the Fourth of July. But the Frogs don't know a bloody thing about holiday. People were running out of their homes to see what the hell was going on. Ah, it was a sight!"
Peter was laughing so hard that he was almost in tears. Roman was holding his belly.
"Then when we saw the sirens from the squad cars and flashing lights, I got back on the loudspeaker and announced in the King's English that we would be pleased to accept Mr. Niven's luncheon invitation. We all had a great laugh at lunch, but the police who met us weren't too amused."
Of all the guests listening, Peter and Roman were laughing the hardest and reminded me to two kids playing hooky.
Peter loved pranks and loved to laugh. Frequently he would break up in the middle of his own stories and kill his own jokes.
Then there were times when he would laugh so hard that he would forget what he was saying and would repeat, "My, my now where was I?" Recalling funny situations made him happy. Laughter was his favorite orgasm.
Roman loved Peter and Peter loved Roman. They had worked together in "The Magic Christian."
"Tell us some Stanley Kubrick stories," Roman requested.
"Oh, you know, I'm not too comfortable at this gathering. I feel I'm on the Hollywood local at rush hour. Would you all like to come back to my home? I have some tapes of Spike Mulligan, Harry Secombe and myself from the early Goon Shows. Do you remember them from the '50s?"
I didn't, but Peter explained it was a radio show where he enjoyed his first real success. The show was outrageous and bizarre and became a cult hit in London. I felt Peter was happiest when he didn't care what people were thinking, but unfortunately he had to be performing a character to enjoy these feelings.
The satirical comedy of "The Goons" was anti-establishment, anarchic. We listened to the episodes where the Goons conquered Mt. Everest from the inside and the donation and installment proceedings of London's Albert Memorial to and on the moon.
While listening to the Goon tapes, I thought how much my father would have liked to meet Peter.
He worshipped Peter Sellers as I had. When I was in high school, a group of us would go to the Green Hill Movie Theatre on the Main Line to watch Peter's early British films. They had been made before he had been 'Hollywoodized.'
Peter hated Hollywood parties and the hypocrisy and the hustling. His favorite kind of evening was spent with his cronies playing tricks on the Hollywood establishment or listening to the tapes of this legendary British radio show, "The Goons." Peter was an Englishman through and through — clubby, insular and mistrustful of anything that wasn't English, too.
Some people feel he didn't get the Oscar for "Being There" because of the tatty things he'd been saying for years about the town and the industry.
In fact, Peter wasn't happy with the films he had made in Hollywood. In an attempt to make amends to Hollywood, around Oscar time Peter took an ad out in Variety declaring his only criticism of Hollywood was as a place to work. This double talk did not impress the industry and Peter was subsequently passed over.
Our first night together, he confessed that he hated living in a place with such lousy values — morally and artistically — and began to reminisce about the films he made in the '60s.
These were the films I had seen as a teenager on Philadelphia's Main Line — classics like "The Lady Killers" and "I'm All Right, Jack."
Peter felt this was some of his best work along with the "Goon" show. These roles were done before the money and the fame.
The money did come and the celebrity, but not the happiness he craved. I think by succumbing to Blake Edward’s pressure to film sequels to the Pink Panther films, Peter sometimes felt he was the Magic Christian himself. A Magic Christian was someone solely concerned with material gain — the personification of greed.
Peter was sad a lot of the time and I tried to make him smile.
From this night on, Peter and I laughed together for almost a year.
An amateur photographer, Peter asked to take my portrait with my toy poodle and allowed me to take his. I cherish these photographs that recall the good memories we shared.
When a journalist interviewed me from the Daily Mail about my memoir, "Loving Mailer," he asked about my relationship with Peter Sellers. “Blake Edwards said he was difficult,” the journalist said with that biting touch of British sarcasm.
“Peter Sellers was a pussycat,” I replied — because he was.