Sunday, 9 June 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther

Peter Sellers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther.

The Pink Panther is a mostly uninteresting film about a thief Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven) who tries stealing the Pink Panther diamond from a foreign Princess.

The reason I saw mostly uninteresting because on the surface it is a standard caper comedy of sorts. David Niven is pretty dull in the lead role, the female characters are quite boring, and I'll be getting to Robert Wagner in a bit. If you were to record my reactions to this film as it preceded you would notice a quite bit of boredom but semi frequent bits of me bursting out in laughter. Now these bits were not a coincidence but rather it indicated whenever the only saving grace of this film was on screen which of course is Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers is this movie and the film's biggest problem is that he is a supporting character here because the only time the film comes to life is when Sellers shows up as the hapless Inspector Clouseau.

It is rather interesting to note that Clouseau was only a side character in this film when the series that came out about it became excursively about Clouseau. Sellers's turn here is a bit different in that he does not do that (purposefully) over the top French accent in this film which he adopted for his later performances. His accent is much more muted this time and is almost the type of accent he might use if he was trying to portray the Inspector in a serious fashion. Perhaps though his somewhat more serious demeanor this time actually makes his slap stick all the funnier like for his first scene where he seriously talks about catching the thief but then falls in a rather amusing fashion from pushing a big globe too hard.

Sellers is comedic gold here and his timing is flawless here always trying to get the most out of any scene no matter what. His performance is almost somewhat curious in that he does kind of play it straight in a way well going completely absurd at the same time. He never seems like he is trying to be funny, but perhaps that is why he is so funny. I think perhaps comedic timing is too often overlooked as this film is a great example of its importance. Robert Wagner as the Lytton's nephew actually has slap stick moments as well, but he does not illicit a single laugh because his performance of it is well rather forced. He never flows with the material the way Sellers does, and whenever he was clearly trying for laughs all I thought was "Wagner stop trying to be funny, you’re not funny, Sellers is funny".

Sellers probably does not get enough screen time here but he always does pick up the film with his antics throughout. He is just always on trying to bring something funny in every scene that would otherwise be dull. It is pretty fascinating the way Sellers will do this in either a big way like his reaction to  lighting a Roman candle instead of regular one as well as his line delivery of "What kind of candle is zis?", or even in a small way like when he accidentally kisses a man's hand instead of a the Princesses. He's consistently energetic and fun during the picture and I would say the only problem with this might be I actually only cared about him so when the other characters mocked him all I could think was "Shut up at least he's funny".

This is probably one of the most incredible examples of an actor stealing a show. David Niven meant this to be his film as well as his franchise, but Peter Sellers not only stole the film from right under him but the series as well. It is no wonder he did this not only because Niven doesn't do much with his role, but as well because Sellers is the movie. The biggest problem with the film is that there is not enough Sellers to go around and that does diminish just how much he can do for the film as a whole. Whenever he is on screen he is a delight and the film actually is the comedy it is meant to be. This is a true comedic gem even though it is in the rough, nevertheless this performance shows exactly why Sellers went on to play the role as many times as he did.


RatedRStar said...

I always thought A Shot In The Dark was the best Panther movie by default of the others ones being pretty poor if im honest, but Sellers was always a great actor.

did you ever see A Hard Days Night with The Beatles, Louis?, cause I wondered what your thoughts were on the acting from The Beatles themselves lol.

Louis Morgan said...

I have seen it and I would say there is a good reason none of them really had much of an acting career.

RatedRStar said...

=D haha lol, I would say the best was probably Ringo Starr only because he gets the most screen time and comes off as the most likable lol, I thought Wilfrid Brambell was kinda amusing as the grandfather lol.

Michael Patison said...

I agree that Brambell was the best part of the film. I haven't seen it in a long time, though, so I couldn't really say exactly how good he is nor could I say which of the 4 I preferred.

Michael Patison said...

I also agree that A Shot in the Dark is the best Pink Panther movie by default, which isn't to say it's not very entertaining and funny, it's just, as you said, because the others weren't too good.

Mark said...

What did you think of Steve Martin as Inspecter Clouseau? I never saw the remake, but I could tell from the trailers that he was not going to be good.

Anonymous said...

I love this film and I thought he was leading. BTW The Return of the Pink Panther is my favorite.

Michael Patison said...

I thought Martin was just fine, but absolutely nothing special. He was funny at points, but got rather over the top at points. My favorite scene is probably his "hamburger" scene, but it's been 4 or 5 years since I last saw it. I actually preferred Jean Reno as he gave his character some interesting enough background with very little to work with. Overall I'd probably give the film a 2 or a 2.5 because it did have its moments with a number of truly funny and well-done gags, but it suffered too much elsewhere for anything to come of the film as a whole.

If you want terrible, then Martin's Pink Panther 2 was simply goddawful

Edward L. said...

I like all the Sellers Pink Panther films - they have a real childhood nostalgia for me, but I've also seen them more recently and they hold up well for me as an adult too. I like the glamorous, globe-trotting side of them, as well as the daft humour.

I agree with Anonymous, I think I like The Return of the Pink Panther best, but I like them all quite a bit - I even braved Inspector Clouseau with Alan Arkin recently and was surprised as to how much I enjoyed that too!

I also agree with Anonymous that I think Sellers is lead in this film - or at least borderline lead. But maybe that's just because he makes such an impact, and because he was so clearly the lead in all his subsequent Panther films.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: Brambell was definitely the best part of the film. As for Ringo I guess he was the best, although that is not saying much, but maybe that is why Help was sorta built around him and perhaps why he did have the most of an acting career out of the four.

I have to admit I have liked all of the Seller's panther films that I have seen actually as I liked Sellers in all them.

I have not seen Steve Martin's version and I don't really intend to.