Peter Sellers, one of the most talented comic actors in the history of films and a man who made himself a legend in the 54 years of his life, died yesterday in London.
Sellers, the star of more than 40 hit movies, was taken to a hospital Tuesday after suffering a massive heart attack, his third since 1964. He sank into a coma yesterday, and his condition deteriorated steadily until his death in the early-morning hours.
In his film roles, Sellers created dozens of memorable characters, ranging from the power-drunk scientist Dr. Strangelove to the bumbling Inspector Clouseau of the immensely successful Pink Panther series.
Despite the enormous popularity generated by these characterizations and the skillful, satiric presentations of the foibles of his fellow man, Sellers confessed on one occassion: "I have no personality of my own whatsover, no personality to offer to the public.
"I can't do anything from within myself," he told an interviewer. "I have nothing to project. I've got so many inhibitions that I sometimes wonder whether I exist at all."
And although he explained that "I writhe when I see myself on the screen -- I mean I look such an idiot," millions stood in lines to see his work, and thousands of others fought for an opportunity to meet and talk with him.
He lived big, spent huge sums and was one of cinema's truly "hot" prospects, wanted everywhere for every conceivable role created by producers all over the world.
But he never rested between roles. His life was always full -- love affairs, four marriages and three divorces, illnesses, an extraordinary love of gadgets and a devotion to fast and expensive cars.