Saturday, March 7, 2009

The World of Peter Sellers

In the last 48 hours, I've watched two movies starring Peter Sellers.

The first was The World of Henry Orient. In the movie, Sellers plays a concert pianist whose every move is followed around by two thirteen year old girls. Sellers is funny here, but the real heart of the movie is the two girls, Gil (Merrie Spaeth) and Val (Elizabeth "Tippy" Walker). The movie was a major inspiration for Ghost World, and fans of that film can see similarities between the story of Enid and Becky following Seymour around, and Gil and Val following Henry around in this movie.

Henry Orient is usually a Christmas movie for me (The Holidays are never complete for me without watching Meet Me In St. Louis and this one), but lately, I've been very fascinated with the story of Elizabeth "Tippy" Walker, who played the incorrigible Valerie Boyd. At Henry Orient's IMDb board, she's made some very detailed posts about the movie, her touch-and-go post-Orient career, and why she left the business. These days, Elizabeth is an artist and an activist for the homeless, an incredible contrast from her co-star Merrie Spaeth, who played a big role in orchestrating smear campaigns against John McCain (South Carolina in 2000, she she says she regrets) and John Kerry (Swift Boat Vets for Truth). Elizabeth mentioned in one thread that she had a casting contact in New York back in 2005, so it sounds like she has some interest in acting again.

Last night after The Soup, I did some channel surfing to find that nothing was on (What else is new?). After coming across a program on PBS hosted by Michelle Phillips that seemed to be designed specifically for pledge drives, I decided to put on my DVD of I Love You, Alice B. Toklas on a lark.

Alice has sellers playing Harold Fine, a 35 year old Lawyer/Mama's Boy who's reluctantly engaged to Joyce (Joyce Van Patten). Overwhelmed by the expectations put upon him by his Jewish family, he begins to gravitate toward Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young), a friend of his hippie brother's, and after bailing out on his wedding, drops out himself.

Someone on YouTube posted one of the funniest scenes in the movie, where Nancy makes Harold some "Groovy Brownies":

The movie is very dated, but the story is a solid one: a man who goes to the extreme to find out what he wants for himself. If you're looking for pre-Easy Rider psychedelic kitsch, this is it. A lot more watchable than the genuinely awful Skidoo, in my opinion.

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