PETER Sellers was born Richard Henry Sellers but his parents gave him the nickname Peter after his stillborn elder brother.

He was exposed to the variety circuit at a young age through his parents and became a versatile performer.

He excelled at dancing, drumming - touring with several jazz bands - and playing the banjo and ukulele.

During the Second World War he served with the Royal Air Force and rose to the rank of corporal despite being relegated to ground staff duties due to poor eyesight.

While he was with the RAF he joined the Entertainments National Service Association, giving him a chance to develop his comedy and drumming skills.

It is said that he also entertained his friends with impersonations of his superiors which he drew on for his portrayal of RAF officer Lionel Mandrake in Dr Strangelove.

After the war Sellers was working in variety theatres but managed to talk his way into getting a role as a Goon on radio programme The Goon Show alongside Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine.

He got his break into cinema in the early 50s, first with Goons films before moving onto comedies such as Orders are Orders, The Ladykillers, The Case of the Mukkinese Battle and Up the Creek.

He found international acclaim with The Millionairess, which co-starred Sophia Loren in 1960 and proved the be a great scene-stealer with his role of Quilty in Lolita.

In Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb he played three very different characters but it is for his role as the bumbling Inspector Cloussseau in the Pink Panther movies that he is best remembered.

Sellers had a colourful personal life. He often clashed with actors and directors and was considered eccentric and difficult by many and sometimes cruel and even violent.

It is thought that some of his behaviour may have been exacerbated by substance abuse and it is believed that this also led to a series of heart attacks he suffered in the 1960s.

He was married four times - to actress Anne Howe (1951-61), actress Britt Ekland (1964-8), model Miranda Quarry (1970-4) and actress Lynne Frederick (1977-80), having two children with Howe and one with Ekland.

He died of a heart attack a month before he was due to undergo heart surgery.

In his will he asked for Glenn Miller's In the Mood to be played at his funeral. This was considered to be his last joke as his friends knew he hated it.

Name: Peter Sellers OCCUPATION: comedian and film star DATE OF BIRTH: September 8, 1925 died: July 24, 1980 Local link: Was born in Southsea