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‘My biggest surprise was finding Richler’s name attached’

Canadian author Mordecai Richler appears in the credits of two 1957 comedic short films by Peter Sellers.

Barrie Davis/The Globe and Mail

This case needs an Inspector Clouseau. Two Peter Sellers comedy shorts from 1957 reappeared in Britain recently, and hardly anything is known about them beyond what is listed in the credits, which include a co-writing mention for Mordecai Richler.

Insomnia Is Good For You and Dearth of a Salesman were both made after the start of Sellers's cinema career, but before he became a star. Both of the 30-minute films are parodies of British informational films of the period, with more voice-over than dialogue, according to programmers at the Southend Film Festival. The festival plans to show the films in May in the English coastal town of Southend-on-Sea, east of London.

According to London rare-book dealer Neil Pearson, who owns the only known copy of the Insomnia script, copies of the films were discovered in a production company garbage bin by a man named Robert Farrow, who wrote up his discovery in the newsletter of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society in 2004. Farrow then dropped out of sight, resurfacing only recently with the films.

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"The circumstances of [Richler's] involvement, and his relationship with his co-writer Lewis Greifer, are unknown to me, and to anyone I've asked," said Pearson in an e-mail exchange. His copy of the mimeographed Insomnia script is priced at £9,500 (about $16,400). Greifer, who died in 2003, spent much of his career as a TV writer, contributing several scripts to the Dr. Who series.

Richler's involvement was new to his most recent biographer, Charles Foran. "My biggest surprise was finding Richler's name attached," he said by e-mail. "I'd been told he used a pseudonym for a few early flirtations with scriptwriting."

"1957. My father would have been 26. Wow," Jacob Richler said in an e-mail. The novelist's son knew nothing of the Sellers films until journalists began contacting him about them.

Richler is said to have made uncredited contributions to the classic "kitchen sink" drama, Room at the Top, in 1959. His most prominent and successful screenwriting efforts were adaptations of his own novels, starting with The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in 1974.

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About the Author

Robert Everett-Green is a feature writer at The Globe and Mail. He was born in Edmonton and grew up there and on a farm in eastern Alberta. He was a professional musician for several years before leaving that task to better hands. More


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