In late 1964, when he was at the height of his success, Peter Sellers filmed a series of vaudevillian sketches with a group of wealthy and socially elite friends. He edited the scenes together into a movie and called it I Say I Say I Say.
The ten-minute film was made during a weekend at the home of Jocelyn and Jane Stevens. Jocelyn Stevens was the publisher of Queen magazine and had recently gained notoriety by financing the controversial pirate radio ship Caroline–hence the reference to “the Duke and Duchess of Caroline.” A drawing of the pirate ship appears at the beginning of the film on top of the Duke and Duchess’s coat of arms, with its symbols for money and guns and the Latin motto “Errare Humanum Est” (“To Err is Human”).
Sellers is joined in the film by his pregnant wife Britt Ekland, the Stevenses, Princess Margaret and her husband Anthony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. Sellers jokingly called the enterprise “Snowdodeodo Productions.” In one scene, Lord Snowdon appears as a rather effeminate gangster. But the most famous episode features Sellers as “The Great Berko,” recently returned from his “dramatic success at the Workmen’s Institute, Penge,” who presents an uncanny impersonation of Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret. Sellers disappears behind a screen and out comes–of course–the real Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II.
I Say I Say I Say was locked away in the Sellers family archives until about 1995, when the BBC produced The Peter Sellers Story. The film was never intended for public exhibition. “It was totally improvised,” Lord Snowdon told The Telegraph in 2004. “Peter had a camera that he wanted to try out. It was all very haphazard. We made the whole thing in I should think two hours.”