Peter Ustinov

1 minute read
Richard Corliss

It was as if all the world’s wit were rolled into one portly fellow. PETER USTINOV, who died last week at 82, once boasted, “I have Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French and Ethiopian blood in my veins” (his great-grandfather wedded the Princess of Ethiopia). He spoke six languages, and a few others of his own comic invention. With gifts too wide-ranging to be contained in one art form, he wrote hit plays (Romanoff and Juliet) and books of nonfiction and short stories. He could be an excellent film director (Billy Budd) and a serious Shakespearean (King Lear at Stratford, Ont.). He won Supporting Actor Oscars for Spartacus and Topkapi, and earned his greatest movie renown as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, as in the film of Death on the Nile. His spirit was essentially impish (as on a comedy album for which he provided all the voices and sound effects); his greatest role was Peter Ustinov, inexhaustible raconteur. The title of his 1977 autobiography summed up the world’s opinion of this engaging, capacious talent: Dear Me.


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