GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN; BEING THERE IS ALL OF IT!
Adapted by Jerzy Kozinsky from his own novel, the movie's about a simple-minded, middle-aged gardener who, after a lifetime of seclusion and safety in a Washington, D.C. townhouse, gets his first exposure to reality beyond the walls of his sheltered existence.
His only reference to the world is through his childlike addiction to television, and when a chance encounter brings him into the inner fold of a dying billionaire (Melvyn Douglas), he suddenly finds himself the toast of Washington's political elite.
His simple phrases about gardening are misinterpreted as anything from economic predictions to sage political advice, and under the sharp direction of Hal Ashby, Sellers has the audacity to take this comedic conceit to its logical extreme.
Being There is not for all tastes, especially not for those who don't appreciate comedic subtlety. But as a showcase for the daring genius of Peter Sellers, this is a classic movie in a category all its own.
Chauncey Gardner was the role of a lifetime for Peter Sellers. He first read the book, wrote the author and said "I'll meet you in the garden" and left his phone number. Years later after much effort the movie was made. Chauncey was Peter Sellers, there is no doubt.
Chauncey was what we would call a mentally disabled man. He grew up a sheltered man in Washington, DC, and his life revolved around his gardening and television. What Chauncey knew of life came from that televison, and wherever Chauncey went was a remote control. When the owner of the home he lived in died, Chauncey was left out in the cold and walking the streets of Washington. He tried to control his life with his remote control-pointing it at a mugger to rid himself of this scene. A chance auto accident and Chauncey is now in the mansion of one of the wealthiest men in Washington, Melvyn Douglas. Who by the way won an Oscar for this performance. He is brought to this mansion by this man's wife, Eve played by Shirley McLain. The mansion was the Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina, and quite a place it is
Life changes for Chauncey. His innocence and simplicity is taken for extreme intelligence and foresight. The President comes to call. and he is so taken with Chauncey's remarks comparing life, finance and government to gardening that he mentions his name on a televisions address. The populace being what we are believed everything that Chauncey says is true because everyone in Washington believes it is true. Chauncey is wanted for interviews by all of the television stations and newspapers. Chauncey tells them he does not read newspapers or write he watches television. Everyone is struck by this man's ability to reveal his inner self. Even, Eve loves Chauncey, and when she wants to become romantic, he tells her he likes to watch. Eve performs for him and she certainly enjoys it, but Chauncey is enjoying his television. Chauncey becomes a household name, although he is quite oblivious to this as his life centers around what television show he will watch from day to day. The lesson to be learned is that nothing is as it seems. We all need to listen to our own voices and not become part of the gaggle that follows and believes everything said by our celebrities and politicians. Peter Sellers died soon after this role and never lived to reap the rewards of this stellar performance. However, we are left with this marvelous movie and a small piece of history.