'Pink Panther' star Herbert Lom dies at 95
Czechoslovakian actor was quintessential character actor, specializing in 'comic villains'
Actor Herbert Lom, best known as the chief inspector in "Pink Panther," who made Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau's life a living hell, has died at the age of 95. With his swimming eyes, throaty laugh and threatening - but not nearly threatening enough demeanor, Lom was one of the last of a dying breed - a character actor who specialized in "comic villains."
With his swimming eyes, throaty laugh and threatening - but not nearly threatening enough demeanor, Herbert Lom was one of the last of a dying breed - a character actor who specialized in "comic villains."
Born into a poor aristocratic family in Prague in 1917, he shortened his complicated name to Lom and appeared in a handful of locally made movies before immigrating to Britain before the outbreak of World War II. The Czechoslovakian made the United Kingdom his home, and began to star in a series of audience-pleasing films there.
"In English eyes all foreigners are sinister," he was quoted as saying resignedly in 1991.
He portrayed Napoleon Bonaparte twice, including in "War and Peace" in 1956 alongside Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn, and the King of Siam in the first London production of the stage musical "The King and I" in 1953.
He would later collaborate with comedic actor par excellence Peter Sellers in the dark comedy "The Ladykillers," and they would work together again in the 1960s and 1970s on the "Pink Panther" series.
Lom played the increasingly crazed Dreyfus alongside Sellers' hapless Inspector Clouseau. The success of his character owed much to Lom's own improvisations.
Lom recalled in a newspaper interview that he invented Dreyfus's nervous twitch that became his trademark gesture.
"I started winking out of nervousness, and couldn't stop," he said. "It wasn't in the script but (director) Blake Edwards loved it. But it became a problem. I made those films for 20 years, and after 10 years they ran out of good scripts.
"They used to say to me, 'Herbert, wink here, wink.' And I said, 'I'm not going to wink. You write a good scene and I won't have to wink.'"
Lom's other film roles include "Spartacus," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Mark of the Devil," "El Cid" and "Mysterious Island." His last film was the TV film "Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage" in 2004.
Lom found the time to author two novels, "Enter A Spy" published in 1971 and "Dr Guillotine" in 1993.
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