Herbert Lom, the Czech-born actor who appeared in a variety of English films, including classic Ealing comedy “The Ladykillers,” before becoming famous as the always-outraged boss of the inept Inspector Clouseau in seven “Pink Panther” movies, has died. He was 95.
Lom made his first “Pink Panther” appearance as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, perpetually exasperated to the point of twitching by the dimwitted detective played by Peter Sellers, in the second film in the Blake Edwards series, 1964’s “A Shot in the Dark,” and continued with the franchise through 1993’s “Son of the Pink Panther,” in which Roberto Benigni starred the illegitimate son of Clouseau.
Though Lom was a very hard-working actor for decades, his most successful period was the 1960s, with roles in epics “Spartacus” and “El Cid”; 1966 caper pic “Gambit,” in which he played Shahbandar, the richest man in the world (Alan Rickman plays the part in the 2012 Coen brothers remake, set for release in October); Hammer Films’ “The Phantom of the Opera,” in which he starred as the title character; adventure film “Mysterious Island,” in which he played Captain Nemo; and “Villa Rides,” starring Yul Brynner, in which he played a Mexican general.
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Lom made his English-language debut in Carol Reed’s 1942 biopic “The Young Mr. Pitt,” in which he had a small but memorable part as Napoleon (he would play the French emperor again in the 1956 film adaptation of “War and Peace”). With an accent that was hard to identify and his dark, dour look, the actor quickly found a niche in English thrillers, often playing Europeans with nefarious or at least questionable motives, as in “Hotel Reserve,” “Appointment in Crime” and noir masterpiece “Night and the City”; he played rare sympathetic roles as a kind (though still intense) psychiatrist in “The Seventh Veil” and an eccentric spy in Joel McCrea vehicle “Shoot First.” In the 1947 thriller “Dual Alibi,” he starred as twin trapeze artists.
Lom played a rougher sort of villain than he usually essayed in the North Africa-set thriller “Golden Salamander,” starring Trevor Howard, and he was a glowering if dapper anti-Semite who eagerly rushes to judgment in 1958’s “I Accuse,” the story of the Dreyfus Affair.
In 1954 the actor starred with Ginger Rogers and Stanley Baker in the melodrama “Twist of Fate” and showed a flair for comedy in 1954 Ealing effort “The Love Lottery,” starring David Niven, which led to his role the next year in “The Ladykillers,” wherein he first worked with Peter Sellers and put his trademark scowl to excellent comic use.
During the 1960s Lom took a stab at series television, starring in the British psychiatric drama “The Human Jungle” in 1963-64.
In the early 1970s the actor starred in a number of horror films, including “Count Dracula,” in which he played Van Helsing to Christopher Lee’s title character. Lom appeared in two versions of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” both titled “Ten Little Indians,” playing different characters in the 1974 and 1989 films.
Other credits later in Lom’s career included Walter Matthau-Glenda Jackson comedy “Hopscotch,” in 1980; David Cronenberg’s “The Dead Zone” in 1983; “The Pope Must Diet”; TV miniseries “Lace”; and “Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage” in 2004.
Lom also appeared occasionally onstage, starring as the King of Siam in the original London production of “The King and I” in 1953-55 and appearing as Napoleon again in a 1975 production of “Betzi” in London.
The actor also penned two books.
Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich Schluderpacheru (who understandably changed his name to Herbert Lom) was born in Prague to an aristocratic but impoverished family. He appeared in a couple of Czech films before fortuitously emigrating to the U.K. in January 1939, two months before Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.
During WWII he worked for the BBC as an announcer for the Czech and German section.
Lom was married three times; survivors include three children and seven grandchildren.