Pink Panther's Herbert Lom dies

At 95

Actor Herbert Lom, best known for playing the long-suffering Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films, has died at the age of 95.

Born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in Prague, he fled to England in 1939 to escape the impending Nazi occupation

His 60-year career also included the classic 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykiller, Spartacus, and Stephen King's The Dead Zone.

He  first starred opposite Peter Sellers in 1964's A Shot In The Dark as Inspector Clouseau's boss, driven to breakdown by his charge's incompetence. He would go on to star in seven Pink Panther films - including the ill-advised 1993 Son Of The Pink Panther.

He said his famous wink came about by accident, after Sellers' character gave him an encouraging wink. 'I started winking out of nervousness, and couldn't stop,' he said in a 2004 interview. '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."'

For many years after the war he was not allowed into America, as the authorities thought he was a Communist sympathiser, so built his career in the UK. When Rodgers and Hammerstein invited him to New York to audition for the part of the King of Siam in The King And I when it transferred from Broadway to the West, they had to go to Canada instead. Lom sang one verse and got the role that would provide his first big break.

His family said he died peacefully in his sleep today.

Here he is in action:

Published: 27 Sep 2012

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