Born: September 11, 1917; Died: September 27, 2012.
Czech-born film star Herbert Lom, best known as the deranged Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the Pink Panther comedy films, has died, aged 95.
Born into a poor aristocratic family in Prague in 1917, he shortened his complicated name (Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevic ze Schluderpacheru) to Lom and appeared in a handful of locally made movies before emigrating to Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War and making his home here.
He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London before making his English language acting debut in 1940 film Mein Kampf – My Crimes. He was offered a seven-year contract with Twentieth Century Fox and secured several lead roles in the 1940s, including Napoleon in The Young Mr Pitt.
During an acting career of more than 60 years he appeared with stars such as Kirk Douglas, Sir Alec Guinness and Charlton Heston. His film career spanned 100 films, including Spartacus and El Cid, and included more than its fair share of villains. "In English eyes all foreigners are sinister," he said in 1991.
He portrayed Napoleon Bonaparte again 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. Two years later he collaborated with Peter Sellers in Ealing comedy The Ladykillers, and they would work together again in the 1960s and 1970s on the Pink Panther series.
In them Lom played the increasingly crazed Dreyfus, the boss of Seller's hapless Inspector Clouseau, and the success of his character owed much to Lom. In an interview in 2004, Lom recalled that he invented the nervous twitch that became Dreyfus's trademark.
"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.'"
His later acting career saw him work with director David Cronenberg in a 1983 adaptation of Stephen King novel The Dead Zone. He also wrote two novels, Enter A Spy in 1971 and Dr Guillotine in 1993.
Lom married Dina Schea in 1948. They had two sons, Alec and Nick, before divorcing in 1971. He had a daughter, Josephine, with Brigitte Appleby.
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