Pink Panther and Ladykillers star Herbert Lom dies aged 95

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Veteran actor Herbert Lom, fondly remembered for his roles in the Pink Panther films during his half-century of movie appearances, has died at the age of 95.

The Czech-born, London-based star, whose real name was Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevic ze Schluderpacheru, appeared in more than 100 films including classics such as Spartacus, El Cid and The Ladykillers.

He died peacefully in his sleep yesterday morning, his family said.

Lom moved to the UK before the Second World War and worked as a newscaster with the BBC’s overseas service until his acting career took off.

The twice-married actor’s first major screen role was as Napoleon in 1942 film The Young Mr Pitt, and he became renowned internationally for his character parts and especially for his roles as clever, devious and sinister villains.

But he also appeared in a number of comedies and it was his portrayal of the twitching, paranoid Chief Inspector Dreyfus, the bos of Peter Sellers’s bumbling Inspector Clouseau in five Pink Panther films for which he was best known.

He first appeared as the police chief in 1964’s A Shot In The Dark and, as the films went on, became increasingly mentally unstable as a result of Clouseau’s incompetence.

His son, Alec, said: “Like many actors, he never wanted to be pigeon-holed in a particular role and, after having played the role of East European gangster in many films, it was a delight to him later in his career to be cast by Pink Panther producer and director Blake Edwards in a comedy role opposite Peter Sellers, and he hugely enjoyed that move.

“He had many funny stories about the antics that he and Peter Sellers got up to on the set. It was a nightmare working with Peter because he was a terrible giggler and, between my father and Peter’s laughter, they ruined dozens and dozens of takes.”

In the early 1950s, Lom had enjoyed huge stage success as the King of Siam in the original London production of musical hit The King And I, which coincided with production of The Ladykillers, in which he first teamed up with Sellers.

Other movie work included the title role in The Phantom Of The Opera in 1962, and Lom also featured in horror hits such as The Murders In The Rue Morgue and as Van Helsing in the 1970 chiller Count Dracula, which starred Christopher Lee.

Lom’s TV appearances included playing a psychiatrist in the British TV drama The Human Jungle and he had guest roles in popular US series such as The Streets Of San Francisco and Hawaii Five-O.