Classic video: Actor Bert Kwouk - Clouseau's Cato - dies at 85

Burt Kwouk, best known for playing Inspector Clouseau's manservant Cato in the Pink Panther films, has died aged 85.

Burt Kwouk, best known for playing Inspector Clouseau's manservant Cato in the Pink Panther films, who has died aged 85

Kwouk, who despite a career playing Oriental types actually hailed from Warrington, was also a regular on the BBC’s Yorkshire-set sitcom Last of The Summer Wine, on which he played the Chinese electrician Entwistle, from 2003 until the show’s end in 2010.

In the 1970s he played Major Yamauchi in the BBC prisoner-of-war drama series, Tenko.

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Even though he is most recognisable for his big-screen role as Clouseau’s manservant in the popular Pink Panther films, Kwouk was a familiar fixture on the small screen.

Burt Kwouk after he was presented with an OBE

As a child, he moved to Shanghai, China, where he lived until 17, before moving to the United States.

He returned to Britain in 1954 and began pursuing a career in acting.

His first role was in the film Windom’s Way and he then landed what is considered his big break in Inn Of The Sixth Happiness

Kwouk has three James Bond credits to his name - appearing in Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and the 1967 spoof Casino Royale.

Burt Kwouk after he was presented with an OBE

His best-known TV work includes shows like The Avengers and Danger Man.

In 1964 he was cast as the servant Kato, the spelling of which was later changed to Cato, in the first Inspector Clouseau film, A Shot In The Dark.

The character became a hit with fans as their quirky friendship of servant and sometimes attacker developed.

Kwouk continued in the role following the death of Clouseau actor Peter Sellers in 1980.

He starred in seven films in the Pink Panther franchise, appearing alongside Sellers, Roger Moore and Roberto Benigni in their incarnations of the inept French detective Inspector Clouseau.

A running gag throughout the films was that marital arts specialist Cato would attack Clouseau at random, often inopportune moments, to keep him on guard.

Later in his career, Kwouk would join Harry Hill’s eponymous TV show and become the face of Channel 4’s gaming show Banzai!

He was honoured with an OBE for his services to drama in the 2011 New Year’s Honours list.

During an interview in 2010 with film historian Barry Littlechild at The Cinema Museum, he spoke about working with Sellers.

He said: “I know that since Peter died, which is 30 years ago, there’s been a lot of knocking copy on it, books, articles, films, television programmes, radio programmes, and they’ve all sort of dwelled on the dark side of Peter.

“I never really saw anything of the dark side. For me it was the light side of Peter Sellers I knew and enjoyed, and would like to remember.”

He starred in seven films in the Pink Panther franchise, appearing alongside Sellers, Roger Moore and Roberto Benigni in their incarnations of the inept French detective Inspector Clouseau.

A running gag throughout the films was that marital arts specialist Cato would attack Clouseau at random, often inopportune, moments, to keep him on guard.

Talking about the role of Cato to Littlechild, he explained: “He (director Blake Edwards) made it into a silly. Until then martial arts had always been taken very seriously and in the early 60s judo became the fashionable thing, everyone wanted to know about judo, and it was done in a very serious way like Bruce Lee, and we decided to take the Michael out of it, so we did.”

Actor Herbert Lom, best known for playing the hysterically-twitching Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, became friends with Mr Kwouk when they appeared in the Pink Panther comedies together.

His son Alec Lom remembered Mr Kwouk as “a charming man who always had a beaming smile when you met him”. He seemed “to take the shenanigans of the film industry in his stride and with a good sense of humour”.

Remembering the friendship between Mr Kwouk and his father, he said: “Burt was an actor who played many roles in his life and like my father very much enjoyed the comedy stretch in their careers.

“He had an extremely dry sense of humour. I remember one occasion when there was a premiere of the Pink Panther in Leicester Square, my father was looking out for Burt and to everybody’s surprise Mr Kwouk arrived in a gleaming rickshaw, which was in line with his unpredictable character in the movies.

“He created a spectacle which was in keeping with the pattern of behaviour of Cato.”