Herbert Lom, the Czech-born actor best known as Inspector Clouseau’s long-suffering boss in the Pink Panther movies, died Thursday, his son said. He was 95. Alec Lom said his father died peacefully in his sleep.
Herbert Lom had a handsomely lugubrious look that was suited to comedy, horror and everything in between. It served him well over a six-decade career in which roles ranged from Napoleon Bonaparte — whom he played twice — to the Phantom of the Opera.
The London-based star appeared in more than 100 films, including Spartacus and El Cid, and acted alongside film greats including Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas.
But Lom was most famous for playing Charles Dreyfus, boss to Peter Sellers’ befuddled Clouseau in the popular Pink Panther series, from A Shot in the Dark in 1964 to Son of the Pink Panther in 1993.
“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,” Alec Lom said. “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.”
Born Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevic ze Schluderpacheru in Prague in 1917, Lom came to Britain at the start of World War II and began his career as a radio announcer with the BBC’s overseas service.
His first major movie role was as Napoleon in 1942’s The Young Mr. Pitt. The career that followed saw him cast often as a villain. In The Ladykillers, one of the best-loved British films of the 1950s, Lom played a member of a ruthless crime gang fatally outsmarted by a mild-mannered old lady.
Horror roles included the title character in Hammer Studios’ The Phantom of the Opera in 1962, and Van Helsing in 1970’s Count Dracula, opposite Christopher Lee.
A postwar American career was stymied when Lom was denied a visa, though he later appeared on U.S. TV series including The Streets Of San Francisco and Hawaii Five-O.
In the 1950s, Lom also had success on the London stage playing the King of Siam in the original London production of the The King And I at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, opposite Valerie Hobson.